Monday, February 2, 2009

CB Hustlers (1978)

AKA Secrets of the Lady Truckers
Directed by Stu Segall
Starring Uschi Digard, Richard Kennedy, John F Goff
Rated R
Buy poster

"I'm gonna go kick the frosting off his cake."

I dunno about what life is like where you are, but here in the States, we haven't had a good nationwide craze for years. The culture's become too fractured; people have their own thing, and even if they share that obsession with millions, there's still vast segments of the populace that have no idea what they're talking about. Even if you're reasonably hip, it's impossible to keep up on everything. I mean, I am aware that World of Warcraft, Gym Class Heroes, Hentai porn, and Parkour all exist, but I don't know anything about them. I'd have to Wiki like mad just to bullshit about that stuff. Ultimately, we're all better off this way, since latter-day fads have all been pretty lame - beanie babies, anyone? - but back in the 70's, holy smokes. There were some seriously loony fads back then, and everyone - mom, dad, grandpa, the kids, everybody - fell under their twisted spells. Like what, you ask? Like disco, like leisure suits and pet rocks, like Abba, Rubik's Cubes, pinball, halter tops, 8 tracks, jogging suits, fondue, shag carpets, KISS, English Leather, and Sea Monkeys.

One of the most pervasive 70's obsessions, at least for a couple years, was CB radios. Originally used quite specifically by truckers and dispatchers to relay road information to one another, in the 1970's their usage spread to ordinary citizens ("CB" does stand for 'Citizen's Band', after all), who installed them in their cars or garages to communicate semi-anonymously - everyone had a 'Handle', you know, like The Bandit - in a nationwide social experiment that operated not unlike a primitive version of the internet. Trucker slang was adopted and mutated, and CB party lines were formed. My crazy uncle Peter (I say 'crazy' because blew his own head off with a 357 Magnum a few years back) had one in his Jeep. I forget what his 'handle' was, but he decided mine was "Magoo", because I was a clumsy kid. He'd make me ask truckers if "Smokey" was "Blowing their doors off", or whatever. Traffic information, basically, which seemed pretty stupid when we were sitting in his driveway. We had no use whatsoever for CB radios, and yet we used them. That was life in the 70's. We ate Twinkies and used CB radios and listened to Tiny Tim. It was a very weird time.

As with any money-gobbling trend, Hollywood eventually starts churning out exploitation films based on them, and so a flurry of CB movies hit theaters in the mid to late 70's: Truck Stop Women (1974) Cannonball, Gumball Rally (both 1976) Breaker Breaker, Handle with Care, Smokey and the Bandit (all 1977) Convoy, High Ballin' (1978), etc. The trend died down by the late 70's, when the first wave of video games hit the market. These days, with the advent of PCs and mobile phones, CBs have essentially ceased to exist. But the vapor trails linger on. Most Americans over 35 still let loose with a "10-4, Good buddy" or a "Put the pedal to the metal", or possibly even a "What's your twenty?" every now and then, and just about everyone's seen their share of Smokey and the Bandit movies.

Clearly, CB Hustlers was meant to ride Bandit-fever, trading in Burt Reynolds' glorious 70's 'tache with Uschi Digard's equally majestic 70's mams, but while most of the CB movies were comfortably-budgeted affairs produced by major studios, CB Hustlers is bargain-basement, regional, gutbucket exploitation from the same production company that graced the world with Drive In Massacre (1977). It was directed by a hands-on grime-cinema expert (Saddle Tramp Women, Young Students, Teeny Buns, Spirit of Seventy Sex), and starred a Swedish Russ Meyer sexploitation queen (Digard), and a host of nutjob drive-in character actors, including John F Goff (Gas Pump Girls, Summer Camp, Party Plane, Party Favors), Richard Kennedy (Six Pack Annie, Invasion of the Blood Farmers, Ilsa She Wolf of the SS), John Alderman (Erotic Adventures of Zorro, Video Vixens, Delinquent School Girls), and Bruce Kimball (Chain Gang Women, Malibu Beach, Pink Angels). It is pure, grubby, grade Z 70's scuzz, a holy relic from the grindhouse gutter, and we have that idiotic CB craze to thank.

CB Hustlers is only 85 minutes long (and my copy clocks in at 74), and yet it doesn't even bother to start, really, until the half-hour mark. Up until that point, its strictly raincoat-ready softcore with crackly mid 70's country-rock on the soundtrack. The camera bobs and weaves like a punch-drunk boxer as we are treated to a series of dark, grainy, van-floor encounters between Uschi and her fellow truckstop hookers and the hairy, pasty rig-haulers who hire them for cheap quickies.

There's not a whole of exposition, but you sorta get the concept - a sleazy-mustachioed pimp named Billy Bob Turner (John Alderman) and his psychedelic headband-ed wife, Laura May (Val Desta) cruise down the Californian desert highway in a two-van whore-convoy (Uschi, as Dee Dee, drives the other van), stopping at truck stops to service the fellas and then hauling ass outta there. Truckers use their CBs to request the girls.

Every now and then the fat, sweaty sheriff (Kimball) shows up to break up the party, but he is easily swayed by Uschi's 12-gallon milk-jugs, and so he lets the sex circus roll on. After a good 15 or so minutes of that, you are treated to at least ten minutes' worth of a customized van rally, shot from across a field, with dubbed-in narration. Seriously, it's just drunken hippies playing Frisbee while Richard Kennedy rants over the top. If you're not paying close attention to your surroundings, you may think that you've lost your mind.

The story, such as it is, kicks in when we finally meet Goff and Kennedy. They portray Boots Clayborn and Mountain Dean, respectively, the sole owners and reporters for a small-town newspaper, the Clarion Weekly. After sitting around the office listening to the CB radio, they decide to investigate all this strange chatter they're hearing about "Lemons" and "Tunnel Action". Mountain Dean manages to snag an interview with Turner, pretending to be doing a generic CB radio story, while Goff, disguised as an aw-shucks cowboy, conducts a more (cough) penetrating investigation with one of the girls, Silky.

This scene goes on forever, by the way. Not surprisingly, Goff wrote the screenplay. You can just hear him, right?
"Listen, little lady, I'm sorry, but we've gotta keep fucking for another twenty minutes. See, it's in the script!"
Halfway through his session, Laura-May busts in on them, pretending to be Silky's mom. Acting horrified, she tells Boots that her 'daughter' is only sixteen, and sends him scurrying off.

Having sorta muddied the waters on that trip, Boots would like to just drop the investigation, but back at the office, Dean goes bananas.
"That's the difference between you and me, " he screams, "it's the difference between dog licenses and détente, between church socials and Watergate, between the local PTA's annual journalism award and the Pulitzer Prize!"
I don't know what the fuck he's talking about, but he sure does sell it. By the way, I could be wrong, but Kennedy looks like he's got black shoe polish on his eyebrows.

Mountain Dean figures out where Turner's van is going to be next, so he drags Boots with him to get to the bottom of whatever-it-is that's going on.

When they trundle up to Turner's van, he greets them warmly and invites them in for a chat. At this point, the more attentive viewers may be scratching their heads, because these two idiots met Turner and his wife at the van rally 20 minutes ago, yet Dean doesn't recognize them. Boots does, however, and chooses to keep his mouth shut while Turner rambles on about his imaginary mobile CB radio sales business. He agrees to meet the two reporters at a CB convention down the road the following day and shoos them away.

Later on, Boots gets a call from his van-nookie Silky, who tells him that she knows their plan, and if he reveals their tawdry little business in the paper, she'll go public about their illicit tryst.

Meanwhile, Turner announces to his harem that he's going legit. He's socked up enough dough to buy a farmhouse somewhere and give up the pimp game completely. When Dean barges in on him the next morning, finally clued in to what's going on, Turner offers to give him the business. $2500 a week, plus free pussy. Who could resist? One problem, though. The sheriff knows what's up too, and is on his way to arrest Turner. Can Mountain Dean thwart the sheriff, become the new CB Hustler pimp, and bang Ushi Digard in every available orifice? Or, will he regain his senses, scoff at Turner's tempting offer, and bring down this operation, scoring the scoop of the year in the process?

Well, it's one or the other, I'll tell you that much.

CB Hustlers is one of the most slapdash films I think I've ever seen. It's fuck-everybody guerrilla filmmaking that cuts corners every chance it gets. There's only one set in the entire movie, all the truckers are actual truckers the filmmakers met on the road, and the camerawork (courtesy the usually top-notch Ken Gibbs, who shot almost every movie in this book) is so choppy and/or dark that there's no way there was more than one take for any given scene. Its an eyeball-abusing mess, a laughless, actionless travesty that features a lot less nudity than you think it does (Uschi's crazy Swedish fuck-goddess body is so over-the-top it makes you think you've seen much more than you have). Goff and Kennedy gorge on the scenery like starving men, the jarring Poco-esque music is headache-making, and the CB Hustlers (Janice Jordan, Elke Vann, Catherine Barkley) are only in the movie for about three minutes, tops.

Obviously, I give it a big thumbs-up. How could I not?
The 70's were so fucking awesome, man.

Availability: CB Hustlers is available on DVD.

-Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. I gotta get this disc. I've had it on the wishlist forever now.


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