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"A boy's best friend is his mother" said Norman Bates, and that sage pronouncement is certainly at the center of Six Ways To Sunday, which doesn't deliver the shock of Psycho, but comes damn close to it's bizarre black sense of murderous humor. All that and a couple of buckets of blood, too.
As always, Cranky makes no reference to the source material, the novel "Portrait of a Young Man Drowning" by Charles Perry, an African-American actor/painter/musician writing about the 1950s-ish Jewish Mob in New York. Working with almost no budget at all, writer/director Adam Bernstein has shifted the scenario to present day Youngstown, Ohio, where pastrami sandwiches are served on white bread. That's enough to drive any Jew to a life of crime.
The Stranger in a Strange land at the center of the flick is a gentile named Harry Odum (Norman Reedus). Seventeen years old, the virginal Harry sneaks peeks at sex manuals while living in a world so dominated by his single mother (dad ran off with another man) that she still draws his bath and bathes every inch of him, except the private parts, and gently towels him off afterwards. Kate's (Deborah Harry) non-stop jabbering about the evils of women and her constant inspections of her son's clothing and underwear for signs of feminine contact would be enough to drive any man bonkers. In their crummy apartment, Mom controls the one electrical outlet that services Harry's lamp. When he makes enough money to move them into a real house, let's just say Mom finds a way to re-exert control in a modern home.
As it is, Harry has a developing rage burning underneath his emotional surface. This rises to the surface when he makes the rounds with his would be gangsta pal Arnie (Adrien Brody), collecting protection money from the local topless bars. Arnie has been instructed to "give a schlumping to" (ie. beat up) the recalcitrant barkeeps, but the first sign of blood makes Harry literally see red. He pounds the victim into a pulp. The poor guy will pay an extra thou to keep Harry away, paving the boy's entrance into a life of crime.
The Mob takes their little goy under their wings. Abie "The Bug" Pinkwise (Peter Appel) becomes Harry's teacher. Louis Varga (Jerry Adler a face you'll recognize) is the grandfather figure Mob King who insists that Harry has treated his maid, Iris (Elina Lowensohn), poorly and must "make nice" with her. Harry does as he's told, but places the blame on his mysterious friend Madden (Holter Graham), a 1950s style dresser who always manages to show up when Harry gets aroused, either sexually or from violence. Madden's secret is something best left unrevealed.
Inside the Mob, Harry finds a kind of love which sets Mom off but good, experiences impotence in the local brothel and learns to keep his mouth shut while police detectives like Bill Bennett (Isaac Hayes) beat the snot out of him. Bennett gets his when he looks the other way, Harry busting his nose "Six Ways To Sunday" from whence the title of the film comes.
Make no mistake about it friends, Six Ways To Sunday is bloody and sexually twisted drama. You will shift nervously in your seat and laugh at the perverse and quirky goings on on the big screen, especially as the film hits its, you should pardon the expression, climax.
Once considered very sexy, back in the early days leading the band Blondie, Harry's performance as a frumpy middle aged psychologically manipulative basket case is one you'll be talking about afterwards, as is the resolution of her relationship with her son and his newfound love. Make no mistake about it, while most of the violence in this flick is offscreen, the aftereffects are not pleasant to look at. The relationship between Kate and Harry will have you tittering nervously but, all in all, you will be entertained.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Six Ways To Sunday, he would have paid...
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