Lighthearted action/comedy silliness with amiable young heroes, colorful villains, a fast-moving storyline, and a smidgen of nasty violence, Stingray hits pleasure centers without actually engaging viewer’s brains. At 100 minutes, it’s a big long for a dopey romp, and none would ever mistake leading man Christopher Mitchum—son of Robert—for a fine actor. That said, Stingray may well contain the most enjoyable performance ever given by Sherry Jackson, a ’50s child star who grew up to become an alluring starlet in TV shows and B-movies of the ’60s and ’70s. (Fans of a certain age may recall her eye-popping appearance in a barely-there costume during a goofy episode of the original Star Trek series.) In Stingray, Jackson plays an all-business criminal with a psychotic streak, and she leans into the role so winningly that it’s a wonder her work here didn’t lead to better opportunities.
The simple plot begins when crooks dump something into a Corvette Stingray on a used-car lot just before they’re arrested. Two young guys, Al (Mitchem) and Elmo (Les Lannom), buy the car soon afterward, unaware of the illicit cargo. Enter Abigail Bratowski (Jackson), the crooks’ ruthless boss, who first appears disguised as a nun even though she’s smoking and swearing up a storm. Myriad episodes of high-speed pursuit ensue, with interludes of bar fights and shootouts and the like. Through it all, Abigail is consistently fierce, knocking off bystanders and enemies while spewing lines of this sort: “Roscoe, hand me that clip of explosive shells!”
Some sequences in Stingray are dull and others are dumb, because every so often the filmmakers forget the sort of picture they’re making and try to present something serious. Happily, they usually snap back to form before too long. And while no one in the cast besides Jackson really pops, everyone hits the right one-dimensional notes, as when portly Cliff Emmich, playing one of the villains, freaks out in a forest and shoots his gun at irksome mosquitoes. Better still, Mitchum and Lammon get to play a cartoonishly suspenseful scene together in the finale. Until then, it’s all about Jackson incarnating a sexy badass.