About the Author: R.D Francis is a writer specializing in rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas. You can read his music and film criticisms on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.
No. This movie isn’t about an aspiring singer working in an Arizona greasy spoon starring actress Polly Holliday spoutin’ her “kiss my grits” catch phase—that’s the 1976 to 1985 CBS-TV series, Alice. (How did the CBS network not sue the makers of this movie for usurping the title?)
In this hicksploitation tale, the lead actress from Straw Dogs (1971; Susan George) and the lead actor from Willard (1971; Bruce Davison) walk into Mel’s Diner . . . uh, I mean a southern honkytonk—complete with babes mud wraslin’ to watch while ya eats—and meet a ‘70s B-Movie bikersploitation (The Losers, Run, Angel, Run) and blaxploitation (Slaughter, Cleopatra Jones) director (Jack Starrett) and make a Smokey and the Bandit hicksploitation rip-off . . . but what we really have here is a rip-off, of a rip-off, of a rip-off because you’ll recognize this film’s stunt footage—and plot—is recycled from Smokey Bites the Dust, Grand Theft Auto, and Eat My Dust—right down to Bruce Davison’s Dolin T. Pike speeding around in a stolen Rolls Royce, just like Ron Howard in Grand Theft Auto.
And since every good ‘ol boy “Bandit” needs a Sally “Frog” Field to complicate his life, in steps Susan George as the requisite spoiled girlfriend—this time, of a local mobster controlling the town (Anthony Franciosa of Tenebre, Curse of the Black Widow)—who uses her womanly wiles to convince Davison’s down-and-out divorced father and prison parolee into robbing Franciosa so they can live the high life in Mexico. The chase is on.
Oh, let’s not forget our obligatory “Sheriff Buford T. Justice” portrayed by standby hicksploitation actor Pat Corey (The Super Cops, Law and Disorder; pick a ‘70s TV series) in hot pursuit to “git ‘dem Duke Boys.” The “Snowman” to Davison’s “Bandit” is the always reliable Bruno Kirby (City Slickers, This Is Spinal Tap).
Susan George and director Jack Starrett (he starred as Deputy Galt in First Blood and as Gabby Johnson, the town drunk in Blazing Saddles) previously worked together in the hicksploitation actioner, A Small Town in Texas (1976), which is a less comedic version of Kiss My Grits featuring Bo Hopkins (White Lightning) as the corrupt sheriff. As a director, Starrett scored a massive Drive-In hit with his Peter Fonda-starring Deliverance rip, Race with the Devil (1975); Susan George starred with Fonda in the redneck Bonnie and Clyde-inspired romp, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974).
You’ll notice an actor in the credits by the name of Blackie Dammitt (of the Christmas Tree lot bust in Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon) portraying the character of Bat Paterson; born John Keidis, he’s the father of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Starrett’s daughter, Jennifer, who had a small part in the film as a waitress, was one of the leads in Norman Thaddeus Vane’s Frightmare (1983) before retiring from the business.
As with the redneck rally that is Ruckus, there’s something for everybody in Kiss My Grits: It was cross-marketed as a comedy under the ‘Grits title, a steamy, adult thriller (Summer Heat, to align it with the hit William Hurt romance crime-drama Body Heat), and as an action flick (Texas Burns at Night). In addition to its VHS distribution on the all-too-familiar Astral and Media Home Entertainment imprints, it ran on CBS late night television in the late ‘80s.