SAVAGE CINEMA: Little Laura and Big John (1973)

I have no idea why this is on the Savage Cinema set from Mill Creek, but man, when has anything these box sets have on them make any narrative sense? “We have all these Crown International movies and some maniac, somewhere, someday, is making a Letterboxd list about these movies no one other than he cares about!” I love you, Mill Creek. I do.

Back in 1929, John Ashley murdered a Seminole trapper named Desoto Tiger and dumped him in the site of what would someday be the Hoover Dike. Days later, in Miami, he sold some of those furs and got caught, but was repeatedly allowed to escape custody. So yeah, he was the first white man jailed for killing a Native American. But no one took it seriously and, go figure, he did a whole bunch of others crimes, including piracy on a British colony in the 1920’s, of all things. He also joined with Laura Upthegrove to become white trash heroes, defying banks and the government until he was jailed.

Their story gets even crazier, as Upthegrove married a member of Ashley’s gang named Joe Tracy in order to avoid testifying in his trial for murdering a taxi driver. Ashley then planned to rush the jail, act like he was saving Tracy and then planned to kill him in a fit of jealousy. So she todl the law, who killed everyone involved after handcuffing them and pretty much executing them in a move that was completely against the law.

Upthegrove hid out for a few years until she got in an argument with a man trying to buy moonshine from her. She ended up drinkinhg Lysol and dying. Her mother decided that she was better off dead, so she never called for help.

Fabian Forte plays John and Karen Black plays Laura, so whoever casted this movie knows my heart. Ross Kananga, who is also Seminole, plays Tiger. Kanaga is the man who did the stunt where James Bond jumps over the alligators in Live and Let Die, getting 193 stitches before filing was done. He’s also where Yaphet Kotto’s character gets his name from. Also, Paul Gleason from The Breakfast Club, one of film’s greatest jerks, is the sheriff.

Luke Moberly, who was in the art department for Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things, wrote and directed this. It was the only film he’d ever direct. It was made in 1969 and didn’t come out for four years. It also has a debt to 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, but you probably figured on that.

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