Rooster: Spurs of Death

Just so you’ll know what sort of mad man you’re dealing with, let me explain that I spent quite some time trying to find a copy of this movie. I have longed to see Rooster: Spurs of Death for quite some time. Finally, after months of fruitless searching, a friend came through with a pirated copy. Now, so that you don’t think I’m completely insane, let me explain my reasons for wanting to see this film.
Rooster was filmed in my neck of the woods, south-east Kansas (I was being literal when I said woods). That fact alone makes it worth my time.

Rooster has been described as “the touching story of the bond that forms between father and son, over the sport of cock fighting”. I’m not kidding here. This is really what the film makers had in mind. Where I live, cock fighting is an unfortunate reality. It’s been illegal for years, but it still goes on. I can drive up the highway from my house, and see the fighting roosters chained to their barrel houses. Everybody knows what these birds are being raised for. Nobody does anything about it.
The film opens with a bit of narration telling us about the “long and proud history of cock fighting”. Then we meet Stoke (Gene Bicknell). Stoke is an old “cocker”, about to head out to a big cock fighting derby. His son, Wyatt (Vince Van Patten, who you may have seen in Rock N Roll High school, as well as other real movies) is going with him. Wyatt is going to be involved for the first time.

The film turns into a road movie for a bit, being made up largely of protracted shots of a pick up truck cruising down dirt roads, inter cut with Stoke telling Wyatt outrageous stories of his youth. We are given a sub plot about Stoke’s wife, who may be having an affair with a big city “cocker” named Clure. We are also given a subplot about Chicken, a midget in love with Kink’s daughter. Kink (Jeff Corey, another real actor who has appeared in a variety of films including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) is the man in charge of the cock fighting. He spews forth ridiculous dialogue, mostly meant to justify the brutality that makes his living.

Then we arrive. Well, first there’s an interlude at a house of ill-repute (I), then we arrive. Much deception and cheating lead to Stoke attempting to rob everyone at the cock fight and (watch out now, I’m going to give away the store here, so if you don’t want to know how it ends, stop reading here) then Stoke ends up dead. Shot by Chicken. Wyatt wants to finish the robbery, Clure tries to stop him. I lose track of how it came out. I can’t decide if the ending was supposed to have a point or not.
The film uses real footage of cock fighting (they must have filmed those scenes in Oklahoma, where it’s still legal). These sequences are a bit rough to watch. Cock fighting is a barbaric, cruel, and inane pastime. In a real cock fighting arena you would not see the sort of attractive, well heeled men the film portrays. Real cockers tend to be toothless, ignorant, inbred, middle aged men who are sexually excited by cruelty. A large number of them are likely to have spent some time in prison for violent crimes. Often sexually sadistic acts. This only makes sense. Sadism, is sadism. Anyone who enjoys torturing animals will eventually get around to torturing people.

This movie is filled with scenery chewing. The overacting is nearly as difficult to watch as the cock fighting. Between the actors there is enough false melodrama to fill the grand canyon. The direction is bland. This film was shot largely like a cheap made for TV movie. It has no style, and no substance.

The script is preposterous. I’ve heard better dialogue in porn.

The film also suffers from incredible padding. It runs ninety-two minutes. Minus the long shots of the same truck going down the same dirst road, and the endless sequences of a plane landing, taxiing, taking off, landing again, this movie would run about sixty-eight minutes. This film is padded like a Jr High school girl’s bra.

So, even if we ignore the ethical problems this film suffers from (and those problems are legion), it is simply bad. This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. And I saw Cut Throat Island! So I’ve seen really bad movies. The film does contain some unintentional humor. It is ripe for MST3K style lampooning. However, even that could not make it an enjoyable experience.

I cannot recommend this film to anyone. It should be avoided at all cost. But then, you weren’t likely to see it in the first place.