“Fool’s Parade” (1971)
“Fool’s Parade” is one of those occasional excursions into what a jaded America film industry would regard (no doubt with pinched nostrils) as the “heartland”; a rural conception entirely alien to a self-indulgent cultural community bolstered by excesses of faux glamor and accompanying faux high moral and artistic purposes while transposing the human experience into a ceaseless assembly line of overheated (though sexually dishonest) melodrama and formulaic genre films which elevate mise-en-scene over substance. In that regard, at least Andrew V. McLaglen displays a steadier than usual assurance with dramatic rhythms and and an uncharacteristically sensitive attention to verisimilitude, until ultimately derailed by the slackness of scripting and one particularly glaring example of performance overindulgence.
Three convicts are released from a penitentiary in Glory, West Virginia: Mattie Appleyard (James Stewart), a murderer with a glass eye; bank robber Lee Cottrill (Strother Martin), and young offender Johnny Jesus (Kurt Russell). The three are accompanied to the local rail station by prison Captain and half-crazed Sunday school teacher Doc Council (George Kennedy, fitted with the most appalling dental applications since John Mills in “Ryan’s Daughter”), who proceeds to issue the group threats more ominous for their suggestion of a mentally unhinged bearer than any genuine prognosticative menace. However, an initially uneventful train passage soon reveals itself as a calculated snare in which the lives of the former offenders are in imminent jeopardy.
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