Color, 1971, 87 mins.

Directed by John G. Avildsen

Starring Allen Garfield, Madeleine Le Roux, David Kirk, Debbi Morgan, Sean Walsh, Paul Sorvino / Written by David Odell / Produced by David Jay Disick

Format: DVD - Troma (MSRP $24.95)

Years before he went on to acclaim with Rocky and The Karate Kid (and disdain with Rocky V and The Karate Kid III), director John G. Avildsen was way, way out of the mainstream. After directing the controversial Joe, he actually made a movie for Troma - and it's one of the best moves that company could have made. The result, Cry Uncle! (known in England as Super Dick!), is an X-rated private eye spoof starring potbellied character actor Allen Garfield (The Stunt Man, Nashville) in a veritable avalanche of nudity and sick humor that makes There's Something about Mary look genteel in comparison.

Private investigator Jake Masters (Garfield) can't seem to keep his hands off women -- and, in perfect keeping with the logic of this film, they can't stay away from him, either. ("If you weren't such a good lay, I'd kill ya," snaps one especially jaded character.) Called in to work for a millionaire falsely accused of murdering a young amateur porn actress, Jake winds up teaming with Cora Merrill (Madeleine Le Roux, sort of like an unhibited young Eileen Brennan), a high class hooker. Jake's investigation takes him to back alley flophouses and corrupt suburbs populated by a head-spinning assortment of depraved lunatics, leading to an infamous (and darkly funny) necrophilia scene that became this film's primary claim to fame.

Though not as fall-down funny as it could have been, Cry Uncle has held up surprisingly well over the years. In a rare leading role, Garfield really runs with the opportunity and makes for a very funny, sleazy protagonist, adept at both verbal and physical comedy. Amazingly, the film has lost little of its shock value over the years, with heavy amounts of full frontal nudity (including Garfield, alas) and even some brief hardcore footage shown in negative during a stag film.

Troma's DVD is one of their better looking efforts to date, with excellent clarity for an early '70s zero budget film. Colors are consistently accurate and robust, though one flaw in the film - a vague yellowish tinge during process shots like wipes and split screens - cannot be avoided. The opening titles are letterboxed at approximately 1.75:1, while the rest of the film unfolds with the matte removed, exposing lots of extraneous headroom (and nudity) throughout. The mono sound quality is fine and distortion free. As usual, Troma has decked out this film with tons of extras, including some funny on-camera interviews and, even better, feature length commentary with Avildsen and Garfield. Both men make for very humorous and pleasant company; Garfield in particular manages to fling out hilarious off the cuff remarks whenever things get threaten to slow down. Some fascinating tidbits emerge along the way, such as the fact that Cry Uncle! is a favorite of both Robert Redford and Oliver Stone! Soap opera fans should look for the film debut of Debbi Morgan, who later went on to acclaim in Eve's Bayou, as a trashy young naked prostitute in bondage; the fact that she went straight from this to Mandingo and then to General Hospital makes for one of the strangest career trajectories ever. Paul Sorvino ("Mira, Mira!") also turns in an early appearance as a chainsmoking cop who can't stop coughing. The only real irritant is the DVD menu screens, all of which make repeated use of the grating theme song; it wears out its welcome after about twenty seconds. All in all, if you like your '70s comedy raunchy and on the weird side, it's hard to go wrong with this one, and Troma has every reason to be proud.

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