Eagle Pennell, in person, presented this low-budget feature-length film about the mishaps of a couple of small-time Texas gadget inventors whose dreams seem destined always to fail. Frank (Sonny Davis) and Lloyd (Lou Perry) are the mismatched business partners and Paulette (Doris Hargrave) is Frank’s wife with whom Frank is getting alternately in and out of trouble due to his less than responsible treatment of his family. Lloyd invents a gadgety improvement on the traditional vacuum cleaner after having experienced a revelation riding through an automatic car wash. The invention works, but the patent is bought cheaply by an anonymous fly-by-night investor.
The story, written by Pennell and producer Lin Sutherland, isn’t as charming as one might imagine. The comedy is dependent on our identification with the characters, yet they seem only to be roles weakly animated by character actors. There are a few endearing moments but these are soon forgotten in the general tedium of the predictable drama.
This being the first feature by Eagle Pennell, shot on a tight budget ($25,000), there are many technical things wrong with The Whole Shootin’ Match. Pennell, in many instances, shows he doesn’t know how to set up a shot to maximize viewer interest in what is happening on the screen. There aren’t I assume because of the budget, enough insert shots; it is distressing to continually see a minute’s worth of the same ill-framed shot. There are matching problems and the editing is flat and without pacing. There are exposure mistakes throughout the film, and the print [we saw] is obviously an answer print — the scenes haven’t been corrected for exposure. The sound is horribly recorded; much of the dialogue is garbled. All these poor technical qualities make viewing this film for entertainment nearly impossible, a situation unaided by the fact that, though clearly shot in a 1:66 or 1:85 ratio, the film (like many shown at the Portland Art Museum) was projected in 1:33, destroying the artist’s original composition.
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The Whole Shootin’ Match (1978)
American B&W Feature film
Directed by Eagle Pennell
Cast: Sonny Davis, Lou Perry, Doris Hargrave
Produced by Lin Sutherland. Screenplay by Eagle Pennell and Lin Sutherland.