Dirty O’Neil

      Comments Off on Dirty O’Neil

Dirty O’Neil (1974) is a film of dramatic tonal shifts. While these variations in tone are all firmly planted in the sphere of the exploitation film it doesn’t diminish their impact. For the first hour of Dirty O’Neil the film is a raunchy sex comedy that seems to draw on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68) and Adam12 (1968-1975) for material to satirize. Then, in the last half hour of Dirty O’Neil, the film becomes an all-out grindhouse feature as a trio of crooks terrorizes the community.

Officer Jimmy O’Neil (Morgan Paull) is very much the glue of the narrative. He’s a Vietnam War veteran who has come home and taken a job as a cop in a quiet small town. He’s a Nixon supporter and womanizer, a girl’s basketball coach and ne’er do well. In his own words he is just looking to have “some fun” now that he’s back from the war. The tonal shift in Dirty O’Neil coincides with a drastic change in O’Neil’s character. The violent attack on an old man and the rape of Ruby (Jeane Manson) wake O’Neil up to the fact that even at home there is violence and atrocities. It could be construed as a an attempt at rendering PTSD in the film if it weren’t for the third tonal shift when O’Neil takes on the trio of bad guys like some campy Dirty Harry (1971) knock-off.

What unifies Dirty O’Neil is the rampant misogyny and the fetishization of the police officer as an abstract ideal of masculinity. O’Neil fetishizes himself this way just as the bevy of beautiful women in town seem to. It’s a fantasy and the film treats it as such until the realities of theft, rape, and murder infiltrate the community. In a world of violence Dirty O’Neil can no longer be a bawdy comedy. It’s telling that once O’Neil has beaten the three bad guys the film shifts back into sex comedy mode with its closing scene at the hospital where the shy nurse dresses his wounds.

Directed by Leon Capetanos and the infamous Lewis Teague, Dirty O’Neil has a certain genre film pedigree. Before Teague ever worked for Roger Corman and Sam Fuller or directed The Jewel Of The Nile (1985) he made Dirty O’Neil. The attempts to unify the tonal opposite pieces of the film can likely be credited to Teague since Capetanos was entirely responsible for the screenplay.

Though a terrible flawed film Dirty O’Neil is not without its charms. Some of the episodes during the first hour of the film are funny or sort of cute as O’Neil gets himself tangled up in some far out situations. It’s never enough to sustain the film but fans of exploitation movies are likely to have some fun.