Oklahoma Crude (1973) — A surprising western you’ve probably never seen

“If I had both sex organs, I could just screw myself, couldn’t I? Well, couldn’t I?”

Lissa’s rating: I’m glad I don’t have Faye Dunaway walking in on me in the outhouse.

Lissa’s review: Every now and then I get into a risk taking urge, where I decide to watch a movie that’s totally out of my normal genres and that I know absolutely nothing about. Sometimes I regret it intensely, like when we watched Naked. Other times, the risk pays off. And since that’s part of what Mutant Reviewers is all about — finding those video nuggets you may never have heard of but are worth watching for one reason or another — I definitely have to report on this one.

I might have heard of Oklahoma Crude before, I’m not sure. With a name like that, it’s hard to tell. But I couldn’t tell you anything about it before yesterday. Turns out it’s a 1973 movie starring George C. Scott, Faye Dunaway, and Jack Palance. Faye Dunaway plays Lena, a hard-bitten woman who has an oil rig that she’s determined to own and run herself. Her father, played by John Mills, wants to help her, but Lena is completely resistant to his help, including when he hires her “Mase”, (George C. Scott, who looks an awful lot like Michael Douglas), an out-of-work… I’m not sure exactly what he was. However, Pan Oklahoma has taken an interest in Lena’s little well, and is determined to get it at any cost.

I picked this one largely because I knew it was a movie about oil, and hey — I’m nothing if not a geek. But it turned out to be a pretty good movie. It was a dark comedy that actually got the concept of “dark comedy” — so many don’t. The plot was a lot less predictable than I thought it might be, and the acting was phenomenal. But what interested me most was the relationship between Lena, her father, and Mase. It was complicated.

Lena is probably not the most likeable character. To be honest, despite the fact I was rooting for her, I never really warmed up to her. She has such a hard shell around her and is such an ice queen, it’s really hard to feel warmth towards her for the longest time. However, that was how the character was intended. I’ve seen people describe her as a feminist, but I’d say she’s more a Lena-ist. Lena doesn’t just hate men, she hates everyone. Her father Cleon, on the other hand, is a warmer character. He has a certain charisma about him that, even though he’s obviously made mistakes in the past and has a certain naiveté about life in the Midwest when you’re not rich, he still manages to charm you. And Mase is somewhere in between these two, with his own code of ethics. The relationship that Mase and Cleon is heartwarming and one of my favorite parts of the movie.

This is a crew of actors I’m not all that familiar with. I mean, I was born in 1974, a year after this movie was released. It was interesting to see this group in their prime. I was especially impressed with Faye Dunaway. I’ve kind of ranted before about strong women in films, and this is what I mean. Although I didn’t really like the character of Lena as a person, I loved the way Dunaway played her. There’s one emotionally climatic scene where Lena finally breaks down, and the way it was portrayed was so realistic that I did cry. Okay, so we all know I’m a sucker for crying at movies, but I didn’t expect to in this particular movie, especially since when I did watch it I had to watch it in fragmented sections around baby care.

Despite the deep emotion and the violence (did I mention the violence yet? No? Well, I will.), there was a streak of really dark humor that ran through Oklahoma Crude, and that made the film really enjoyable for me. In fact, some of the humor just absolutely amazed me that this film retained a PG rating. There’s a conversation Lena and Mase have about the sexes which is just… surreal, I guess. It’s not a conversation I would have expected anywhere, and to see it in this sort of movie just… I can’t quite describe it, but it was just bizarre. But in a very good way.

Violence. I mentioned violence. There’s plenty of it. This is a pretty gritty movie when all’s said and done, and I don’t think the violence was all that unnecessary. However, I do suspect it could be unnerving to some people. And given that it was led by Jack Palance, who was pretty creepy in his sadistic determination here… yeah. That also leads to my biggest problem with this film, and that is who the heck picked Henry Mancini to do the score? Graphic violence with a light-hearted score works in certain instances, like when the violence is exaggerated Bugs Bunny style. But here it just fell flat for me. It was very, very odd, and not in a good way.

Overall though, this was one that really surprised me, and was really worth seeing. It’s nice to get those little surprises every now and then!

Didja notice?

  • High fashion undies, for all those guys that wanted to see Faye Dunaway in her unmentionables!
  • George C. Scott does look a lot like Michael Douglas.
  • The language this woman uses?

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