I first saw Daddy’s Gone-a-hunting at either a neighborhood theater or drive-in. I can’t remember for sure which of the two it was. But what can you expect? It’s been close to 50 years since the thing was released. Time in the movie world marches on.
What I do know is that back in 1969 or 1970, I liked it. But does it still hold up in 2017?
Cathy Palmer has just arrived from the United Kingdom, landing in San Francisco. And we know all of this because Director and Producer, Mark Robson, goes out of his way to make sure we see the San Francisco International Airport sign on the building as the plane lands, a Welcome to San Francisco sign as she walks through the terminal, and that she is carrying a shopping bag that literally screams UK at us.
As she goes through customs, we discover Cathy’s an artist, possibly a fashion designer. We get all this information in a mere 1 minute and 35 seconds of screen time while we tap our toes and snap our fingers to the title tune, Daddy’s Gone A Hunting, sung by Lyn Robbins, lyrics by Dory Previn, and music by John Williams.
Yes, that John Williams who hammered out the score to this film while Star Wars was just a gleam in George Lucas’s eye. But that aside, I like producers, directors, and writers like Larry Cohen and Lorenzo Semple Jr. who keep things moving along and don’t beat around the bush with unnecessary details and unwanted minutiae. Unlike this review. Throw up a few signs, pretend it’s a real airport, and we’re off and running.
After arriving at the downtown airport bus terminal, Cathy is shown how we welcomed visitors to our country back in the good old days when she is shoved on her ass by some fat-assed old hag while getting into a taxi. She should have called Lyft.
To add insult to injury, she is hit in the noggin with a snowball by creepy but friendly Kenneth Daly (Scott Hylands) who just wants to have a meet cute with young Cathy so he can get to know her slightly, and get in her pants a lot.
The snowball should have been a dead giveaway that this guy oozes creepiness and slime out of every pore in his body but naïve young British blondes in San Francisco for the first time would probably overlook the fact that Ken somehow managed to find the only car in San Francisco that just returned from a ski trip and miraculously managed to still have snow on it that did not melt on the way back.
After explaining that the snowball was the only way young Ken could find to introduce himself, just before Cathy turns on the waterworks, Ken asks the most pertinent question in the whole movie, “Do you think I’m nuts?”
I’m sure Cathy’s instincts should have been, “Yes, you’re fucking nuts. Don’t you have, “Hello, I’m Ken” in your vocabulary?” But before she can get the words out of her mouth, Ken finally says, “Hello, I’m Ken” which brings a smile to Cathy’s face.
Begin Piano Montage.
Ken takes Cathy to a cheap hotel before going back to his own seedy little apartment. He lies on his bed in his boxers giving the cinematographer time to pan around Ken’s humble abode as a way of letting us know there’s something really off about this guy. Cut to smiling Cathy taking a shower. Cut back to Ken who has actually been counting the minutes it would take for her to check in and take a shower and start circling the want ads before he calls her on the phone to make his next move.
End Piano Montage.
He invites her to the Top of the Mark, a popular drinking place in San Francisco that is part of the Mark Hopkins Hotel (oh, now I see) that is located at the highest point of downtown San Francisco. (Thanks Wikipedia, and why wasn’t this on our bus tour when we were in San Francisco back in May? Every other two bit building was.) And we know its popularity continues to this day because it’s been around for over seventy years now.
Cathy sketches away as Ken praises her work, telling her he has all kinds of contacts but doesn’t use them because he doesn’t want to be a sell-out. Cathy on the other hand says, “Show Me the Money.”
Ken grabs her by the hand, goes through a window to the outside, (Right past a waiter who shrugs his shoulders and acts like this is an everyday run-of-the-mill occurrence. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.) climbs up a ladder to the roof (definitely not an everyday occurrence), then finishes it off by pointing out where Cathy can get a job, which she does at a place called Emerson, Spencer, Nayfeck, and Simpson. It’s also where she meets her first really true normal friend, Meg Stone (Mala Powers). As for the scene at The Top of the Mark, I’ll just say we’ll be revisiting this particular location before it’s all over with.
Time for another montage. This time with piano, orchestra backing, and the great vocals of Lyn Robbins.
Begin Full Musical Montage
Ken waits downstairs when Cathy returns from her interview and gives her the “I told you so” gesture, lifts her up in the air, and true love that will last forever descends from the skies to brighten their lives.
With a new job, Cathy is able to rent her own place that will become Cathy’s and Ken’s place quicker than you can say, “Who’s that banging on the piano”. Cathy gets a package with a big red bow delivered to her with Ken standing there all sheepish like. Inside the box is a foil bag with a snow ball, just like the one Ken smacked her on the head with. We can almost hear her ask, “What’s this, a snowball?” And Ken answering, “No, it’s a tool to pry your pants off with.”
She crumbles afore mentioned tool all over him, they kiss, make their way to the bedroom, and our instincts about it not being a snowball at all are proven correct as Ken and Cathy take to the bed while we have a cat’s eye view of the proceedings. End Full Musical Montage
Fast forward some unspecified amount of time later. Think in terms of days, weeks and/or months. Not hours. Not specified. Doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.
It would seem that the true love that would last forever has not lasted quite that long. Ken, as we suspected, is a bum who mostly likes feeding parakeets to the cat. Cathy is working hard and mostly footing the bill for their not so hunky dory lifestyle.
When she dares to point this fact out to Ken, telling him, “I don’t think you’re completely well,” he shows his appreciation by giving her and the cat the boot out of her apartment that she probably signed the lease for and has been paying the rent as well.
All this, and we’re only fifteen minutes in not to mention I’ve already used up two and a half pages in Word? Oh me oh my. There’s a good reason why Director Robson sped through all the romantic mushy stuff. That’s because Daddy’s Gone A Hunting was never a movie about an ill-fated romance beyond being a set-up for everything that comes next. So good for him to move us along to the real plot.
Cathy holes up at Meg’s place where it is revealed she’s going to have a baby. Meg recommends an abortion, but Cathy isn’t convinced. Instead she sets up a meeting with Ken to let him know she’s going back to Jolly Old England where life is beautiful all the time and they have nice things like Big Ben, London Bridge, Monarchies, and Fog. She has no intention of telling Ken she’s pregnant, but Ken has found out anyway thanks to a lab result coming in the mail. The US Postal delivers!
Cathy insists it’s all over. Ken insists he’ll follow her across the Atlantic so he can tell Mama Palmer and Papa Palmer about their slutty daughter that he screwed in front of the cat. Cathy calls Ken a fool which promptly earns her a slap across the kisser as all the other patrons in the restaurant go, “oooooooooh” but don’t put down their martinis to help her out.
The slap and the threats from Ken to stalk her also seem to knock some sense into Cathy who decides to take Meg’s advice not to wait around for the Roe vs. Wade decision so she can give birth to the spawn of Beelzebub.
I don’t know what the abortion views of Director Robson were, but he seems to go out of his way to make it look as evil as possible complete with an overly dramatic musical flourish from John Williams, close ups of surgical instruments complete with a surgical table and stirrups. It makes one feel as if they’re in Dr. Frankenstein’s dungeon instead of a professional, sanitary, doctor’s office.
Afterwards, Cathy is once again confronted by Ken, asking for forgiveness, saying he’ll change at which point she informs him there isn’t going to be a baby. But instead of telling a little fib like, “I had a miscarriage,” she lets Ken draw his own correct conclusion that she had an abortion upon which our Father of the Year tells her “she had no right to do that.”
“Don’t you know what you did,” he tells her. You murdered my baby.”
And this being 1969, a woman who has an abortion for whatever reason, needs to be punished in the worst possible ways despite the fact that she was carrying Norman Bates twin brother in her womb.
If you thought Cathy’s first foray into True Romance happened fast, it’s nothing compared to the 5 second courtship she has with Jack Byrnes. No I’m not kidding. They meet, cut to wedding, cut to the back of a station wagon in the garage for a quick consummation of the marriage vows.
And in another minute and a half, Cathy, who seems to have the genes of a bunny rabbit, is with child once again and shopping for baby furniture. I guess there were no condoms in the glove box of the station wagon.
It isn’t long before Cathy’s past in the form of Ken comes back to haunt her. And here you thought the cost of that abortion was just going to be some cold hard cash.
As I said, this is not a movie about love found, love lost, and love found again. It’s a movie about punishment and revenge. The punishment is what Cathy has to endure simply for making the mistake of shacking up with a snowball throwing maniac, and the revenge is what Ken has on his mind because Cathy dared to erase him and his Daddy insanity issues from her life in every way possible.
The film does have more than its fair share of suspenseful moments the rest of the way as Robson sets a nice quick pace. You just have to ignore a few minor plot holes and a few unbelievable coincidences.
For instance, Ken just happens to be working as a department store Santa at the very same store Cathy is buying baby furniture, thus letting him know that Cathy is very much pregnant.
This is Ken’s cue to dump the Santa gig and start a new career as a maniacal stalker of Cathy and just about every one she comes in contact with. Exactly what does he have in mind? For me to say anything would spoil it for you except to say insanity, thy name is Ken.
This is where the movie excels. Once you get past the hogwash of the set-up, the suspense is fast and furious for the last hour and fifteen minutes. And with Cathy’s husband Jack Byrnes running for Congress, it makes it that much more difficult for her to spill the beans in regards to her former relationship with Ken and the fact that she had an abortion. You have to remember that this is way before the Age of Trump Monster where a
political candidate United States President wasn’t allowed to grab pussy, invade teenage beauty pageant locker rooms, or talk about lusting after his own daughter on national radio. So she’s pretty much left to deal with Ken on her own until we get to the well laid out conclusion.
The film succeeds in spite of its flaws thanks to the two leads. Carol White has a wide eyed vulnerable naiveté that convinces us that someone who is making their first trip to the U.S. could be an easy mark for snowball throwing jackasses. Later, when she realizes Ken is stalking her, she plays the girl with the guilty conscience who sees him even when he isn’t really there so well that at times even we’re not sure what’s real and what’s not.
This is the only Carol White film I have seen although I do have Poor Cow, an earlier film, in my library. In that film, her character makes some very unwise decisions as to whom to fall in love with, a problem that ironically spilled over into her real life.
Her bios tells us that despite her acting abilities, she was vulnerable and insecure succumbing to drugs and alcohol. White passed away in 1991 at the age of 48 but even her cause of death is in dispute.
White starred opposite Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde and Ian Holm in the film adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer (1968) and then travelled to Hollywood in 1968 to make Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (1969). She appeared in Something Big (1971), and had major roles in Dulcima (1971) and Made (1972), with the singer Roy Harper. During the late 1960s, White was considered one of the most promising actresses in British cinema, but her problems with alcoholism and substance abuse, as well as unhappy relationships with male stars such as Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, Oliver Reed and Paul Burke, hindered her career. She did, however, have a prominent role as a hostage in The Squeeze (1977).
After living in Hollywood for several years, White returned to London to star in Nell Dunn’s play Steaming at the West End’s Comedy Theatre, filming Nutcracker at the same time. Despite receiving excellent reviews for Steaming, she often was late, missed performances, and finally was sacked. In 1981, a biography, Carol Comes Home, by Clifford Thurlow, was published. Although White received publicity for the play and the biography, she was not able to renew her career. She returned to the United States, where she remained for the remainder of her life.
Scott Hylands does creepy stalking mental patient as well as anybody except for maybe Anthony Perkins. Even his early obvious manipulations and seductions of Cathy will want you to take a hot shower, just to wash away the ooze factor. This film was Scott’s first starring film role. He would go on to have a long long career, mostly in Television as either a guest star or co-star in several TV Series.
I liked Mala Powers as Cathy’s friend but she’s not given much to do although she does appear in several key scenes. Everybody else is just generic, including Paul Burke, whom director Robson hauls over from Valley of the Dolls, as Congressional Candidate Jack Byrnes and husband number two. But unlike Robson’s previous film, he dispenses with the more soap operish story elements rather quickly. I guess he had his fill of that on Valley of the Dolls. James B. Sikking is on hand as an FBI agent, Dennis Patrick took a break from his continuing duties on Dark Shadows to play the abortion doctor Dr. Parkington, and Rachel Ames moonlights from General Hospital to be his nurse.
Producer/Director Mark Robson also had the good sense to bring legendary Academy Award winning Cinematographer Ernest Lazlo along to the San Francisco shoot. Lazlo does an excellent job of giving us a feel for the city. Funny, but with legendary artists such as Lazlo and Williams, you’d think more people would be looking this film up. Especially Williams who still seemed to be a bit crystalized and had yet completely burst out of his cocoon. Given the chance, I hope you’ll check out Daddy’s Gone A Hunting. It may not be a great film, but for the most part it’s an above average thriller that will keep you on edge through the last hour as well as any other film. And saying that I’ll give this film a better than average score of a B.