(or Claudia Jennings Movie Night # 3 !)
"Swamp Behind....Hell Ahead"
By 1974 Claudia Jennings was really getting her exploitation movie career cranked up. This was one of four movies she appeared in that year (along with two T.V. roles on Barnaby Jones & The F.B.I.) and in 1973 was even on the Brady Bunch. 'Gator Bait is probably her best known role (although I prefer Unholy Rollers) and was directed/produced by the husband and wife team of Beverly & Ferd Sebastian. Plus Ferd (yes Ferd) handled the cinematography and various other Sebastian's show up in the credits - both behind and in front of the camera.
Claudia plays Desiree Thibodeau a poacher who lives the back woods swamp country with her brother & sister and makes a living poaching alligators. One day while tooling around in her boat Desiree (she's even got her own theme song that's played over the credits) is pursued by dimwit Deputy "Billy Bob" and Ben Bracken his equally slow witted friend,- who in their words "want to get 'em some of that cajun swamp rat". She outwits them by throwing a bunch of snakes in their boat and Billy Bob accidentally shoots Ben whereupon he runs back to his sheriff daddy and tell him Desiree was the culprit. Now faced with the prospect of venturing into the swamp and hunting her down the sheriff stops by Ben's farm, where his insane and highly inbred family hangs out. He arrives just in time to catch one of the brothers attempting to rape the sister, which forces the dad to break them up with a bullwhip (which seems to be his usual instrument of discipline). Dad doesn't seem as worried about the incestal sex thing as he does that she's just going to "squeeze out another dimwit"
Billy Bob & his dad the sheriff, along with the Brackens - father T.J. and his remaining sons Leroy & Pete head off into the swamp to hunt "that cooter down !" Leroy has some past history with Desiree as he attempted to rape her at one point and got castrated by her as a result (In fact as it turns out almost everybody here has some past history with Desiree - mostly involving her late mother & father). The gang soon tracks down Desiree's shack, and as she's out poaching her brother and sister are all alone. In one of the more squirm inducing scenes in the movie, the sister ends up getting killed in a moment that will make even the most jaded drive-in fan jump a little.
Now going all Rambo on her pursuers Desiree begins destroying their boats and picking them off one by one as they begin to turn on themselves. Unlike most movies of this ilk, these is no humor here. This is a very grimey & twisted story with Desiree's family unit shown as loving & carry, while everyone else here is a basically a nasty dirt bag. Claudia doesn't really get to do a whole lot (she has about eight lines of dialogue), but has a terrific screen presence here as she whips around in her boat, lurks ominously in the underbrush with her wild mane of red hair and blasts away with her shotgun (she even throws live snakes around !). Plus she wears about the shortest pair of daisy dukes you've ever seen and spends most of the movie precariously falling out of her skimpy tops.
Ferd's cinematography is really above average for a low budget movie and really captures the feel of a humid/stinky/fetid swamp, plus the boat chases are well shot & edited, even if they go on a bit too long - but heck, thats what we came for (that and Claudia). Except for a short scene in town and another at the Bracken's house, the entire movie takes place in the swamp (this most have the shoot from hell for the cast). An almost perfect example of a low budget 70's drive-in movie and its got Claudia Jennings in her ass bearing daisy dukes.