I first saw Daddy's Gone-A-Hunting (1969) at either a neighborhood theater or a drive-in. I can't remember for sure which of the two it was. But what can you expect? It's been over 50 years since the thing was released. Time in the movie world marches on.
I do know that back in 1969 or 1970, I liked it. But does it still hold up in 2023?
Cathy Palmer (Carol White) 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 U.K. 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 and don't beat around the bush with unnecessary details and unwanted minutiae, unlike this review. Throw up a few signs, pretend it's an airport, and we're off and running. And boy, are we ever!
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-ass old hag while getting into a taxi. She should have called Lyft. Come to think of it, we still welcome visitors and immigrants alike in the same manner. Probably worse.
To add insult to injury, she is hit in the noggin with a snowball by creepy but friendly Kenneth Daly (Scott Hylands), who 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 from every pore in his body. Still, naïve young British blondes in San Francisco for the first time would probably overlook that Ken somehow managed to find the only vehicle in San Francisco that had 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 movie: "Do you think I'm nuts?"
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 returning to his seedy little apartment. He lies on his bed in his boxers, giving the cinematographer time to pan around Ken's humble abode to let us know there's something really off about this guy.
Cut to smiling Cathy taking a shower. Cut back to Ken, who has been counting the minutes it would take her to check in, 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), 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? 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. On the other hand, Cathy says, "Show Me the Money."
Ken grabs her by the hand, goes through a window to the outside (Right past a server 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 a regular event), 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 say only say we'll be revisiting this particular location before we reach the 140 minute end time.
Time for another montage. This time with piano, orchestra backing, and the incredible vocals of Lyn Roman.
Begin Full Orchestra 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 and ours. If only.
With a new job, Cathy can 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, with Ken standing there sheepishly. Inside the box is a foil bag with a snowball, 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 the aforementioned 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. At the same time, we have a cat's eye view of the proceedings.
End Full Orchestra 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 actual plot and a whole lot of edge of your seat suspense.
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. 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 Service delivers!
Cathy insists it's all over. Ken insists he'll follow her across the Atlantic to 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 and close-ups of surgical instruments, with a surgical table and stirrups. It makes one feel like they're in Dr. Frankenstein's dungeon instead of a professional, sanitary doctor's office. Ken refers to Cathy as the murderer of his child so often that I’m sure that if Daddy’s-Gone A-Huntin’ were made today, all the right wing nit wits would line up to cheer him on.
Afterward, Cathy is once again confronted by Ken, asking for forgiveness, saying he'll change. At this point, she informs him there isn't 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, just like in the Red States in 2023. Even though she was carrying Norman Bate's twin brother in her womb.
If you thought Cathy's first foray into True Romance happened fast, it's nothing compared to her second courtship with Jack Byrnes (Paul Burke). No, I'm not kidding. They meet, cut to a 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 would be some cold hard cash.
As I said, this movie is not about love found, lost, or found again. It's a movie about punishment and revenge. The penalty is what Cathy has to endure simply for making the mistake of shacking up with a snowball-throwing maniac. Revenge is what Ken has on his mind because Cathy dared to erase him and his Daddy's 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 won’t notice too many minor plot holes and unbelievable coincidences as the film zips along at a rapid pace.
For instance, Ken happens to be working as a department store Santa. It's the same store where Cathy is shopping for 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 person 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 much more difficult for her to spill the beans regarding her former relationship with Ken and the fact that she had an abortion.
You have to remember that this was way before the Age of the Trump Monster when a
possible political candidate forUnited 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 alone until we reach a conclusion.
The film succeeds despite its flaws, thanks to the two leads. Carol White has a wide-eyed vulnerable naiveté that convinces us that someone 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 a guilty conscience who sees him even when he isn't there. Sometimes we're not even sure what's real and what is not.
This is the only Carol White film I have seen in my library, although I have Poor Cow (only available on a Region 2 Disc), an earlier White effort. In that film, her character makes unwise decisions about whom to fall in love with, a problem that ironically spills over into her real life.
Her bio tells us that despite her acting abilities, she was vulnerable and insecure, succumbing to drugs and alcohol. White passed away in 1991 at 48, but even her cause of death is in dispute.
White starred opposite Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde, and Ian Holm in the adaptation of Bernard Malamud's The Fixer (1968) and then traveled to Hollywood in 1968 to make Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969).
She appeared in Something Big (1971) and had significant 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. Still, her problems with alcoholism, substance abuse, and unhappy relationships with male stars such as Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, Oliver Reed, and Paul Burke hindered her career. However, she had 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 simultaneously. 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 memoir, she could not renew her career. She returned to the United States, where she remained for the remainder of her life.
Scott Hylands does a 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 to wash away the ooze factor. This film was Scott's first starring film role. He would have a long, long career, mainly in Television as either a guest star or co-star in several T.V. 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. As movies at home coincidences would have it, Kino Lorber recently announce that in August, they were releasing a Bluray of Outrage (1950), a film starring Powers and directed by Ida Lupino, who has never been given the credit she deserves for the inroads she trailblazed for women directors. While the film has been readily available as a Region 2 release, this is the first time a Bluray has been offered in Region One.
But unlike Robson's previous film, he quickly dispenses with the more soap opera-type story elements. 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 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 seemed to be a bit crystalized and had yet to burst out of his cocoon.
Given the chance, I hope you'll check out Daddy's Gone A Hunting. It’s still available as a Warner DVD MOD (Movie on Demand), and you can buy or rent the digital stream on Amazon but like the DVD is just standard definition. Chances are we won’t get to see it on Bluray. It may not be a great film, but for the most part, it's an above-average thriller that will keep you on edge throughout and up until the very last scene. And saying that, I'll give this film a better-than-average B+ score.