MOVIE – “Stuck!”
DIRECTOR - Steve Balderson
WRITERS – Frankie Krainz; Steve Balderson and John Niccum (contributing writers)
SIX DEGREES OF CAST & CREW
- Director Steve Balderson has a core of cast members he likes working with, including Starina Johnson, Betty O, and Lady Monster. I don’t know who Betty O and Lady Monster are, but I wanted to mention their names anyway, because how could I not mention Lady Monster?
- Also, Steve Balderson is described on his IMDB page as “a known clairvoyant.” I didn’t know that, but odds are he did, since he’s clairvoyant.
- Meanwhile, actress Susan Traylor might be recognizable to audiences due to one of her previous roles. She played Elaine Cherrito in “Heat.” Meanwhile, Mink Stole has been a mainstay in John Waters’ movies since John Waters began direction oh-so-many decades ago.
When lovely Daisy (Starina Johnson) is wrongly convicted of the crime of matricide, it takes the 1930’s world by storm. Or, at least, it takes her neighborhood by storm. The woman who witnessed the crime (Karen Black in the most awesomely bad wig I’ve ever seen) becomes a media sensation, and dear little Daisy is sent into the slammer, destined to swing at the end of a rope.
Of course, like all women’s prisons, Daisy’s prison is full of memorable characters, a sadistic, possibly lesbian prison guard, and a very loose interpretation of the Geneva Convention. Among Daisy’s companions are a prostitute turned cop-killer turned lipstick lesbian named Dutch (Gehman), a black widow named MeMe (Susan Traylor), a nearly-catatonic Susan Smith-type baby-killer (Jane Wiedlin from The Go-Gos), and of course, a religious fanatic tax dodger named Ester who claims the Lord gave her the strength to mow down a SWAT team with her rifle (Mink Stole).
Of course, while the colorful character who inhabit Daisy’s new world are important, theyre not as important as our star. Or, I guess, our Starina.
Starina Johnson has done a few independent movies for director Steve Balderson, so it’s obvious they like one another. For such no-budget material, Starina actually puts together a very good performance. She can be a little intense at times, particularly when she’s required to cry, but to her credit she’s summoning real tears. However, it makes her dialogue impossible to understand, as she leaps from Cry Level 1 (leaking tears and a sniffle) to Cry Level 5 (blubbering, grimacing, and possibly snot leakage) at the drop of a hat, when she really would’ve been better served to keep it at a nice 3; you know she’s really crying, but she can still speak and her dialogue is still understandable.
That said, she’s a good enough lead for this type of movie, and she has a great look. She’s got that cutesy, vulnerable girl look that you need for the lead in a WIP flick, but she’s not the kind of girl who doesn’t have a well of inner strength. She’s fragile, but she toughens up nicely.
Another stand-out is the prison guard, AKA Amazon (Stacy Cunningham). She’s clearly enjoying being the baddest of the bad girls, and that’s good, because you need a certain kind of grin to be a proper sadist, and that enjoyment only makes her that much more evil. As for the other semi-villain in this picture, Next Door Neighbor Lady AKA Karen Black, I’m not sure what to make of her. She says about four lines of dialogue through the whole picture, and spends most of her time acting crazy. Really, it’s about the perfect role for Black, since it requires her to do little more than mug at the camera and chop up newspapers. She’s got a great face (she always has), and Balderson is able to make the most of her limited role.
The script by Frankie Krainz (with contributions from Balderson and Jon Niccum) is pretty solid, though it’s not great. There are some very good moments (like a very sexy lesbian hookup where the two women involved do nothing more than hold hands), and Balderson makes good use of his veteran B-movie character actors. Still, the flick falls somewhere between a straight homage to WIP flicks and a film noir wannabe, and the script isn’t quite strong enough for the latter, and it isn’t quite gleefully exploitative enough for the former. There are also some issues with pacing, as the movie drags a bit towards the end. That said, it’s shot well, and there are some very interesting locations, so there’s a degree of technical competence as indie flicks go.
I’ve seen a lot worse than Stuck!, and I can really appreciate the effort to bridge the gap between a 40’s style detective story, a 50’s style AIP bad girl movie, and a 70’s style women-in-prison flick. It’s an interesting experiment in genre-blending, and while Stuck! has some very entertaining sequences and good performances, it doesn’t quite all hang together as well as it could with a stronger script.
RATING -3 women in prison out of 5