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Prime Cut (1972)

R | | Action, Crime, Drama | 1972 (Portugal)
A vicious Kansas City slaughterhouse owner and his hick family are having a bloody "beef" with the Chicago crime syndicate over profits from their joint illegal operations. Top enforcer Nick Devlin is sent to straighten things out.


Michael Ritchie


Robert Dillon




Cast overview, first billed only:
Lee Marvin ... Nick Devlin
Gene Hackman ... Mary Ann
Angel Tompkins ... Clarabelle
Gregory Walcott ... Weenie
Sissy Spacek ... Poppy
Janit Baldwin ... Violet
Bill Morey ... Shay (as William Morey)
Clint Ellison Clint Ellison ... Delaney
Howard Platt ... Shaughnessy
Les Lannom ... O'Brien
Eddie Egan ... Jake
Therese Reinsch ... Jake's Girl
Bob Wilson Bob Wilson ... Reaper Driver
Gordon Signer ... Brockman
Gladys Watson Gladys Watson ... Milk Lady


A Chicago mob enforcer is sent to Kansas City to settle a debt with a cattle rancher who not only grinds his enemies into sausage, but sells women as sex slaves. Written by Brian J. Wright <bjwright@acs.ucalgary.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Any way they slice it, it's going to be murder.


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Did You Know?


The submachine gun used by Nick Devlin in the last part of the film is the now rare Smith & Wesson model 76, a near copy of the Swedish M/45. It was produced in very small numbers in the late 1960s, and was eventually discontinued due to lack of interest in such a weapon by military and law enforcement agencies. In US service it was largely known as the "Swedish-K" or "K-Rifle. It was used by US special service4s (like Navy SEALS and CIA operatives) during the Vietnam war. See more »


When Nick enters the cornfield there's a spot on the back of his jacket. Next scene the strap on the pouch is covering it. See more »


Poppy: I never knew a man before; not even to talk to.
Nick Devlin: Well where did they keep you?
Poppy: In the orphanage with the other girls.
Nick Devlin: And where was that?
Poppy: It was in Missouri. It's the only home I really remember. It was in the country.
Nick Devlin: Then you have nobody?
Poppy: Just Violet.
Nick Devlin: Who?
Poppy: Violet, the other girl that was with me. She's my sister... well, not truly but we're closer than that. Violet and me we'd climb into each other's bed when it was really cold in the winter time and hug each other really close. Sometimes we'd touch ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

In all of the marketing media, Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman were both billed above the title. However, in the opening credits, only Marvin is. See more »


References Bunny O'Hare (1971) See more »

User Reviews

Raw and tender, not too bloody, not too overcooked, an action flick to enjoy like a good steak ...
3 September 2013 | by ElMaruecan82See all my reviews

Days have been so hot lately I had to keep the air conditioner on all the night to prevent the room from turning into a human furnace. The trouble is that the machine is quite noisy and I had to reduce the volume on TV to let my wife sleep. Now, where am I going with these pointless details? I'm telling you.

Yesterday I had the unpleasant discovery that the subtitles option didn't work on my "Prime Cut" DVD, so I could hardly hear what was said between characters. And the oddest thing is that it didn't undermine my understanding, let alone my enjoyment, not at all. Now I can see why Roger Ebert compared Michael Ritchie's movie to a comic strip: it's a movie defined by actions, reactions and interactions rather than a complex and intelligible plot, and in fact, what the film could afford was precisely what it needed.

However, I doubt such a film can be possibly made today, when high-budgets and all-star casts became the new standard. Now, viewers need their minds to be blown and eyes stunned by the unusual, the stuff that elevates them, for 100 minutes, above their ordinariness and "Prime Cut" doesn't have such ambitious purposes. But it works for one simple reason: it's a film that knows where it goes, and trusts the presence of two great actors: Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman, with a honorable mention for Sissy Spacek, in her first and much promising film debut.

These are faces that can do without wisecracks or clever one-liners, when you see them; you know exactly what role they're assigned to. Marvin is the experienced and bad-ass debt collector, Hackman is the charismatic corrupt cattle owner and slaughterhouse operator and Spacek is the innocent fair-haired victim. Marvin has the obligatory macho magnetism, Hackman that lively sparkle that makes him even more likable than his enemy and Spacek, as usual, magnificently conveys the poignant fragility of the poor rural girl, victim of unfortunate circumstances.

And when these personality traits are all set-up, we confidently follow the action, trusting the actors' capacity to transcend the limits of these two-dimensional archetypes and provide great entertainment. But faces aren't sometimes enough and the director enriches a rather rudimentary narrative with a unique touch: the setting. Marvin belongs to the Chicago mob, but it's in Hackman's territory that the job must be done, in Arkansas. And don't be fooled by its bucolic appeal, the film hides an even dirtier business than anything you could find in the city.

Indeed, the film doesn't feature drug dealers, no pimps, no ethnic gangsters, no screeching police sirens, no cats crawling under trash cans, the bad guys are all typically wasp with hair as blonde as the wheat fields their monotonous lives have always basked in. This is the underrated Mid-West, America's wheat-belt that gives the film an unlikely escapist value, almost Western-like, à la Sam Peckinpah with Lee Marvin replacing Steve McQueen or Warren Oates. And on the violence department, the film has nothing to envy from 'Bloody Sam' work.

Danger is always present "naturally" starting with the impressive depiction of the slaughterhouse during the opening credits, when we follow the poor cows lead by the machinery that will turn them into steaks. I strongly suspect that among the millions of people who saw the film since its release, a few of them were converted to vegetarianism after witnessing the macabre spectacle. The credits ends with an intriguing oddity reminding us that it's still a gangster film: a shoe accidentally falls down from the sausage-maker. We get the point, whoever operates the slaughter house (it turns out to be Hackman) his enemies might end up sleeping with the cows.

And this is not even the most shocking aspect of the plot that seems like a breath of fresh air, from the boring perspective of our prudish political correct days. In fact, the notion of meat and flesh is so ambiguous that even the titles "Prime Cut" carries some disturbing undertones. And the surprise comes less from the revelation than its graphic depiction: poor naked girls being held in cattle pens and auctioned to avid rich men. Please, think about it twice before branding it as 'misogynistic': no film today would dare such sights, but aren't they metaphorically significant?

Isn't the only difference between that human slavery and what goes today contentment? Aren't girls eager today to be posing as fresh meats for greedy voyeurs, except that movies and social networks replaced the cattle pens? There's a thin line between forced and deliberate prostitution the film clearly exposes. It's made even more explicit through the fourth memorable character of the film: Angel Tompkins as Hackman's luscious wife, so amorally seductive that the word 'gold-digger' becomes a euphemism that doesn't fool anyone. It's for such gutsy moves like that that I will forever cherish the "New Hollywood" period when the humblest action-packed flicks weren't to be underestimated.

And "Prime Cut" flirts with subversive subjects through little glimpses, but it knows we needn't to be too preached about, and action must prevail. And for the thrills, the film provides an unforgettable wheat-field chase where hand-in-hand Marvin and Spacek escape from a combine harvester. And despite their predictable outcome, the gunfights and final shootouts are not without surprises. Michael Ritchie also directed "The Candidate" the same year, a film I enjoyed but wished it dug a bit deeper in its subject, but for "Prime Cut", packed-up in less than ninety minutes, it was enough.

So I would cheerfully compare "Prime Cut" to its defining element: meat. I enjoyed the film the way I enjoy a good steak: raw, with some tender sides, others 'harder-to-swallow", bloody the way it should, and not too overcooked. And when the plate is empty and you think you want more, a few minutes later, you realize you were plenty satisfied.

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Release Date:

1972 (Portugal) See more »

Also Known As:

Kansas City Prime See more »

Filming Locations:

Chicago, Illinois, USA See more »


Box Office

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Cinema Center Films See more »
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Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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