The Ballad Of Buster And Billie

  • videoarchives
  • April 11, 2023

The Video Archives Podcast should have been a love story… This week Quentin, Roger and Gala take a trip to the rural South of the 1940s for a classic 70s tearjerker, Buster and Billie. Later they must contend with Baxter, the dog that thinks in Jérôme Boivin’s merciless French comedy, before running and gunning through the lean-and-mean exploitation thriller The Fast Kill. It’s another Video Archives triple feature, and I’ve got all sorts of movie facts and VHS covers for today’s Counter Talk! Let’s get into it…


Before we get started…Quentin is finishing up his European Cinema Speculation tour this week. We just had to share these photos of the gorgeous marquee at the Teatro Coliseum in Barcelona!

Buster And Billie is of a piece with other 70s coming-of-age heartbreakers like The Last Picture Show, Summer Of ‘42 and American Graffiti (you can read Quentin’s American Graffiti review on the New Beverly site for more on this subgenre). Listen to the episode to hear all about star Jan-Michael Vincent’s eternal hotness, how the film was nearly lost to time, and the first onscreen role for Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund…but that debut wasn’t even Buster and Billie’s most notable first! This was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, mainstream American studio films to feature full frontal male nudity, a much-discussed talking point when it was released.

A production still from Buster and Billie

Asked about his controversial disrobing by entertainment columnist Dorothy Manners, Vincent said "The scene was in good taste, and I don't think I sprang any surprises on anyone…just standard equipment." I hope the next time JMV doffed his clothes he included some surprises too, maybe a rubber chicken or some fuzzy dice. (Was this actually the American studio debut of male nudity? If you know the confirmed answer, write to us!)

The Buster and Billie VHS cover evokes the nostalgia inherent to this genre with a faded, sun-kissed look:

This box is sweet, but the official film poster is stunning, with Buster’s gang of sycophants literally casting a shadow over the couple’s romantic idyll:

1989’s Baxter is the second most recent film covered on Video Archives thus far (other than The Relic, our single film from the 90s), and its sense of humor is pitch black and very modern. If you enjoyed this twisted take on the talking dog film, absolutely check out Boivin’s follow up, the Philip K. Dick adaptation Barjo, as well as the work of writer Jacques Audiard, who’s gone on to an exceptional career as a director with films like The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Rust And Bone, A Prophet and Dheepan. (I hope Baxter isn’t the last talking dog film we cover, if only so Quentin and Roger can do their “friendly dog” impressions again - that cracked me up even harder than their Baxter impersonations.)

The cover of the Fox Lorber VHS release of Baxter features the titular pup (real name: Chimbot) placidly staring down the camera with his beady little eyes…simple and effective, except for the comic-style thought balloons that are way too wacky for this tonally tricky film. Without Maxime Leroux’s voiceover, the jokes just don’t land.

The Toronto-born director of The Fast Kill, Lindsay Shonteff may have been a Canadian, but he rose to fame as one of the foremost directors of shoestring “Britsploitation” action features set in the UK. Shonteff directed over 20 films, sometimes under pseudonyms like Lewis J. Force and Anton Chiller, often nakedly ripping off James Bond (as in 1965’s “Licensed To Kill”), but his total lack of pretension and commitment to filmmaking fundamentals on a low budget has aged well.

The heist plot of the Fast Kill is brutal in its directness, summed up by the tagline “The plan was simple - go in shooting and kill everybody!” The copy on the Video Gems release also gets to the point, as swiftly as Tom Adams’ switchblade:

Video Gems packages are gorgeous, but not designed to hold up over decades - you can see how the plastic has melted and degraded, to Gala’s chagrin.

The Fast Kill (as of this writing) is impossible to find online, so you should pick up a VHS copy if you can find it! Gala picked up this Congress Video release, which also sells the film on the strength of Tom Adams’ switchblade and mod hairdo.

Neither of these boxes quite live up to the Finnish Fast Kill poster, however, a collage that promises gunplay and chaos.

Today’s Merch Spotlight comes from listener Giovanna, wearing our Video Archives hat! She says “​​I am currently living in Harbor City, CA, the same neighborhood in Palo Del Amo Woods where Quentin used to live when he was working at the video store in MB ;) The New Beverly Cinema has almost been a second home and I love supporting the film industry any way I can.”

That’s it for this week; next week we’re cracking open the Video Vault for not one but two unheard movie chats from last year! Until then, follow us on Twitter and Instagram – we have a wonderfully active community on both sites going. Check out our fan-led group on Facebook too. See you in your inbox soon for more Counter Talk!