Pound of Flesh


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A beloved teacher (Malcolm MacDowell) in a toney liberal arts college helps his female students pay for their tuition by pimping them out to rich old guys (mainly Timothy Bottoms) for big bucks. He gets no commission from this, and uses no coercion to run his matchmaking service. He's just showing his best students how to graduate from an expensive college without having any student loans to pay off.

One of the assignations turns ugly, and a top student ends up in the morgue. The police eventually figure out that Malcolm was her pimp, and are understandably upset when he won't tell them which client is responsible for the murder. One of the detectives on the case (Angus MacFadyen) is a hard-drinking, disgraced homicide cop who was fired from a major urban police force, and is now writing parking tickets in the sleepy college town until this unexpected murder gets his juices flowing again. He brings his uncouth big-city manners to the rare small-town homicide, and resolves to make ol' Malcolm's life a living hell until he decides to sing. Unfortunately for the surly detective, Malcolm is best buds with everyone who's anyone in the small town, including the mayor and the police chief, whom he counts as satisfied customers. The frustration of the ornery cop causes his harassment of McDowell to escalate toward ever uglier levels.

MacFadyen's Patrick Kelly incorporates a set of mannerisms and vocal tics which seem to be calculated to mimic Orson Welles's Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil, right down to the overeating, the drinking, a tendency to ignore the law, and a permanently unshaven face. MacFadyen is even starting to approach shockingly close to Welles' body size. That's a bizarre form of homage, to be sure, and the reference is wasted in this atrocious film which will not be seen by many cinephiles capable of recognizing the allusion. (Did you remember that MacFadyen actually played the historical Welles in Cradle Will Rock?)

Pound of Flesh is rated 2.9 at IMDb, and is bad in just about every way a film can be bad. The acting is poor, even from the leads. The main plot is often incomprehensible and self-contradictory. The sub-plots are introduced, then dropped, making us think that scenes must be missing. The murder "mystery" is solved halfway through the film (when the murderer makes a drunken confession), after which the screen is filled mostly with rambling, philosophical voice-over ruminations from McDowell.

Lesson of the day: it ain't 1971 any more. Oh, how Malcolm McDowell has fallen in those 40 years since A Clockwork Orange. Where once he worked with Kubrick, he is now picking up any paycheck he can in non-theatrical releases like this. Timothy Bottoms has made quite the plunge of his own in the same time frame. In 1971 he was in another revered masterpiece, The Last Picture Show. Angus MacFadyen wan't around in 1971, but he's dropped a ways himself since he played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart.



For reasons unclear to me, Roger Ebert has not yet gotten a chance to review this for his next book of underrated masterpieces.

There are no major reviews online.


2.9 IMDB summary (of 10)


Straight to vid


  • There is some male nudity from two flabby guys. There's a shocking full frontal from 60-year-old Timothy Bottoms and a rear view of Angus MacFadyen's Wellesian girth. 
  • Much more appealing is full frontal and rear female nudity from the murder victim, whose name is Ashley Wren Collins.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


I guess it looks OK, but you would be hard-pressed to find anything else to like about this film.