Country music goes to the movies: a critical evaluation of “Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers”
There have been some great albums released recently and even more coming soon. Jimbo Mathus, Nick 13, Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, not to mention two brand new record labels I need to tell you about. It’s all coming, but first…
It’s been over a month since I last posted a blog here, but I’m finally back. For the past month, I’ve been swamped with other writing work: an artist bio, a few articles for another publication, a screenplay for a music-related TV show (filming soon), etc. Following the completion of all that, my computer went haywire and it took nearly two weeks to repair it. I mention this only because it’s relevant to the subject at hand.
I’ve noticed that when one is without a computer, he gets a lot more done. In fact, I’ve managed to finish planting my vegetable garden, lose over twenty pounds, catch up on my reading, and, in the evenings, watch a lot of movies. Which brings me to Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers, the 1967 film that could quite possibly be the most truly bizarre use of country music in the genre’s history.
Sporting a cast full of country music stars, including Del Reeves, Hugh X. Lewis, Mel Tillis, David Houston, and more, as well as veteran character actor, Sonny Tufts, this is the type of film that is truly life-changing. Indeed, as soon as the words “The End” appear you immediately begin wondering what the hell possessed you to sit through that for 90 minutes.
The movie starts off competently enough, with Reeves (of “Girl on the Billboard” fame) and Lewis portraying two starving hobos who resort to stealing chickens. From there, it quickly descends into “Mayberry on Meth.” Maybe it’s David Houston, as a police officer, singing “Almost Persuaded” at a road block, perhaps it’s Mel Tillis singing “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” while piloting a helicopter, maybe it’s the jail cell packed to the gills with crates of Wild Turkey, it may even be when our two heroes run briskly through a field of what appears to be cannabis, but at some point you truly begin to question the sanity of the director, the writers, and producers involved in making this film. This is the type of film that makes Ed Wood look like Steven Spielberg and makes the worst Elvis films seem like the equivalent of Citizen Cane. Surprisingly, considering the level of talent involved, even the music can’t save it.
Yet, despite all of that, I found the film to be quite enjoyable. Make no mistake about it, this is a horrendously inept film helmed by a director who had no idea what he was doing, a writing team who never met a cliche they didn’t like, and a cast full of musicians who had likely never acted before or since. But you get a feeling that they were having a great time while they were filming it and, although you may question your own tastes later, you’re likely to have a good time while watching it as well.