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Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain
Sunny, you smiled at me & really eased the pain
Oh, the dark days are done
The bright days are here
My sunny one shines so sincere
Sunny one so true
I love you

--Dusty Springfield 1967

Sonny Boy...Holy shit is that Carradine in fucking drag, seriously...fucking Kung Fu?
--Prof. Tread 2001

Okay, It's 1989, I'm a young filmmaker, I have finally got a pitch session with you...a big money producer-type who is looking to turn a buck, be a player, make a mark in the biz. Here's what I got for you. I got this crime boss, the sleazy kind. He lives in a mobile home, out in the desert, away from the town. He has control of the small town sheriff, he has a weaseling right hand man, a bumbling Barney Fifeish nar-do-well who is scared to death of him but resents him none the less. The boss is married to a gal who is somewhat controlling, a great cook and basically keeps her psycho husband in line. The back story, the weasely crony knocks off a traveling couple, steals from the hotel room where they are staying, swipes the car they are driving and unknowingly ends up with the couple's baby stashed in the back seat when he delivers the goods to the boss, the boss is none to happy with the black and white TV stolen from the hotel that he actually owns and he is definitely not in the fatherly mood, but our strong female character has been feeling the biological clock ticking...what will this band of unsavorys do with the child? And so our story begins, what do you think so far?

Okay, sounds fairly run of the mill? You want a few twists and turns...okay, how's this. I'm casting Brad Dourif from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, X-Files, etc. as the weasel, and Weasel with be his name, how you like that? The big boss well, he's Bluto from the Popeye movie, big, nasty and effective. The female lead...well, I'm going unconventional, Shelly Winters, she's too old, Angie Dickinson, shit she ain't worked in years, listen, how about this...David Carradine, in drag, the whole film, never breaking character, and he is going to sing, coo and chomp a big nasty cigar...and the baby, well they are going to raise him in a silo, cut out his tongue, only feed him every now and then, his food, live chickens. While they are at it, they'll train him to be a killer and unleash him on a crime spree and have him bite, claw and eat his way through the big boss's enemies, that's right all for "Daddy." While they are at it, the kid will swipe all the high dollar "art" from these folks houses. Not to mention the fact that the main weapon our big boss uses is a fucking howitzer. Now what college boy, you with me, where's my check? Huh, when do we start. Sounds like we got us a Block-fuckin'-buster eh?

There you go. That is the setup for Robert Martin Carroll's 1989 epic SONNY BOY. This rarity hit the screens in Times Square and probably is notably remembered by some for being The Gore Gazette's 1990 FILM OF THE YEAR, as well as receiving Village Voice critic Dennis Dermody's nomination for BEST FILM OF THE DECADE. It was never barely on video in the states, there have been Japanese laser discs, and even Canadian copies baffling foreigners for years now. When I finally got my mitts on a pristine copy I was a happy Tread, after viewing I was slightly let down only because for years I had looked forward to seeing this film and had painted a fairly bizarre portrait of it that was virtually impossible to live up to. That is not to say that SONNY BOY is not magnificent and definitely worth hunting down.

From the opening theme song warbled by David Carradine (which by the way is better than just about any of that new alt-country horseshit that passes for original) to the closing freeze frame, Sonny Boy is nothing if not original. Is it an allegorical statement about the horrors of child abuse? Is it a slice of Americana that we wish we didn't have to taste? Is it a Carradine wet dream that consisted of playing a broad and singing barroom piano showtunes? Just what the fuck is SONNY BOY? My guess, all of the above and more.

Not a horror movie but horrific, the scenes of cruelty that Slue, the leader of this band of assholes, lays down on his "son" are stomach churning. Not a comedy, but comedic, Carradine's Pearl, is shot in ultrawide angle, in all her glory being as mothering and sweet to the newly acquired Sonny Boy as your own Mamaw and you cannot help but chuckle or downright cackle for that matter. But it is not played for laughs but more for weirdness. Much of the tale is told outside of Sonny Boy's head via use of voice over. Slue, Pearl and Weasel try to make Sonny Boy an animal, they do but inside his head he is still just a boy. Heavy shit.

Slue played by Paul Smith tries hard to become one of cinema's truly unlikeable characters, he is effective, rarely on camera without a "slue," pardon the pun of four letter words...fuck, shit, sonovabitch roll off his tongue like the sweat does from his fat ass. In what is without a doubt, a moment of brilliance by director Carroll, Slue, blows a deputy to shards with a howitzer from about 10 feet, laughing as he does it. Yes. 'Tis good.

Unfortunately, the pacing of Sonny drags a bit as Sonny starts to mature into Slue's killing machine, a less than steady diet of live chickens, makes Sonny Boy game for anything that involves killing and eating, but we are spared most of the gruesomeness of Sonny's missions, dammit. We get involved with more of the human side of Sonny Boy and we get some possible love interest action, some Crucifix defacing and Crucifix loving, some bad teeth, some mob mentality shit and a bunch of plot that, to some, may take away from the killing and cruelty that dominates most of the first reel. Michael Griffin does his duty as Sonny Boy, who has the job of making him a sympathetic cuss, and he handles it with all the dramatic aplomb of a guy who can't talk, who has never been in a film, and must rely on the fact that the main reason he is in this film is that he looks great without much clothing. But it works.

A member of Prof. Tread's all-time favorite actors list has a role as one of Slue's henchmen, Sydney Lassick. Syd prances around and dreams of Slue's gang making it big in the "art world" all the time lusting secretly for a slice of the Sonny Boy, I believe. Sydney was another Cuckoo in Cuckoo's Nest, who you might remember as the guy who just wanted his fucking cigarettes, as per usual, Sydney out acts the whole fucking lot of these hacks, but what is a bespeckled, chubby, balding, old queen to do, a leading man he ain't!

The strangest aspect of SONNY BOY is that it looks like a movie, I mean a real movie, it has an original soundtrack, it is very ably directed by Carroll, and I must mention here, if you have read that Carroll might be some sort of pseudonym for Italian slut Rugerro Deodato or some other meatball forget it, Carroll resides in Los Angeles by way of NYC baby, and is still up to filmmaking. His last feature BABY LUV can currently be seen in its entirety by clicking here. Unlike say Blood Freak or some other way-out notion for a motion picture, SONNY BOY has all the trappings of a real movie. But the subject matter begs the viewer to sit through some rather harrowing scenes to get to the point. Many obviously didn't or still haven't.

David Carradine's Pearl is the strangest thing in a remarkably strange film. Is Slue a QUAR? Is Carradine a homosexual drag queen or is he actually supposed to be playing a female character. All the men mention how beautiful he/she is. Pearl is seen aging as Sonny Boy grows up, and truly is the only sympathetic, if that is possible, member of Slue's associates. What is Pearl, better yet, WHY is Pearl? If I ever get a chance to talk with David Carradine, fuck talking about Kung Fu, or his family, or Tai Chi, I want to know about this goddamned role, period. What the fuck were you thinking, David Carradine? What was the motivation? He gets star billing in the credits, his tunes are featured throughout the film. Was Sonny Boy, Carradine's Citizen Kane? Did he throw money at this project or did Carroll have Carradine in mind from the get go? All unanswered questions. Damn, gutsy move for sure.

A great mix of gutter violence, trash talk, brilliant character actors and high fucking art, SONNY BOY gets the Prof. Tread high, hard one. For all the fans of shitty movies, that look like shit, sound like shit and are written with a turd on piece of Angel Soft, fuck off, get a little culture...SONNY BOY.

Oh, did I forget to mention that at the end, the doctor (played by Mindy's dad the music shop dork in Mork & Mindy) grafts a monkey tongue into Sonny Boy's mouth? Well, he does...what the fuck else can you goddamned people want?

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Thank gawd we are spared the gruesome lactating scene.

Mindy's Dad is a monkey doctor or something.

I am a sucker for automobile fight scenes.

Sonny Boy's mobile home.

Sonny gets a look at himself after eating a bite or two of the Mayor.

This rotten toothed bitch gets a mob after Sonny Boy's family!
How's that this morning? Gets you right up and going don't it?

And you thought David Carradine was ugly!

Pearl, ah, what a gal! I think I got a chubbie!

This baby had the same reaction as most of us!

Brad Dourif, one of America's best....nice hair Brad.

Little Paul Smith is Slue.....that is his howitzer.

This is what he does with his howitzer.

Pearl calls bullshit on that noise. She's late pumping her breasts.

Slue does a touch celebration dance with Sonny Babe!

Pearl tickles the ivorys! And plays the piano as well.

Bow to the man, Sydney Lassick!

Sonny Boy gets his first haircut!

Then is off to sniff some panties....

Slue gets his giggle on after playing a little fire game with Sonny Boy, what a lovin' Pa!

Sonny Boy beds down with Jesus.

I just love this shot. Sonny Boy....see it!

Action in a dress, Pearl goes Rambo through the glass. Fuck off RuPaul!

We are all sad it is the end of the review David.
Brains On Film 2003