starring Ann Margret, Michael Parks ("Then Came Bronson"), Janet Margolin, Kim Darby, Brad Dexter, Larry Storch (F Troop), David Carradine (Kung Fu) & James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek). Ann Margaret as the spoiled small-town sex vixen steals the movie from Michael Parks (the movie was supposed to propel the handsome, young Parks to stardom). An entertaining drama, well-written and well-acted with a great cast and Ann-Margret sex-potting her way throughout, makes this a must-see movie. For Ann-Margret fans this is the holy grail, a forgotten gem that still has not been issued on DVD! Well-worth watching even after all these years.
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Bus Riley's Back in Town was supposed to make a star of intense, handsome young Michael Parks. Adapted by William Inge from his play, the story of a rebel struggling to find respect in his small Midwest town, it echoes with themes of his earlier success Picnic. Parks is less a William Holden drifting through life than a grown-up James Dean come back home. Desperate to earn "respect," Bus turns his back on his blue-collar origins, his "bad boy" reputation, and his now-married high school sweetheart Ann-Margret but winds up little more than a reluctant gigolo, selling vacuum cleaners and affection to lonely housewives by day and serving as stud to snarling sex kitten Ann-Margret by night. Parks delivers an endearingly vulnerable performance, mumbling and fidgeting like James Dean reborn as his dreams flounder, and Janet Margolin is tender and sad as Bus's kindred soul, a grown-up teenager tending her alcoholic mother. Harvey Hart has a good feel for actors and an understanding of family dynamics and small-town politics, but the script feels derivative and flat and the supporting cast never comes to life. Studio tampering prompted Inge to take his name off the screenplay. The film never took off and Parks's career stalled, but in the late 1990s he enjoyed a modest revival in the world of American independent films. --Sean Axmaker
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