Thursday, April 22, 2010

Moonshine County Express (1977)

Directed by Gus Trikonis
Starring Claudia Jennings, Maureen McCormack, John Saxon
Rated PG
USA

"You just wait around here and I'll go get myself killed."

Before he settled into a long  and winding career in basic cable (Baywatch, Hercules, Sea Quest, Viper), director Gus Trikonis carved out an impressive resume of 70's drive-in trash: Five the Hard Way (1969), Supercock (1975), Swinging Barmaids (1975), The Student Body (1976), The Evil (1978), and of course, Moonshine County Express, his fast and furious entry into the then wildly popular hicksploitation cycle.

It should be pointed out that in 1977, when Moonshine Country Express was released, Burt Reynolds was bigger than Jesus. For all intents and purposes, this is a Burt Reynolds movie, only on one-tenth the budget, and with 60's sci-fi star John Saxon filling in for the mustache. All the Burtsploitation elements are there: booze, dirty cops, fast cars, and a fistful of gum-snappin', back-talkin' broads in cut-offs.

The story - slight as it is - involves a trio of backwoods beauties - Dot (Susan Howard), Betty (70's grindhouse superstar Claudia Jennings, RIP) and Sissy Hammer (Marsha Brady herself, Maureen McCormack), three sisters orphaned when their daddy - and his moonshine still - are all blown to smithereens by mean ol' Jack Starkey (William "Cannon" Conrad, RIP), the town asshole, and Daddy Hammer's chief competitor in the 'shine running game.

Things look bad for the girls until they meet Daddy's lawyer, who reads them a letter promising the girls a fortune, right under their noses, in the backyard. Dead dad suggests they pick up a shovel, and start digging. And so they do.

The girls find the stash of prohibition-era whiskey he'd stowed in a makeshift cellar behind their shack. There's enough there for them to sell and move out of the mountain, but they'll need some hired muscle to help 'em protect the stuff.

Naturally, smooth-talkin' shine-runner JB (John Saxon) gets recruited for the gig.
Good thing, too, because once ol Starkey gets wind of the girls' new business, he sends his boys over to shoot their shack full of holes. Them bastards even got their hound dog. Dog slayin' sumbitches!

A Bugs Bunney-esque, banjo-driven turf war breaks out.

Starkey's goons take out Dotty's customers and co-conspirators in various acts of extreme violence - one guy's store gets blown up, with him in it; a mechanic has the car he's working on dropped on him - until there's no one left 'cept for JB, the girls, and a bitchin' bright yellow muscle car.

And then Starkey's goon runs them off the road, and they don't even have the fuckin' car anymore. Somebody finds a truck, and they decide to try and smuggle all the booze out of town under the cover of night.

Unfortunately, permanently soused Uncle Bill (cowboy star Dub Taylor) finds their stash and stumbles into town to spill the beans. Starkey's men overrun the joint and tie Sissy to a post. That part was awesome. Marsha, in tiny cut-offs, tied to a post! Who knows what they planned on doing, but luckily Betty shows up to shoot a few of 'em in the guts and blow up a few more with sticks of dynamite. They manage to get the hooch out, and a run for the county line - chased by cops and bad guys - ensues.

Moonshine County Express revels in violence, but, strangely enough, it skimps completely on nudity, shattering the hopes of 70's era sleazebags hoping for a glimpse of Marsha's muffins. Luckily, what the film lacks in celebrity skin, it makes up for with gunfights and gusto - 90% of the movie is either high speed car chases down dusty back roads, or over the top bullet ballets. The cast is full of primo 70's character actors, too. Besides the already-mentioned leads, be on the lookout for apple-cheeked, platinum blonde B-flick goddess Candice Rialson and Len "Uncle Leo" Lesser, in smaller roles. Sure, John Saxon is no Bandit, but still, Moonshine County Express is drenched in that same mid 70's stink. Imagine, a world where all you needed to outrun the long arm of the law was a faster car, where selling booze you made in your own basement was a viable career choice, and where a braless, barefoot Marsha Brady brandished a rifle. That's the world on offer here.  And who wouldn't want to spend some time there?

- Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. I love all your posts, but I just wanted to mention that for the last two movies you've reviewed, I've kinda missed the screencaps that you usually provide to help illustrate each film. Just my two cents. Thanks! --Roel

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