The 3 Most Poisonous Movie Clichés of the 60s and 70s


#3 -- Stupid evil Southerners (and Texans)

According to Hollywood, a low level “Civil War” remains underway: backward, inbred rednecks below the Mason-Dixon line regularly torture and murder hapless Northern tourists who foolishly wander into their run down gas station/motel/wax museum/hunting grounds.

Deliverance (1972) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) mainstreamed this cliché -- a.k.a. "Paddle faster -- I hear banjos!" -- in the 1970s, but they were predated by two semi-obscure movies by cult directors who influenced other filmmakers who came up later.

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) by “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis is essentially a grand guignol version of Brigadoon, in which Yankee tourists are lured to a Southern town’s centennial celebration, then forced to “participate in various sick games which lead to their gory deaths,” as revenge for the Union Army sacking of the town a hundred years earlier.

However, I agree with the folks at HorrorMovieADay that The Sadist, released the year before, is probably the first “folks break down en route to something and run afoul of a psychotic killer” film.

This ultra-low budget flick remains suspenseful and shocking almost fifty years after it was made (probably because everything happens in real time – and the actors were firing live ammo during some scenes!).

The two villains are clearly based on real life spree-killer Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, who also inspired Badlands (1973) and Natural Born Killers (1994).

The difference between those former portrayals and the latter is instructive.

In these earlier films, the criminal couples are unattractive, dimwitted, sick losers cultivating delusions of grandeur that would be laughable if they didn't come with a body count. (Just listen to Sissy Spacek's cloying, overwrought, mock-heroic diary entries in Badlands.)

Conversely, not a few real life murderers have proudly cited Oliver Stone's fatally cool Mickey and Malorie as their inspiration.

The "hicksploitation" genre has proven depressingly enduring, from The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and House of 1000 Corpses (2003) to the well-observed parody that turns the cliché inside out, Tucker & Dale vs Evil.

The demonization of Americans from the South is one of the last socially acceptable prejudices, as well as one of the most stubborn and mindless.

Liberals who pretend to bemoan America’s “blue” and “red” split and the “divisiveness” it represents are the same ones who keep this cliché alive, for their own smug amusement and, in some cases, financial profit.

Not exactly a recipe for national unity.