EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on July 30, 2019.
As you may have learned by now, I absolutely love movies that are based on true stories that aren’t really true. This is yet another, directed by Michael Miller, who also brought us National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, a slasher spoof written by John Hughes, the martial arts/slasher Chuck Norris-starring Silent Rage and the TV movies A Crime of Innocence, Danielle Steele’s Daddy and Roses Are for the Rich, a movie that would fit right into our redneck week, as Lisa Hartman plays an Appalachian widow who vows to destroy Bruce Dern, the man who got her husband killed.
Dinah Hunter (Yvette Mimieux, The Time Machine, Snowbeast) is an ad exec in LA who has just about had it. She quits her job after arguing with a client and leaves for NYC after catching her man having some aggressive cuddling in the swimming pool with another woman.
As she drives across our great nation, Dinah picks up Bobby Ray (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds) and his pregnant girlfriend Lola (Nancy Lee Noble, Honey Pot from She-Devils on Wheels). They end up robbing her for everything she’s got, so she walks to a bar and asks to use the phone. This being a 1970’s drive-in movie, the bartender (character actor Britt Leach, who was in the Jerry Lewis comeback movie Hardly Working that I endured as a child, as well as The Last Starfighter and Silent Night, Deadly Night) ends up assaulting her and then calls the cops when she defends herself. This isn’t the big city — the police believe the local, not her.
Dinah ends up in Jackson County jail — go figure, with a title like that — right next to Blake (Tommy Lee Jones), who awaiting extradition to Texas on a murder charge. Seeing as how Dinah has no ID, she has to wait until someone gets back to her from New York or Los Angeles. Deputy Hobie can’t even deal with her being in a cell for one night before he too attacks her, but she ends up killing him with a wooden stool and Blake helps her escape by stealing the keys. Sheriff Dempsey (Severn Darden, an original member of Second City and Kulp in the Planet of the Apes films) chases after them before running into a drunk driver in an accident that kills both of them.
Blake and Dinah go on the road, chased by the cops after being charged for Hobie’s death. She wants to turn herself in as she still believes in the law, even after everything. He lets her know that every small town cop is corrupt and that no one will believe that she acted in self-defense.
The police finally catch them during a parade in Fallsburg, gunning down Blake in the street, with him bleeding out all over the American flag. We’re left watching our heroine in the back of a cop car, going back to jail for what presumably is more hell on earth. And that’s it — were you expecting a happy ending from a 1970’s Roger Corman deep fried crime movie?
Jackson County Jail was written by Donald E. Stewart, who would go on to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie Missing. He also wrote the films Deathsport, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and the TV movie Death of a Centerfold – The Dorothy Stratten Story.
Roger Corman would remake this movie in 1997 as Macon County Jail with Ally Sheedy and David Carradine as the leads and Charles Napier as the sheriff.
You can watch this for free on Tubi.
Corman, Miller, Mimieux, and other cast members did pretty much a tamer, scene-for-scene remake of Jackson County Jail as a TV movie for CBS in 1978 called Outside Chance. Why–who knows?–but the thing smelled like a busted pilot for a TV series to me at the time. It’s now lost to the sands of time.