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Continuing its quest to, apparently, release every Roger Corman film ever made on DVD, Shout! Factory offers a trio of Corman-produced, Southern-fried action films, Roger Corman's Action-Packed Collection.
The only legit "action classic" on this set is 1976's The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, which is quintessential drive-in fare. It stars two beautiful, frequently naked women (Claudia Jennings, Group Marriage, and Jocelyn Jones, Tourist Trap), plenty of "fun" action (things blow up, people don't get hurt), chases, romantic conflicts, humor (of the rural sort), a little poignancy, and an exciting finish.
The film offers up fresh-out-of-prison Candy (Jennings), whose specialty is sticking up banks using dynamite instead of guns. When the family farm's about to be foreclosed, she pulls a job, and ends up hooking up with Ellie-Jo (Jones), a just-fired teller. Since neither lady has anywhere else to go, they score a load of explosives (which entails Candy scoring with a hunky demolitionist) and start taking every back-roads cash house in the Lone Star state. Along the way, they pick up aimless cowboy Slim (Johnny Crawford, child star of The Rifleman, growed up here). He aids the ladies by posing as a hostage and falls for the fetching Ellie-Jo.
The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is notable for the appearance of Jennings, Playboy Playmate of the Year (1970) and a drive-in movie fixture during the '70s. The extraordinarily beautiful Jennings—who was a pretty decent actress—died in a car wreck in 1979, and Dynamite Chase was one of her better features, giving her a full-on starring role and plenty of opportunity to show off not just her good looks, but her personality and acting skills as well. There is a printed message from Corman about Jennings on the inside cover of this set.
The film is one of New World's better features, fun and exciting, and hitting all the requisite "drive-in" marks. With a few supplements and a better technical presentation, this cult item would have made a fine stand-alone.
The disc? Well, the picture looks OK, but the audio is terrible, overmodulated and occasionally distorted. The only extra is a trailer.
After the Dynamite, things go downhill quicker than a horn toad on a scooter.
The Georgia Peaches (aka Follow That Car, as it's called in the opening credits) is a Corman-produced TV movie and pilot, evidently an attempt to cash in on the then-popular The Dukes of Hazzard backwoods-and-fast-car mania. This'n takes place in Georgia and features 'shine runner Dusty (Dirk Benedict, The A-Team) and his purdy little lady Sue Lynn Peach (Terri Nunn, Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold), who's a mechanic. Dusty and Sue Lynn find themselves in a whole heap o' trouble caused by that nasty Vivian Stark (Sally Kirkland, The Lady in Red), who's sort of the local Cruella de Vil, only with underworld connections. When Vivian frames Dusty, Sue Lynn, and Sue Lynn's sister, country singing sensation Lorette (played by country singing sensation Tanya Tucker); the Peaches and Dusty get recruited by T-Man Randolph Dukane (Lane Smith, Dark Night of the Scarecrow) to go undercover to crack a cigarette smuggling ring—that's headed by none other than Vivian Stark!
Had this been a New World drive-in adventure, it would likely have gone the usual path of car chases, explosions, manic comedy, Dick Miller cameo, and copious T&A. Unfortunately, this looks like a pretty typical CBS tele-movie from the time—technically bland and generically written. The occasional flashes of late-'70s/early-'80s hair and clothing—the Peaches, pretending to be singers, dress up in spandex, while Dusty turns up in a post-Village People mesh t-shirt—are nostalgic in a disconcerting way, and Tucker performs a few songs. For those who wonder "What if…" The Dukes of Hazzard had spawned an entire TV-based cultural revolution rather than just the unfortunate spin-off Enos, this might hold some appeal.
The disc? TV-level video and audio, no supplements.
Feature number 3, Smokey Bites the Dust, is pure drive-in filler. Essentially a 90-minute chase, this one features Jimmy McNichol, brother of the marginally more famous Kristy and '70s star in his right; having made a couple of films, some Afterschool Specials, forgotten TV shows, The Love Boat appearances, and turns on Battle of the Network Stars and Circus of the Stars. Here, he plays Roscoe, a geeky cool kid with a talent for driving fast and causing other cars to careen wildly into roadside vegetable stands, Chinese restaurants, and whatever other hazards of society have been erected alongside otherwise empty straightaways.
High-schooler Roscoe hijacks the homecoming queen (Janet Julian, King of New York) during the big game. This creates a huge chase with an easy-listening, soft-rockabilly score, low-humor pitstops, and about eight million tons of steel sacrificed in the name of pile ups.
The film is the usual Corman hijinx, only with a PG rating, so the nudity is nonexistent and the smutty humor tuned way down. It's more appropriate for a carload of 14-year-olds than a gaggle of horny teens, but perfectly fine as mindless fun. Future cult star William Forsythe (The Devil's Rejects) plays one of the chasers, and Roscoe's best friend is played by John Blyth Barrymore, older half brother of Drew.
The disc? Decent tech and audio, a trailer for a supplement.
While these films are really more suited to open-air viewing, it's still nice we can enjoy them in our living rooms. The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is the clear winner here, with the other two pulling up the rear.
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Perp Profile, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase
Studio: Shout! Factory
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Scales of Justice, Georgia Peaches
Perp Profile, Georgia Peaches
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Georgia Peaches
Scales of Justice, Smokey Bites The Dust
Perp Profile, Smokey Bites The Dust
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Smokey Bites The Dust
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