Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 3 - Moonrunners 1975

      Let's see - two cousins (who are proficient with bow & arrow) run moonshine for their Uncle Jesse while pursued by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and Waylon Jennings narrates and provides songs. Also the cousins car is named after a Southern Civil War icon, there's a fellow named Cooter, a tavern called The Boars Head and last but not least a pretty woman hangs out and is protected by the two cousins.
   No, it's not The Dukes of Hazzard, but Moonrunners, a 1975 feature movie that CBS used as a basis for the hit 1979-85 TV show. While the show did take the basic characters and plot, Moonrunners is somewhat more gritty and dirty - Among other things, the local boss (named Jake Rainey here), has prostitutes he runs out his bar.
   The film stars Kiel Martin as Bobby Lee Hagg (who later gain fame on Hill Street Blues as Officer John 'J.D.' LaRue) and James Mitchum as his cousin Grady Hagg . Mitchum played along side his dad Robert in 1958's classic Thunder Road, the ground zero of the southern drive-in movie. Starring, written and produced by Robert Mitchum (he even sings the title song), Thunder Road played drive-ins in the south on double features up till the late 70's. If you have not seen it, do so now. Keil Martin sadly passed away in 1990 at the early age of 46.
   Back to Moonrunners. Uncle Jesse is played by the always reliable Arthur Hunnicutt.  Chris Forbes plays Beth Ann Eubanks (the Daisy Duke character) who is running away from a forced marriage (shades of the the later Smokey and the Bandit) before she falls in with the cousins. Forbes did this and some TV stuff in the 70's, but seems to have dropped out of sight.  Elaine 'Spanky' McFarlane (of Spanky and our Gang), shows up as a bartender. 
    This was Director/Writer Gy Waldron only feature film and later became involved in the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. Producer Bob Clark had an extensive career as a writer, director and producer. Among his credits as director are A Christmas Story (1983) and Porky's (1982) and as a producer the low budget classics Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973) and Black Christmas (1974). He passed away in 2007.
  I really enjoyed this movie. It was actually filmed in Georgia, so it has a good rural look and the car chases are well done for a low budget movie - there's even a dirt track stock car race edited rather neatly into the movie. Keil Martin does a good job and Mitchum has a nice easy going presence and he does really channel his dad in some parts. Another thing I noticed is that the cars seem to sustain the damage they receive as the movie moves along- dents & torn bodywork aren't magically fixed from scene to scene, which was a nice touch.  BTW the cousins stock car is named Traveler after Gen. Robert E. Lee's horse. The plot of the movie is pretty much the plot of moonshine movies - the big syndicate wants to move in on the small timers like Uncle Jesse and its up to the cousins to help out.
   In 2005 Warner Bros. made the Dukes of Hazzard as an ill-advised feature film. Not bothering to check the T.V. show's legal lineage, they promptly made it without securing the rights from the Moonrunners producers. A lawsuit was brought forth after the film was completed, and Warner's with this thing ready to be released ending up settling with producer Clark for $17.5 Million !


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