There Will Be Blood – Rediscovering ‘Lolly-Madonna XXX’ (US 1973 – 103 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - November 29, 2014
There Will Be Blood – Rediscovering ‘Lolly-Madonna XXX’ (US 1973 – 103 mins)

Adapted from a 1969 novel by crime writer Sue Grafton, ‘Lolly-Madonna XXX’ is a good, straightforward telling of an age-old story of bitter rivalry, with a terrific ‘one-time-only’ cast of cult actors. It’s a simple yet allegorical tale of how a feud can escalate between two neighboring families.

Fuelled by a land quarrel, two once-friendly Backwoods families; the Feathers and the Gutshalls, are now embroiled in a bitter feud which escalates after two of the Feather clan rape the Gutshall’s daughter. At the same time, an innocent girl; Roonie Gill (Season Hubley), gets unwittingly caught up in the dispute when she is kidnapped by the Feathers, who think she’s in town to wed to one of the Gutshalls. Further misunderstandings, coupled with primal instincts, lead to brutality and bloodshed resulting in unexpected casualties on both sides.

Also known as ‘The Lolly-Madonna War’, this is one of those obscure titles that I’d heard about for years before finally watching. It turned out to be a lot better than I’d read about from original reviews, and also rather misunderstood.

The movie features a great cast of old-timers and young up ‘n’ comers. Rod Steiger is excellent as the bullying patriarch of the Feather clan, and Robert Ryan (in one of his final roles) is solid as ever as the quiet and dignified head of the Gutshalls. Jeff Bridges scores as Zack Feather, the good son who falls in love with the virtuous Roonie, impressively played by pretty 21 year old Season Hubley in her movie debut. Hubley later had a memorable supporting role in Paul Schrader’s controversial ‘Hardcore’ (’79) with George C. Scott, the same year in which she began a brief marriage to Kurt Russell. The strong male supporting cast includes an excellent Timothy Scott, along with Ed Lauter, Kiel Martin, Gary Busey and Paul Koslo. The criminally under-rated Scott Wilson gives one of the best performances as Thrush, the black sheep of the Feather clan. As the naïve sister E, the lonely daughter of the Gutshall family, Joan Goodfellow is very good and gives a nicely sympathetic performance. Goodfellow went on to play the female lead in Daniel Petrie’s tender love story ‘Buster and Billie’ (’74). Katherine Squire and Tresa Hughes are noteworthy as the Feather and Gutshall matriarchs, respectively.

There are a number of memorable moments, including a flashback showing the tragic death of Jeff Bridges’ young wife, and Steiger’s vicious beating of son Scott Wilson. The opening title sequence and end credits are a nice montage of sepia family-album photos, which adds an authentic touch to the film. There is some fashionable Seventies violence which is at times shocking but important to the story, and although a couple of minutes were trimmed to get a PG rating, even this version is fairly strong stuff.

Doing a great job here was former television director Richard C. Sarafian, who had earlier made the decent ‘mountain-men’ actioner ‘Man in the Wilderness’ (’71) with Richard Harris and John Huston, and later the private-eye comedy ‘Sunburn’ (’79) starring Farrah Fawcett and Charles Grodin.

Much better than I anticipated, ‘Lolly-Madonna XXX’ is an authentic and sometimes hypnotic Southern drama that’s well acted within its rural setting of homesteads and rolling meadows. Unfairly labelled by some critics at the time as exploitation, the film is a symbolic tale of a needless family war in which, no matter who’s still standing at the end, there are no real winners.

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2 Comments on "There Will Be Blood – Rediscovering ‘Lolly-Madonna XXX’ (US 1973 – 103 mins)"

  • Cori

    Glad to see that I’m not alone in my appreciation for this excellent film, with memorable performances all around, not to mention gorgeous cinematography.

    I saw the film in the theatre when it came out, when I was a sophomore in high school, and my mom, my older sister and I were all very affected by it, particularly since none of the violence had been cut at that point, but was shown in full force.

    Laban’s (Rod Steiger) brutality toward his son Thrush (Scott Wilson), coupled with his later scene with the horses, were such that, although we had all long enjoyed and respected Steiger as an actor, it was several years before I could watch him again with anything approaching enjoyment. He literally made my skin crawl, and my sister and I joked that if we’d seen him on the street, we would have crossed to the other side to avoid him; his performance was that riveting.

    Everyone in the film was quite good, with both Gary Busey and Randy Quaid giving surprisingly sensitive and affecting performances, and Season Hubley, in her film debut, was simply luminous.

    This film has stayed with me for the full 48 years since I first saw it, and although parts of it are hard to watch, particularly since I knew what was coming, I still consider it a strong favorite.

    Thanks for introducing it to a new generation of film lovers.

    • admin

      Thanks for your take on this cult movie. The late Scott Wilson was such an under-rated actor.

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