Soggy Bottom breakdown
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Among those obscure projects is Soggy Bottom, U.S.A. (1980), which was also released—sparingly, one would imagine—as The Soggy Bottom Gang from Soggy Bottom, U.S.A.. Set in a Louisiana backwater during Prohibition, it stars Ben Johnson as Isum Gorch (the same last name of his character in The Wild Bunch), the town sheriff training his flatulent pooch for the annual ‘dog coon hunt.’ A pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson is his nephew, Dub Taylor his brother (Cottonmouth Gorch), and Lois Nettleton his long suffering girlfriend. Filling out this inspired cast are Ann Wedgeworth as a high falutin’ country star, Lane Smith her oily manager, Anthony Zerbe as a fumbling fed, the woefully undervalued P.J. Soles (Riff Randell in Rock 'n' Roll High School) excellent as Don’s Daisy Mae sweetie, Jack Elam doing a Cajun scalawag ala Jerry Lewis, and Hank Worden (callow Mose Harper from The Searchers) as village idiot ‘Old Geezer.’
Reciting names in this manner doesn’t make for a proper review—oops, I forgot: it was produced by legendary screen Tarzan Elmo Lincoln—but there’s little else in Soggy Bottom U.S.A. that stays in the mind long after the end credits have rolled. Woefully short on satire other than of itself, it was made in the wake of the rural Americana trend that kicked off with Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and vaporized soon after Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Flicker’s multiple scenarios may have looked good on paper but unfold in a half-baked smorgasbord: the farting canine, the wacky hunt, Don’s harebrained inventions, a raucous moonshine debacle, Jack’s crime spree, and three romantic subplots too many. The cast is game, however (it’s Dub Taylor’s finest hour), maneuvering the random shifts from realism to screwball to slapstick expertly.