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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Going Home (released in 1971) - A nasty movie starring Robert Mitchum, Jan-Michael Vincent and Brenda Vaccaro

A typical ‘slice-of-life’ drama, the film is directed by Herbert B. Leonard. The audience is introduced to the characters of the scene in a macabre setting - a bleeding and battered woman, obviously beaten without mercy, staggers down a flight of stairs where her young son, too shocked and horrified to react, and tries to stay out of her bloody embrace. As she dies on the floor, his father’s drunken and disheveled   silhouette shadows the doorway. He had brutally assaulted his wife with a ten-pin bowling trophy and killed his wife in a fit of drunken rage.
Thirteen remorseful years later, Harry Graham is out on parole, with nothing but a pocketful of honest intentions of eking out a living and staying out of the public eye. He heads for a trailer camp, unbeknownst to his nineteen year old son, Jimmy (Jan-Michael Vincent). Over the past many years, he has been in and out of foster homes and boys’ care homes - he now wants to rekindle the almost nonexistent relationship with his father. When he comes to know that Harry is out on parole, his search takes him to a trailer park, where his father is.
Although the young man and the older Harry try their best to get to know each other, and build a relationship over the mangled remains that are shrouded with the tragic demise of their mother and wife - life is anything but easy, add to that Harry’s new love interest - Jenny (Brenda Vaccaro) whom Jimmy isn’t too fond of. But something doesn’t seem to fit in right, for Jimmy seems too sincere about making amends, at the same time appearing to be secretive and guarded. Harry is the awkward, and mostly clueless father - he once initiates a conversation about ten-pin bowling, not really aware about the horrific memory the teenager has attached to the game.

Jimmy is actually a disturbed boy-man, rendered impotent by his rage; he one day tricks Jenny and brutally rapes her - he was drunk, intentionally, trying to recreate the night when Harry murdered his mother. He seems to goad his father relentlessly, seeking an explanation for why he murdered his wife; all the while trying to play lord, master and protector of Jenny, for whom he feels a range of frustrating emotions - from jealousy to affection, anger to helplessness.
After he rapes Jenny, he runs off to Pennsylvania, to where the three once lived. The house is now a bar cum bordello. Guilt ridden, he calls up Harry and confesses to raping his father’s lover (an oedipal twist). Harry is livid, and he beats the pulp out of Jimmy - years of anger over why he testified against him in the open court and the horror of what a monster he’s become - this fuels his anger.
The sensitive characterization of Harry is the coup d’état in the film, overshadowing all else. In the end, the complexities of their relationship remain, tangled and without resolution; Jimmy seeks a difficult answer : why did Harry murder his mother? Finally his father answers, rather frostily that there was no reason, it was a crazed reaction borne of rage. It would seem for now that Jimmy’s search is over, as Harry drives away, leaving him all by himself.

Going Home (released in 1971) - A nasty movie starring Robert Mitchum, Jan-Michael Vincent and Brenda Vaccaro

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