Friday, November 7, 2014


We've in the first Friday of a new month, so it means we're getting a new Friday Night Spotlight on TCM. This month, Essentials Jr. host Bill Hader is presenting road movies. One of the movies running this week that I haven't blogged about before is Badlands, coming up at 12:30 AM.

Martin Sheen plays Kit, a 20-something garbage man living in a small town somewhere on the Great Plains. One day while doing his route, he runs across Holly (Sissy Spacek), a good-looking enough and engaging enough young lady. The key word is "young": she's only 15. She being a young woman going through puberty understandably feels some sort of attraction for a good-looking enough older guy who also passes himself off as knowing more about the world which, considering this is a small town in the middle of nowhere, is another reason why it's reasonably for Holly ot feel something for Kit. It's excitement in an otherwise dull town.

Now, obviously, there's a problem with a guy in his mid-20s having a relationship with a girl of 15. And Holly's widowed father (Warren Oates) sees the problems inherent in such a relationship and thinks, quite reasonably, that Holly shouldn't have that sort of relationship with a much older man. Dad is trying to provide for Holly the best he can, which isn't all that badly of considering they live in one of those nice-looking big old houses and Holly getting piano lessons. And Kit is in a dead-end job as a garbage man. So Dad puts his foot down. Oh no, Kit, you definitely can't see my daughter.

So Kit gets an idea. He kills Holly's dad, burns down their house, and takes Holly on the run with him! Not that she quite disapproves. Presumably the ultimate goal is to get to either Canada or Mexico to evade extradition, but they have to evade everybody looking for them along the way, so at first there's an extended scene of Kit building a tresshouse in the woods for him and Holly, complete with booby traps in case anybody discovers their hideout, which of course happens when a sheriff's deputy comes too close. Death for him.

With this, Kit and Holly abandon the woods, getting in their car and driving off until they can find another car to steal, committing murder along the way. You know that eventually they're going to get caught, but how they meet their ultimate fate is what makes the movie worth watching, especially once you realize you're watching with some sympathy as a serial killer is trying to escape. Kit really is that bad, despite what Holly's voiceovers claim.

Badlands was based loosely on the Starkweather homicide cases, although any number of key details were changed, stretching the action out and making the age difference between the two protagonists greater. The acting of the two leads is excellent, with Sheen playing a man somewhat detached from reality in that he identifies with James Dean and seems to believe that his cockamamie schemes are going to wlrk. Sissy Spacek plays naïve well here, mixed with the infatuation that is easy to understand a teen girl having. The locations are lovely to look at, with the film having been shot mostly around southern Colorado.

Badlands is a movie that's extremely well worth a viewing if you haven't seen it before.

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