Discovering a watchable Al Adamson movie is a joyous moment for the ’70s-cinema explorer, so even though Jessi’s Girls is contrived and exploitive, it improves upon most of Adamson’s directorial adventures simply because the plot makes sense and the production values are relatively professional. For surprisingly long stretches of screen time, this low-budget Western is compelling thanks to a simple vengeance-mission narrative and the novelty, given the context, of a distaff protagonist. Redheaded beauty Sondra Currie stars as Jessica Hartwell, a Mormon woman traveling with her husband through the American frontier. A gang of thugs led by odious Frank Brock (Ben Frank) attacks the Hartwells, raping Jessica and killing her husband. Left for dead with a gunshot wound, Jessica finds her way to an isolated homestead, where grizzled loner Rufe (Rod Cameron) provides shelter and teaches Jessica how to use guns. Meanwhile, the film introduces several outlaw women, all of whom get captured by a marshal. In the story’s dopiest coincidence, Jessica stumbles upon the marshal’s wagon, kills him, and frees the outlaw women. That’s how they become participants in her vengeance mission.
This movie’s obvious negatives are plentiful. Characterizations are trite, the plot shamelessly cops elements from the Raquel Welch movie Hannie Caulder (1971), and Adamson goes overboard with topless shots. This is hardly the sleaziest drive-in picture of the ’70s, but it was unquestionably designed to satisfy low appetites. Having said all that, the movie’s positives include qualities that are rare in the Adamson oeuvre. The story moves along at a good clip with virtually no glaring logic problems. The central character is interesting and sympathetic, with a fairly consistent behavior pattern. Supporting characters enter and exit the story when they should, so the picture isn’t bogged down with or derailed by pointless discursions. And the style is appropriate, from the dusty locations to the guitar-and-harmonica soundtrack. So even though Jessi’s Girls is ultimately nothing but a boobs-and-bullets cheapie, it’s palatable. For an Adamson movie, that’s saying a lot. You may now begin the Rick Springfield jokes you’ve been desperate to make since you first read the movie’s title.
Jessi’s Girls: FUNKY