About the Author: R.D Francis loves exploitation films of the Drive-In and Video eras and is the writer of The Ghosts of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis. Both non-fiction works explore the myth and mystery behind the 1974 album, Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1—an album many believed to be a solo album by Jim Morrison of the Doors. You can read his music and film criticisms on Medium and learn more about the Phantom on Facebook.
As the reviews begin to roll out for B&S Movies’ “Redneck Week” July spotlight, you’ll notice there’s a lot of fun being made at the expense of a rich, colorful culture that exists south of the Mason-Dixie line—not just by the filmmakers, but by the reviewers as well, especially me: the smarmy, he-thinks-he’s-so-funny, R.D Francis. On the surface, it seems this is a celebration of the racial profiling of Southerners.
The concept of hicksploitation (aka rednecksploitation and backwoodsploitation) is insane: Everyone south of the Mason-Dixie are uneducated, inbred moonshine running religious zealots (see the Deliverance-inspired subgenre)—and sometimes cannibals (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre subgenre)—who defy authority and society and strand Yankee motorists for car parts—and other “parts”—with a glee in their eye? All of the Sheriffs are incompetent and corrupt with dumb sons and dumber deputies (see Smokey and the Bandit)? It’s ludicrous.
Imagine a film that, for 90 minutes, rolled out one slanderous, stereotype after another on any other racial heritage or culture. It would be offensive. You’d defy the hate. You wouldn’t celebrate the ignorance displayed in those films and there’s not one excuse about your affection for the “video fringe” that would justify the merriment.
The reality for the many of those Southern denizens of the backwoods and deep mountains south of the Mason-Dixie spoofed in the Drive-In exploitation cannons of the ‘70s and ‘80s is a life of poverty and hunger that rivals the worst of third-world countries. It’s worse than any reality you and I live in—flesh or celluloid. As my educated, film-reviewing adult self looks back on my clueless, Drive-In attending and video-renting younger self, I type this humbled and ashamed. I wouldn’t make a joke at the expense of those suffering the realities of third-world poverty or inner-city urban hardships. . .
Then why is it acceptable for Southerners to be cast as the butt of jokes, pigeonholing, and stereotyping in films?
The truth is that we don’t buy into the “reality” of the hicksploitation genre—be it comedy, action, or horror—no more than we buy into the “reality” of the ‘80s endless drove of Die Hard knockoffs. When Dwayne Johnson jumps architectural chasms 1500 hundred feet in the air—on a prosthetic leg, no less—and grips a Skyscraper girder by the fingertips, we cheer.
Because we live in a non-TV reality “reality” and that reality not only bites, it sucks the very fibers of our being. We don’t want reality in our films. If I want an introspective, politically correct, Tinsel Town drama with award-winning cinematography and Oscar hopes that reminds me of the pain and anguish in this world, I’ll go sit in a dark, air-conditioned cavern for two hours. If you want to spelunk for your celluloid fix and nosh on over-priced popcorn, go for it.
I’m exploring the forgotten video fringes and exploitation crevices introduced to me during my UHF-TV and Drive-In upbringing. In the video-store ‘80s of my youth, if I was blowing one of my 5 Videos-5 Days-5 Bucks selections on a film, that film best shatter my realities into dust with an over-the-top hyper reality. I wanted to be shocked. I wanted to flinch. I wanted my brain to be pushed to the point where the only logical response to the analog upload was to laugh out loud or groan out loud at the blatant absurdity of it all.
At their core, film reviews—especially of the long forgotten titles and genres of the past that this writer champions—are historical documents. When you log onto B&S Movies or crack the pages of a hardcover film encyclopedia or any other blog, message board, or vanity site, you’re opening a history book about the craft—good, bad, or indifferent—of filmmaking.
So, with that, this article is a celebration of our ill-informed, 1.0 teenaged version and the films of that past. This historical documentation is meant to chronicle the sheer audacity of exploitation filmmakers and the outrageousness of their Deep South storytelling. . . .
“Shoot, boy. Git to the film list already before I skin yer hide and boil ya’s in possum fat,” Otis points his double-barrel. “Cum on, now. Git to it! Or you wanna taste sum buckshot?”
Here’s the Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys List. The films are organized by year, then alphabetically. Happy viewing!
- Deliverance 1972—Burt Reynolds thriller; influential
- The Hitchhikers 1972—from the makers of ‘Gator Bait
- ‘Gator Bait 1973—Claudia Jennings does White Lightning
- Steel Arena 1973—director Mark L. Lester of Truck Stop Women
- White Lightning 1973—Burt Reynolds is Gator McKlusky; influential
- Big Bad Mama—Bonnie and Clyde-style tomfoolery
- Bootleggers—Big Bad Mama-style tomfoolery
- Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry—Peter Fonda does Gator
- The Great Lester Boggs—Alex Karras is the Sheriff
- Hot Summer in Barefoot County—moonshine runnin’ babes
- The Sugarland Express—Goldie Hawn is the bad girl
- Truck Stop Women—Claudia Jennings
- Moonrunners—adapted for TV as The Dukes of Hazzard
- Race with the Devil—Peter Fonda’s Deliverance
- Six Pack Annie—Joe Higgins is the Sheriff
- Trucker’s Woman—Larry Drake is Diesel Joe
- White Line Fever—Jan Michael Vincent is the Bandit
- W.W and the Dixie Dancekings—Burt Reynolds; early Bandit
- Bobbie Joe and the Outlaw—Marjoe Gortner is the Bandit
- Cannonball —David Carradine action
- C.B Hustlers—naughty CB babes
- Dixie Dynamite—Warren Oates/Christopher George is the Sheriff
- Eat My Dust—Ron Howard is the Bandit
- Fighting Mad—Peter Fonda in Gator action
- Gator—Burt Reynolds; influential White Lightning sequel
- The Great Texas Dynamite Chase—more Claudia Jennings
- Jackson County Jail—Tommy Lee Jones action
- Moving Violation—Stephen McHattie in Bandit/Gator action
- Nashville Girl—Monica Gayle of Switchblade Sisters
- A Small Town in Texas—Bo Hopkins is the Sheriff
- Bad Georgia Road— Gary Lockwood/Royal Dano is the Sheriff
- Black Oak Conspiracy—Jessie Vint does Gator
- Breaker! Breaker!—Chuck Norris trucker action
- Citizen’s Band—Paul Lemat and CB Radios
- Grand Theft Auto—Ron Howard is the Bandit
- The Great Smokie Roadblock—Henry Fonda is the Bandit?
- Joyride to Nowhere —George “Buck” Flowers!
- Moonshine County Express—Claudia Jennings/John Saxon
- Rolling Thunder—William Devane trucker action
- Sidewinder 1—Marjoe Gortner is a motocross Bandit
- Smokey and the Bandit—Burt Reynolds; influential w/sequels
- Thunder and Lightning—David Carradine action
- Convoy 1978—Ernest Borgnine is the Sheriff
- Every Which Way but Loose 1978—Clint Eastwood; has sequel
- High Ballin’ 1978—Peter Fonda and Jerry Reed action
- Hooper 1978—The Bandit is a stuntman; influential
- Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws 1978—The Bandit sings
- Flat Bed Annie and Sweetie Pie 1979—Annie Potts is a trucker babe
- Good Ol’ Boys 1979—Jerry Reed and Lane Caudell goes Dukes
- Smokey and the Hotwire Gang 1979—Alvy Moore is the Sheriff
- Bronco Billy—Eastwood is a modern day, old west cowboy
- Carnal Highways—Naughty trucker chicks
- Coast to Coast—Robert Blake/Dyan Cannon Bandit-style
- The Georgia Peaches—Dirk Benedict is the Bandit
- Hard Country—Jan Michael Vincent is the Urban Cowboy
- Ruckus—Dirk Benedict/The Bandit draws First Blood
- Smokey and the Judge—Rory Calhoun is the Sheriff
- Urban Cowboy—John Travolta’s southern Saturday Night Fever
- The Cannonball Run 1981—Redneck road racing (Sam’s note: Also already made as The Gumball Rally in 1976)
- The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia 1981—Dennis Quaid
- Smokey Bites the Dust 1981—Janet Julian is Sally “Frog” Field
- Take This Job and Shove It 1981—based on the Johnny Paycheck tune
- Texas Lightning 1981—Cameron Mitchell is a trucker
- Baker County, U.S.A. 1982—Henry Silva is the Sheriff
- Kiss My Grits 1982—Bruce “Willard” Davison is the Bandit
- Truckin’ Buddy McCoy 1982—early Terrance Knox lead role
- Off the Wall 1983—Paul Sorvino is the Sheriff
- Stroker Ace 1983—Burt Reynolds races stock cars
- What Comes Around 1985—Jerry Reed is a musician
- Hunter’s Blood 1986—Clu Culager/Deliverance redux