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Exploitation film distributor Joseph Brenner asked Martin Scorsese what needed to be done to make Joseph L. Anderson’s SPRING NIGHT SUMMER NIGHT, a study of incest in the Appalachian mountains of Ohio, into a better film. Scorcese replied, “Nothing. This film is perfect.”

Brenner added tits and ass. He re-titled the picture MISS JESSICA IS PREGNANT because his university educated daughter said, “The word ‘pregnant’ has never been used in a movie title.”

He might have given thought to the fact that the folks who got to exploitation movies definitely go for tits and ass the big turn off is pregnancy and the responsibility that goes with it. Judy Henske’s song BALLAD OF LITTLE ROMY  deals with a similar situation:  .

Luckily for Jessica her brother Carl runs off after the deed is done instead of drowning her.

The French thinker Montesquieu said, “We get three educations. The first is from our parents. The second is from our schoolmasters. The third is from life. The last makes liars of the first two.”

This is why we are so ill prepared for life. We spend our formative years being taught nonsense.

Montesquieu is not alone.

“I had wonderful teachers in the first and second grades who taught me everything I know. After that, I’m afraid, the teachers were nice, but they were dopes…I have a lack of ideology, and not because I have an animus against any particular ideology; it’s just that they don’t make sense to me…they get in the way of thinking. I don’t see what use they are…University and uniformity, as ideals, have subtly influenced how people thought about education, politics, economics, government, everything…We are misled by universities and other intellectual institutions to believe that there are separate fields of knowledge. But it’s clear there are no separate fields of knowledge. It is a seamless web.”-Jane Jacobs.

In the 1980s a minister invited me to go to his church. I was wearing tattered and torn blue jeans. I did not want to go. I said, “All I have is these torn blue jeans.” He said, “Come to the 10am service.”

So I wore my tattered pants to church.

After a couple of months an old man asked, “Those holes in your pants, are they your erogenous zones?”

I laughed and said, “No but clothing with holes in it is a lot more erotic than tight clothing.”

He said, “Yes. You’re right. We had a hell of a problem in the army with exposed calves.”

Jean Cocteau’s LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES deals with incest. I state this to make it clear this is not something limited to poor white “trash” in hillbilly country. So, too, does Bernardo Bertolucci’s excellent THE DREAMERS.

In both cases the story deals with characters with a little more going for them than do the boy and girl in this film.

I mentioned the business about exposed flesh and its power because the moment when Carl (the boy) goes to return the dirty supper dishes to the kitchen he opens the door to see his sister naked taking a bath (the bathtub is in the kitchen).

Carl is not the first young man to have the fires of desire ignited by the sight of his sister.

This where we owe a debt of gratitude to Joseph Brenner as the original film did not have that electric shot of the sister’s naked back.

The film makers kept a tight control we are told over copies of the script less the locals get upset by the story. Nonetheless a script did get misplaced. When the women who found it returned it they were asked if the story upset them. They replied, “No, that goes on all the time around here.”

Truth be told, it goes on all the time everywhere.

As I said, after Carl’s done the deed he runs off to no one knows where.

The next time we see Jessica she clearly has, as they say, a bun in the oven.

Nonetheless, when Carl returns he is not shocked by what he finds.

And, as the story evolves, we learn that his father might not be her father ’cause Jessica’s mother really can’t remember.

The father sowed his share of wild oats we learn from a brilliantly delivered monologue during the war when he was stationed in Europe. He might not like the situation but he’s not going into hysterics over it.

That, probably more than anything else is what makes this film so exceptional.

These folk might be backward. They certainly are dirt poor.They are, however, fundamentally decent.

It’s decent decency, too.

This film was made for so little money it’s insane. It seems everyone involved was paid with hamburgers, chicken and beer (lots of beer).

True poverty is of the imagination.

The imagination of the people who created this shows a wealth beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.

As Martin Scorsese noted, this film is perfect.–Reg Hartt


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