Howard Avedis Week: Texas Detour (1978)

From the Editor’s Desk, 2023: Dark Force Entertainment, via their catalog, offers copies of the Code Red reissue for Texas Detour. As we know, Code Red shut down, but this helpful Wikipedia page offers a listing of their past reissues, many which are available as used copies on various seller sites.

We try to be thorough as we build out little slice of movie heaven in the wilds of Allegheny County. And just when we think we have a genre licked — in this case hicksplotation — another film rears its ugly sprockets. And since we’re in the midst of a three-day tribute to all things Howard Avedis, we’re rollin’ his redneck entry.

Yes. The man who bought us the better known Mortuary and the even better known Scorchy — and even gave Adam “Batman” West a lead role with The Specialist — went ‘en git himself sum Smokey and the Bandit whisky backwash, Big Hoss! Yep, we needs to be addin’ this to our ever-growin’ “Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List” of homegrown redneck flicks.

And if that’s not enough: Avedis brings along Patrick “Son of the Duke, John” Wayne (the SOV’er Revenge), Cameron Mitchell, and Priscilla “Three Company” Barnes, later of Rob Zombie retro-horrors fame (The Devil’s Rejects). Is that character actor de jour R.G Armstrong (Evilspeak)? Yep! And be on the lookout for the requite cast creepy, Anthony James (Ravagers; he also stars in Uncle Howie’s 1974 sorta soft-porner, The Teacher — which we are reviewing this week, so look for it).

Good job, art department. Make the typeset really, really small and draw up a hero that looks like Clint Eastwood, so we think we’re getting The Gauntlet (1977).

A trip across the United States takes a wrong turn when three California teenagers (led by matured ’60s kid actor Mitch Vogel, best known for TV’s Bonanza, in his final film role) have their van stolen — from the backlot of Paramount Studios’ Paramount Ranch. Stranded in a backwoods town — with the R.G.’s Sheriff Burt redneck-corruptin’ the joint and criminalizing roadside assistance — our teens serve sum redneck justice on the rednecks.

Ridin’ with Vogel’s Dale McCarthy is Wayne’s big brother Clay and their blonde sister Sugar (Lindsay Bloom of Terror at London Bridge). Clay’s a race car-stunt driver while Dale aspires for country-singer stardom. And to that end: they’re driving across Texas to get Dale to Nashville for an audition.

Cue the escaped convict trio who steal the van.

Then things — as they usually do in Texas — get worse.

Stuck in Podunk, Texarkana, Clay and the clan take a job as sharecroppers for pocket money. Then Clay hooks up with the farmer’s daughter (Barnes’s dad is ol’ Cam), because, well, if Clay didn’t keep it in his pants, this review would end right here. Of course, forget the van and being stranded, Dale, for you need sum lovin’, too. So, to that end, Sheriff Buford T.’s daughter Karen will fit the bill. And Sugar, hell, why not: she hookin’ up with the local greasy monkey at the gas station.

Cue Anthony James. He’s the Sheriff’s creepy son who wants sum of that sweet blonde Sugar. Redneck rape, ensues. Lazy Sheriff corruption, ensues. And all hell breaks loose, ensues . . . all to the tune of a film score by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Who? Oh, right, before most of your times . . . they were in the Turtles (remember the annoying song “Happy Together” that appears on all of those film soundtracks to inspire “nostalgia” in the viewer), then became hippie-rockers Flo and Eddie and were in Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers of Invention.

Wow. Say what you will about the ’70s redneck craze and all of the inspired-Smokey knockoffs, but this one raises all the hicksplotation tent poles to pitch the tents to park yer TransAm and pop an ol’ can of Coors. It’s a trashy, sleazy fun ride, Big Hoss! Seriously, this ain’t bad. And . . . next up for Uncle Howie: Bo Hopkins in the damsel-in-distress-in-the-insane-asylum romp, The Fifth Floor (1978) and Karen Black in the this-isn’t-Fatal Attaction Separate Ways (1981).

What the hell? We had a trailer and copy of the movie bookmarked when scheduling our Howie tribute — and now it’s all gone from You Tube. Yeah, we found two copies of Texas Detour — on two iffy and never-heard-of-before sites — and the Magic 8 Ball says “Just Say No” to the click. But the DVDs and Blus abound and you can get your own at Diabolik Video. Nope. No copies on Amazon Prime or Vudu. Tubi, we need a free-with-ads steam.

While this Avedis romp is more Smokey and the Bandit-inspired hicksploitation than ’70s vansploitation in our opinion, because a van shows up in the opening act (it’s stolen and sets up the film), then reappears in the third act (for our redneck hippies’ great escape), this shows up on the latter lists, as well. We dive deeper into that cruisin’ genre with the definitive van flick: Van Nuys Blvd.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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