American International Pictures — AIP — was formed in 1954 by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson with the goal of releasing double features that appealed to young males, 19-years-old to be exact, as they found that was the optimum audience for their films. That was based on the Peter Pan syndrome, which their PR department believed went like this:
A. A younger child will watch anything an older child will watch;
B. An older child will not watch anything a younger child will watch;
C. A girl will watch anything a boy will watch
D. But the boy will not watch anything a girl will watch;
Therefore: to catch your greatest audience you zero in on the 19-year-old male.
Arkoff even believed that the perfect drive-in movie followed the ARKOFF Formula:
- Action (exciting, entertaining drama)
- Revolution (novel or controversial themes and ideas)
- Killing (a modicum of violence)
- Oratory (notable dialogue and speeches)
- Fantasy (acted-out fantasies common to the audience)
- Fornication (sex appeal for young adults)
For decades, AIP would find the exact double features that its audience was looking for. They had a stable of winning directors in their employee, like Roger Corman, Alex Gordon, Lou Rusoff, Herman Cohen, Bert I. Gordon and imported films from the UK, the Phillipines, Italy, Germany and more.
AIP would move on from science fiction to Poe adaptions to beach party movies to biker films to horror and anything else that would sell. They employed everyone from Jack Nicholson to Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Fabian and so many more.
In 1972, James H. Nicholson resigned from AIP to work on the 20th Century Fox lot, setting up Academy Pictures Corporation. They only had two released before he died of a brain tumor, sadly, which were The Legend of Hell House and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.
As the 1970s went on, AIP would move into even more genres, like kung fu, gangster and blaxploitation films. They also started moving into the mainstream with movies like Cooley High, The Amityville Horror, Love at First Bite, Meteor, Force 10 from Navarone, The Island of Dr. Moreau and C.H.O.M.P.S., as well as the final film they imported, Mad Max. However, AIP started to price themselves out of business with higher budgets and finally combined with Filmways in 1980. Arkoff bought himself out and started a new production company soon afterward. Meanwhile, Filmways/AIP became Orion Pictures.
The films of AIP read like a laundry list of the greatest films in exploitation history. I could create an entire website just to chronicle their greatest. This is but one of them.
The best part of this movie is the poster, created by the venerable AIP PR team, screaming headlines at you like “Lookout… She’s Legal Now! She’s Out to Tear the Town Apart!”, “She’s got the boys glad and the sheriff mad!” and “She’s the pop top princess with the recyclable can.”
Somewhere in the south lies Titwillow, where our heroine Sixpack Annie Bodine (Lindsay Bloom, who was somehow both Miss Omaha and Miss Utah in her beauty pageant career before appearing in movies like this and eventually becoming switchboard operator Maybelle on The Dukes of Hazzard) is taking her friend Mary Lou to work at the diner.
You don’t get a name like Sixpack Annie drinking soda pop out of the bottle. She chugs a can of brew as she drives her pickup truck, earning the ire of Sheriff Waters (Joe Higgins, who resume keeps on saying Sheriff in everything from Green Acres to Sigmund and the Sea Monster, the TV show Annie and The Man from Clover Grove). He chases her into the diner and literally slips on a banana peels while all the old timers laugh their asses off. Among their number is Doodles Weaver, who was the uncle to Sigourney as well as being a comedian and character actor. His scene in 1971’s The Zodiac Killer is one I always point to as his strangest. He’s also in plenty of redneck movie fare like Bigfoot, Macon County Line, Trucker’s Woman, Road to Nashville and Li’l Abner. He’s also in The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock, the only movie Lou Costello made without his usual partner Bud Abbott, and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, Michael Winner’s cameo laden film about, well, a dog saving Hollywood.
But I digress. Aunt Tess, the owner of the diner, is $5,641.87 behind on the mortgage to Mr. Piker the banker. This is important to the plot, as when the sheriff arrests Annie and her man Bobby Joe (a pre-Tron and Scarecrow and Mrs. KIng Bruce Boxleitner) for swimming naked — which does not seem like such a punishable crime — he offers to pay the Aunt Tess’ debt if she marries him. She agrees, but it turns out he doesn’t have anywhere near that much dough.
Annie and Mary Lou decide to go to Miami next, where Annie’s sister Flora (Louisa Moritz, Myra from Death Race 2000 and one of the first women to come out against Bill Cosby) lives in splendor thanks to her escort business. She suggests that if the girls want to save the diner, they should get a sugar daddy of their own. That said, all of the potential GFE benefactors are losers, like a sneezing married man (Sid Melton, who would go on to play Alf Monroe on Green Acres and Sophia’s dead husband on The Golden Girls), a man dressed as Napoleon, a swindler named Oscar Meyer who steals all their money (Ray Danton, who was married to the lovely Julie Adams and would go on to direct plenty of episodes of Magnum P.I.) and a Texan (Richard Kennedy, Dr. Kaiser from Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks as well as appearances in The Witch Who Came From the Sea and Invasion of the Blood Farmers) with a jealous wife who nearly kills Annie.
The girls make it back to the diner with no money to help, just in time for a jewelry salesman named Mr. Bates (Stubby Kaye, Marvin Acme from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) who buys her necklace for $7,000. Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Six Pack Annie had the power to go home all along.
Six Pack Annie was the only movie that Fred G. Thorne ever directed, but one of the three screenwriters, David Kidd, would go on to write The Swinging Cheerleaders and Carter’s Army.
You can watch this movie on Amazon Prime.
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