Tuesday, August 24, 2010
After seeing Ferlin Husky in Hillbillys In A Haunted House, I decided to check out another one of his movies - Swamp Girl. I also got a bonus, since when I got the movie, I found that Claude King (Wolverton Mountain) co-stars with Ferlin in the movie. While neither Ferlin or Claude need ever worry about winning an Oscar, both are as good or better than some of the other actors in Swamp Girl.
The movie begins as Swamp Girl (Simone Griffeth) brings a man into civilization who has been bitten by snakes. When she tosses him onto land, three of the locals who are out for some illegal night fishing hear something and when they go to investigate they discover the man, who unfortunately has already died. A side note about these three locals - they're the worst actors in the movie, one of them must realize this fact because he barely speaks. They're so bad, that anytime they appear in a scene, they make the other actors look better than they probably are. Back to the movie...it's a mystery to everyone how the man got out of the swamp and there's some discussion about how it could have been the legend known as Swamp Girl. This sets up the next scene with Ferlin sitting on the porch of his cabin singing the title song "Swamp Girl".
We find out that Ferlin is the Swamp Ranger and that Claude is the local Sheriff when we find them the next day discussing if there really could be a Swamp Girl. Ferlin sets out in his airboat to see if he can track her down and, of course, he does. While on shore chasing her, Ferlin steps into an animal trap and Swamp Girl has to rescue him. Ferlin gets Swamp Girl to to talk to him and interestingly the conversation is about the traps being illegal and how the Okefenokee Swamp Park is a refuge....a sort of early 70s message of conservation. We get an oddity (actually just badly written dialogue) during the conversation, when Swamp Girl has no trouble with the word "refuge", but doesn't understand the word "deputy".
Ferlin has asked Swamp Girl to talk to her Pa about leaving the swamp and coming back into civilization, which she agrees to do. We then get what I guess was supposed to be a shock (and maybe it was in 1971), when we find that Pa is a black man. Pa says he knew this day was coming and he will have to explain to Swamp Girl how he's not her real father, but actually a man named Nat who has raised her.
HOLD ON because here comes a lot of twisted plot: It seems Nat lived in the swamp with an alcoholic doctor who performed illegal abortions. If a woman came to him too late for an abortion, he would let them stay until they had the baby. If it was a boy, they had to take the child with them when they left, if it was a girl, they could either take it or leave it. If they left the baby girl, the doctor had a deal with some sea-faring men who bought the babies and then re-sold them to Arab Sheiks. Swamp Girl was Nat's favorite and he begged the doctor to keep her around and he did, until she was a pre-teen. Then old doc got greedy and decided to sell her. He knew Nat would resist the idea and sent Nat off to run some errands. The seamen wouldn't pay the double price the doctor wanted for Swamp Girl and they killed the doctor and kidnapped Swamp Girl and placed her in a canvas bag. Nat had gotten suspicious and came back just in time to catch all of this and winds up killing both of the men (there's some bad special effects included at this point). Swamp Girl doesn't remember any of this because when the seamen threw the bag with her in it into the woods, she was bitten through the bag by snakes and the fever from those bites wiped her mind clean.
While Nat has been telling Swamp Girl her story, we cut back to a woman, who with the help of her boyfriend, has escaped from prison. She shot a prison guard during the escape with a double barrel shotgun. The duo decide to go through the swamp to reach the Florida line. I guess I don't have tell you that their paths will intersect with Swamp Girl. First they find the cabin with Nat and the woman uses her other shell to shoot Nat (for some reason they only had the two shells....I guess times were tough! OR maybe only two shells exist for a plot twist that comes a little later). Once they happen upon Swamp Girl, they force her to lead them through the swamp at the point of their shotgun.
Back in town a couple has arrived and hired the three locals to look for their "little" girl in the swamp. This sounds like they are going to be looking for a young girl, but it's actually the escapee. How they knew she was in the swamp is a mystery to me, but that's how the plot has evolved or devolved. Meanwhile back in the swamp, the escapee's boyfriend has stepped in quicksand and drowned. Next up is a fight between the escapee and Swamp Girl, who has been fully aware that there are no more shells in the shotgun (remember above when I said plot twist)....of course why Swamp Girl had been letting herself be forced to lead them through the swamp is somewhat of a mystery to me....but what the hell, might as well go along with it...anyway... After Swamp Girl and the escapee fight for a while, the escapee is chasing Swamp Girl when she gets caught in a trap and a gator pulls her down into the swamp and eats her as Swamp Girl watches, but does nothing. The locals and the escapee's father arrive and it appears that the father shoots Swamp Girl, but she in actuality has just stumbled. Instead, the Sheriff and Swamp Ranger show up and the father gets shot and as he falls, we have a deadly snake attack.
HOLD ON for another convoluted plot twist: When everyone arrives back in civilization, we find out that Swamp Girl is actually the daughter of the escapee's mother and that that was her sister she watched drown. Swamp Girl goes back into the Swamp to get her mind straight, but promises to return to civilization soon....OR maybe they were just thinking about a sequel!
A couple of final things to mention about the movie that I found strange is the usage of a couple of words. Two different characters, who are both white, in the movie use the exclamation "Holy Mackerel", a phrase generally associated with Amos 'n' Andy, but I'm guessing it had probably entered the general lexicon of Southerners by 1971, when this movie was made. Another strange word in the movie was when Ferlin called the escapee's boyfriend "Bohunk", an ethic slur used for Ukrainian or Eastern Central European immigrants and a term I have never heard used here in The South. I am only familiar with it from some Northerners that I served in the army with who made me aware of the word. Since Ferlin had no way of knowing who the boyfriend was, I sometimes think that maybe he meant to say Boy Friend and just said Bohunk (maybe the word meant something different to Ferlin) OR for all I know it was written into the movie by one of the two writers (thankfully, this is their only credited writing production).