Movie: Forty Acre Feud (1965)

When I was growing up, I was marinated in a constant stream of country music my grandparents played.  Their tastes ran largely to the 1960’s and earlier.  It is only now, with the benefit of hindsight that I can see their choices weren’t that bad overall.  That said, I hated the music at the time and, even today, I have the minimum appreciation for even a handful of the key artists from that era.

I can only assume this is how I recognized most of the artists in the opening credits of 1965’s Forty Acre Feud.  This is a country music jukebox musical, a stone wall where song performances are the stones and the plot is the mortar.  And that mortar is so thin there’s no way this thing’s going to be standing for long.

Anyhoo, you’ll get performances from George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Ray Price

and Skeeter Davis, among others.  If those names pique your interest, then you should be in hog heaven here.  Actually, if you know the phrase “hog heaven”, you’ll likely be in hog heaven here.

Alas, none of the performances are live except for a hideous number by alleged comedian Ferlin Husky playing a general store clerk.  I realize the joke is how terrible his song is, but it isn’t even funny at that level.  Later, he will lip sync from the stage as his real-life singing personality while the editor cuts repeatedly to close-ups of his doppelganger doofus (doofelganger?) watching in confusion from the audience.

For those who have been subjected to as much Hee Haw as I have, you will be familiar with the interbreeding of country music and corn-pone comedy on display here.  But Husky, who also starred in Hillbillies in a Haunted House, wouldn’t have even made the grade to appear on that show.  His pathetic take on Gomer Pyle reminded me of how, even as annoying as he could be, Jerry Lewis was so vastly superior to such imitators as Sammy Petrillo. 

One aspect of the picture I found interesting is the numbers are supposedly filmed at Bradley’s Barn, a famous recording studio outside Nashville.  Created in an actual barn, Bradley’s is where The Beau Brummels recorded an album named after the studio.  I don’t know if the space was restrictive, or if so few people could be rounded up, but the audience (which the editor cuts to way too often) is only about two dozen strong.

Though not my cup of shine, the musical numbers are the better part of this.  At least, I will acknowledge the selections here are largely better some of the fare from that period.  All of it is superior to the dreck released nowadays that is called country.  Also, the suits all the male performers wear are…unique, to say the least.  I’m not sure if they are Nudie suits, but each is a fascinating creation.  I’m not sure why this was a popular aspect of the country world, but it gives a hint as to what Elvis was going for with his famous jumpsuits.

I would have rather watched a movie comprised of only such sequences than endure what passes for plot here.  The town where the action (to use the word loosely) takes place has just been made into a new state district, and the heads of two long-feuding families campaign against each other to be its representative.  I was confused as to why an area of only forty acres would be its own district, as most properties in an area like this would be that size or larger.  But here I am trying to apply logic to this mess, so how does that make me look?

As for the actors, few are as a bad as Husky, though most are obviously amateurs.  One relative standout is Minnie Pearl, who at least carries an air of professional entertainer about her.  Still, she breaks the fourth wall, so I’m going to dock her a point for that.  At least one other cast member is a carryover from White Lightnin’ Road, director Ron Ormond’s previous movie.  Curiously, this guy was one of the worst performers in that film, so he’s the one Ormond brought back?!

There isn’t much to recommend Forty Acre Feud.  Fans of these country artists may be happy to see them, but their performances are lip-synced.  The junk surrounding those numbers is comedy that aspires to reach the levels of Hee Haw.  That’s right, this movie is so far below the bottom of the barrel, it strives for break through to the bottom of the next barrel up.

Dir: Ron Ormond

Starring Ferlin Husky, Minnie Pearl

Watched as part of Powerhouse/Indicator’s blu-ray box set From Hollywood to Heaven: The Lost and Saved Films of the Ormond Family