THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER
(director: Jack Smight; screenwriter: Garrie Bateson; cinematographer: Philip Lathrop; editor: Neil Travis; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Stacy Keach (Jonas Candide), Bud Cort (Jimmy), Marianna Hill (Gundred Herzallerliebst), Graham Jarvis (Doc Prittle), John Bottoms (Lawyer), James Sloyan (Piquant), M. Emmett Walsh (Warden Brodski), Ford Rainey (Stanley Mae), Stefan Gierasch (Willy Herzallerliebst); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Smight; Warner Home Video; 1970)
“Satisfying black comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Jack Smight(“Airport 1975″/”Damnation Alley”/”Fast Break”) casually directs this satisfying black comedy, that might not elicit much laughter but is nevertheless smartly done. Though it can never clearly get across any message it might have wanted to about police brutality, capital punishment and society corruption. The writer, Garrie Bateson, was a USC student at the time he cooked up this offbeat story. The pic was shot in Alabama’s recently closed Kilby Prison in Montgomery. The agreement between the state and movie people was that after the film the movie would knock down the prison. It tried to, but after three blasts the walls still wouldn’t crumble and it gave up.
In 1918, traveling executioner Jonas Candide (Stacy Keach), a former carny and a man of compassion, for a fee uses his own home-built electric chair for executions that he carries with him from prison to prison in his truck. Jonas is proud of how efficient his chair is so that it minimizes suffering. Furthermore the executioner comforts the vic before the execution by reading to them words of comfort from the Fields of Ambrosia.
Warning: spoiler to follow.
In Alabama, the warden (M. Emmett Walsh) pays him $100 to execute Gundred Herzallerliebst (Marianna Hill) and her brother Willy (Stefan Gierasch). The brother is executed, but Jonas sleeps with Gundred after she seduces him. Falling in love with her, he attempts to bribe the prison doctor (Graham Jarvis) to fake her death. But his price is too high. Instead Jonas frees her after killing a prison guard. Both are caught. Gundred is given a life sentence, while Jonas is executed with his own equipment by his moronic mortician assistant (Bud Cort).
REVIEWED ON 8/25/2015 GRADE: B