Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 4 - Texas Lightning 1981

    A pretty deranged performance from Cameron Mitchell is the main feature of this Gary Graver directed (which he also wrote  & shot) effort from 1981. Graver was a pretty busy guy in the 70's & 80's , serving as DP on tons of low budget exploitation fare while at the same time directing bunches of porn movies (right in the midst of making this) - which makes you wonder if this kinda mainstream cast was aware of that.  After making Moonshine Express in 1977 (see earlier post) , it looks like Maureen McCormick wanted to to  break out even more from The Brady Bunch - so she here she is in a slightly more sleazier role.
   Cameron Mitchell plays Karl Stover who believing that his son Buddy Owen (played by Mitchell's real life son Cameron Jr.) isn't turning out to be quite the man he should be decides to take him out for a weekend of hunting. After a rather awkward good bye to Mrs. Stover (Hope Holiday), where its not too subtly referenced that maybe there's something more to Buddy and Moms relationship, the guys head out.  Along for the ride are Karl's buddies Frank Whitman (veteran character actor Peter Jason) and Leonard Simpson (J.L. Clark). On the way there in Leonard's monster truck they throw empty beer cans out the window and chew twinkies with their mouth open.

    After arriving and a drunken day of hunting rabbits & squirrels (and insulting a black policeman) the men don their satin cowboy shirts and head off to local country & western bar for some fun and urban cowboy action. This bar sequence lasts WAY too long and might be the result of the producers making Graver go back and shot more scenes to make the movie a little funnier (and to lose the downbeat ending - more on that later).  At the bar there is a wet t-shirt contest (with Graver playing the MC), which also features a cameo appearance by veteran porn actress Lisa De Leeuw (who not surprisingly wins the contest). At the bar Buddy meets a waitress named Fay (McCormick) and later they head back to Buddy's motel room. Turns out Fay's a kind of hustler as she cons Buddy out of $20.00 before they hit the hay. Their bliss is soon interrupted by the two drunken idiots Frank & Leonard who attack Fay, while Buddy runs off to his dad.

   They then head to the wild for more drunken hunting (Frank throws beans all over Leonard for a bit of comic relief). Buddy now starts acting strangely - silently glaring, loading his gun, strapping on a knife and looking likes he's all ready to go Lord of the Flies on the rest of the group.  Its at this point that movie loses whatever tension it was building toward. Graver had filmed this sequence originally with Buddy finally snapping and blasting one (or more) Dad's redneck buddies, instead this entire sequence was re-shot and other scenes added to lighten the movie up a little bit - as can be seen in the poster design. In this the released ending Buddy fires a few shots into the ground to scare everybody, confronts his dad and then heads back to the bar to apologize to Fay (who's sitting alone on the stage sing a C&W song - shades of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour).

   Even with the compromised ending the whole movie still has a slightly grimy vibe to it. There was a fair amount of publicity around this at the time for McCormick's alleged nude scene (which never really happens - thanks to a strategically placed hand).  Graver's original version has been rumored to have appeared on video in Europe, but all we have for now is the "happy" version on an OOP DVD (which I think was just a copy of the old Media VHS).

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