Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dixie Dynamite (1976)

          The rampaging-rednecks genre took a distaff turn in the mid-’70s, resulting in lowbrow pictures along the lines of Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976), ’Gator Bait (1974), and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976). Like the other members of its dubious cinematic breed, Dixie Dynamite grinds together various drive-in signifiers, resulting in a meandering string of chase scenes, explosions, leering glances at curvaceous bodies, and—because apparently no B-movie party is complete without one—a rape scene. While Dixie Dynamite has meager pleasures to stimulate the viewer’s reptile brain, expectations of good acting, meaningful storytelling, and social relevance should be set aside. Although Dixie Dynamite is far less exploitive than other pictures of the same ilk (since there’s barely any flesh on display), one should not form the impression that the filmmakers substituted substance for sleaze—erotic content is simply another item on the long list of things the film lacks. Oh, and don’t be fooled by Warren Oates’ top billing, because the grizzled veteran of myriad rough-and-tumble movies has perhaps 15 minutes of mostly inconsequential screen time.
          Rather than Oates, the picture spotlights forgettable starlets Jane Anne Johnstone and Kathy McHaley as, respectively, Dixie and Patsy Eldridge, the adult daughters of a moonshiner named Tom Eldridge (Mark Miller). When the picture begins, morally conflicted Sheriff Phil Marsh (Christopher George) escorts IRS agents to Tom’s homestead, where the agents try arresting Tom for tax evasion. Tom makes a run for it, and Phl’s overzealous deputy, Frank (Wes Bishop), opens fire on Tom’s car, causing an accident in which Tom is killed. Tom’s daughters, who were away from home at the time of the tragedy, initially respond by accepting help from family friend Mack (Warren Oates) and by seeking jobs. Yet local crime lord Dade McCrutchen (Stanley Adams) ensures the girls can’t catch a break. In fact, he’s out to displace every smalltime moonshiner in the county so he can gain a monopoly, and he was behind the IRS raid on the Eldridge place. Out of options, the Eldridge girls become robbers, distributing most of their loot to poor people, and they contrive a plan to get revenge on McCrutchen. Trigger-happy deputy Frank becomes a target as well, especially after he forces himself on Patsy.
          Even with colorful actors including R.G. Armstrong, George, and Oates in the cast, Dixie Dynamite fails to generate any real interest, though it’s borderline watchable thanks to an adequate number of action scenes. The movie even has some enjoyably ludicrous moments, such as the vignette of Oates’ character teaching the girls to ride motorcycles while a singer on the soundtrack croons, “There’ll be a sunshine highway if you’re going my way.” Also worth mentioning is the scene in which a villain gets launched into the air like a rocket when a bundle of dynamite explodes. Eagle-eyed viewers not lulled into submission by the general monotony of the movie might be able to spot Steve McQueen during a sequence depicting a dirt-bike race, because the actor plays an unbilled cameo.

Dixie Dynamite: FUNKY

1 comment:

Tommy Ross said...

This one I DO have in my collection and am quite fond of, except I always feel embarrassed for Warren Oates, he was so much better than this material, but like you said, his screen time is minimal- Funky is spot-on!