Sonny Boy

Indescribable, but I’ll try. A baby is stolen and taken in by sadistic criminal Paul L. Smith (Midnight Express) and his common-law wife David Carradine. (That’s right, David Carradine.) Smith raises the child like an animal, cutting out the boy’s tongue on his sixth birthday and training him to kill Smith’s enemies. Eventually Sonny Boy (Michael Griffith) grows into a young man who begins to realize there’s more to life than abuse.

I found this consistently fascinating, though it’s the very definition of “not for everyone.” It has a true cult-movie cast, including Brad Dourif as Smith’s grungy right-hand man, Sydney Lassick (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) as his cohort, Conrad Janis (a long way from Mork and Mindy!) as a doctor who experiments on people with monkey parts, and Alexandra Powers as a nice woman who takes a shine to Sonny Boy. Written by Graeme Whifler, who also wrote the equally twisted (but nowhere near as good) Dr. Giggles and directed videos for the Residents. If you have a taste for the unapologetically bizarre and can even find this, it’s well worth a rental, though it’s a 2.35:1 film and the pan-and-scan videotape noticeably and often compromises the widescreen compositions. Any chance of a letterboxed DVD? Probably not. If nothing else, you’ll never look at David Carradine quite the same way again (he’s great as “Pearl,” by the way).

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