Mill Creek Drive-In Movie Classics: Country Blue (1973)

Lost somewhere Burt Reynolds’s White Lighting (1973) and Peter Fonda’s Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974) is this hicksploitation passion-cum-vanity project that served, not only as Jack Conrad’s lone acting effort, but his lone feature film writing and directing effort. Perhaps if his negotiations with a then up-and-coming and hot Jeff Bridges and Robert Blake — both who made inroads with their early, southern-fried films The Last American Hero and Corky, respectively (both 1973) — hadn’t broken down to the point that Jack had no choice but starring himself, maybe we’d remember this ersatz-Bonnie and Clyde (see Fabian in A Bullet for Pretty Boy) beyond its inclusion on Mill Creek’s Drive-In Movie Classics 50-film pack.

Hey, Jack, being on a Mill Creek boxer ain’t a bad place to be.

Jack Conrad is a name you know as rolling in the credits of The Howling as a producer: he was originally slated to serve as the project’s writer and director. After his dust-ups with the studio cleared: John Sayles — a two-time, future-nominated Academy Award Winner — was given the job of adapting Gary Brander’s novel of the same name. Joe Dante sat in the director’s chair (and, if you are keeping track: Dante and Sayles previously worked together on Piranha).

So goes the life of a then twenty-something film school graduate fresh of the prestigious USC Film School, one who got his first job as a second unit director on an 1870s-era drama called West Texas (1970), in addition to editing a psychological horror film called Moonchild (1972) that starred Victor Buono and John Carradine.

While Jack isn’t exactly Bridges-Blake (or even Fonda) magnetic, he’s certainly serviceable in the role of the fresh-out-of-prison, ne’er-do-well-to-inept bankrobber-cum-garage mechanic Bobby Lee Dixon. What saves the picture is the presence of well-worn, southern fried character actor Dub Taylor (Bonnie and Clyde and Bridges’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) in his lone, leading-man role as Bobbie Lee’s boss, J.J “Jumpy” Belk. Adding to the need-to-stream is the presence of equally “southern” character actor David Huddleson with one of his rare, marquee roles.

Rednecks, Vampires, and Richard Burton? We ain’t hatin’!

On a low-budget and in Tallahassee, Florida (although we are in “Georgia”) — and certainly done better, by others — Jack Conrad shoots it all on location as he opens with great shots of a local stock car mudtrack where he serves on Jumpy’s pit crew — trying to go straight. But Bobby Lee’s tired of the poverty — and he’s in love with Jumpy’s daughter: his married daughter. So, to impress Ruthie by making a better life for himself in Mexico, he returns to robbing banks — and she goes the “bad boy” route to become his “Bonnie” for the inevitable, bloody shootout.

Considering Jack Conrad was two years out of school and on his first film (around the same time, George Lucas put together THX 1138; John Carpenter assembled Dark Star), Country Blue isn’t great, but it’s not a disaster, either. Sure, there’s sound issues (not the print itself from which Mill Creek copied, but in the film itself) and a few awkward shots, some which looks like too-long, lingering filler to pump the running time. For the most part, Conrad captures everything with a decent, competent against-the-budget skill set (as you can see below: the film’s car chase set piece is well done).

Country Blue is a decent B-Movie from the mosquito-strewn, bygone drive-in days of yore. Watch it on You Tube HERE and HERE or own it as part of Mill Creek’s Drive-In Movie Classics 50-film pack that we’re reviewing all this month.

Be sure to check out our rundown of hicksploitation and redneck cinema delights from the ’70s and ’80s with our “Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List.”

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

4 thoughts on “Mill Creek Drive-In Movie Classics: Country Blue (1973)

  1. Nice. Yeah, we did a “deep week” of his films several months back, as well. So far as even reviewing his son’s flick, High Resolution. We even did Mark’s Syfy Channel entry, Sand Sharks, and his Eric Roberts mob flick, Public Enemies. A crazy resume, indeed! A legend (period).

    Since we did the leg work: If you need Intel on his films, feel free to use our reviews for research. We did over 30 of them and I can send you a list. (And thanks again for contributing to Day of the Panther! We linked up the “Danger Kids” podisode on it.)

    Like

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