The Legend of Hillbilly John (1973)

Genres - Drama, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Adventure, Road Movie  |   Run Time - 86 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Synopsis by Cavett Binion

Based primarily on the "Silver John" tales of Manly Wade Wellman, this enthusiastically silly low-budgeter tells the story of young John (Hedge Capers), a balladeer who returns home to find that his Grandpappy (Denver Pyle) -- also named John -- has decided to do battle with the Devil by playing a special tune (penned by Hoyt Axton, no less!) on a silver-stringed guitar. Unwisely, the elder John chose silver dollars to make his strings, realizing too late that modern-day dollar coins contain no silver at all (due, of course, to an evil government conspiracy), and his soul is lost. The younger John decides to follow the old man's path -- only not quite as stupidly -- and creates his own silver strings (this time genuine). In his travels, he encounters an undertaker who made a deal with a witch (Susan Strasberg) in exchange for gold; an evil gatekeeper named O.J. and his "Big Ugly Bird" (depicted via stop-motion animation); and a cotton plantation run by a voodoo overlord. He eventually reaches Washington, D.C., presumably to do battle with the ultimate evil: the Army Corps of Engineers. Sticking to the essence of the Appalachian ghost stories on which Wellman's stories were based, director John Newland (erstwhile host of One Step Beyond) conjures some delightfully bizarre images despite the painfully low budget, but one wonders exactly where he was going with this. This film is also known as Who Fears the Devil.



good-vs-evil, battle [war], conspiracy, family, government, grandfather, grandson, guitar, on-the-road, revenge, Satan, silver, challenge, demon, legend [fable]