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THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE / GEORGIA PEACHES / SMOKEY BITES THE DUST
DVD. Shout Factory.

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase / Georgia Peaches / Smokey Bites the DustThis 2-disc set is part of Shout Factory's Roger Corman collection, consisting of double or triple bills (and occasionally four-film features) from New World's exploitation output of the 1970s and 1980s.

Disc one contains by far the most significant film in the set, Michael Pressman's The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976). Surprisingly, this is the only one of the three features here that Corman didn't actually produce. We first see Candy (Claudia Jennings) on the run having just broken out of prison, while Ellie-Jo (Jocelyn Jones) is sacked from her job as a bank teller due to her lack of punctuality and general bad attitude. Just before she's dismissed Candy holds up the bank using a stick of dynamite, a fascinated Ellie-Jo gives her a hand and the pair decide to team up as the 'Dynamite Women' (hence the film's alternate title), robbing banks across Texas using dynamite rather than guns and relying on a combination of sexiness, mischief and bravery to keep ahead of the law.

All the usual New World ingredients are in place: a straightforward, unpretentious approach to script and direction, beautiful women, nudity, humour, car chases, dumb cops, explosions. But despite this the film isn't quite as exciting as it should be. Jennings, Playboy's 1970 Playmate of the Year and an occasional centrefold thereafter, looks great in cut-off jeans (as she did the same year in Ferd and Beverly Sebastian's Gator Bait) and even better when naked, but her performance isn't as strong here as it was in Mark L. Lester's Truck Stop Women (1974) or David Cronenberg's Fast Company (1978), and the sight of her driving cars at high speed is a reminder of her untimely death in a road accident in 1979. Jones, as the happy-go-lucky Ellie-Jo, comes off much better and it's a wonder she didn't receive more roles as good as this.

The main problem with the film is the introduction of Slim (Johnny Crawford), who first becomes their hostage, then accomplice and finally Ellie-Jo's lover. The breeziness of the picture's first half, where the focus is squarely on the fun relationship between Candy and Ellie-Jo, is gradually replaced by an unwelcome change in tone, as the threat of a downbeat ending begins to loom heavily.

The Great Texas Dynamite ChaseThe films on disc two are minor by comparison although they share much of the same characteristics as The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, minus the sex and violence. Georgia Peaches (1980) was the pilot for an intended TV series (the version here is the overseas release titled Follow That Car), and with a couple of gender changes it could easily have worked as an extended episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. There's the same down-home setting, crooked cops and local bigwigs, and the same good-natured, knockabout comedy. The story involves garage owner Sue Lynn (Terri Nunn, the lead singer with Berlin), her country-singing sister Lorette (Tanya Tucker, who inevitably gets to belt out a few half-decent tunes as compensation for her limited acting abilities) and moonrunning boyfriend Dusty (a pre-A-Team Dirk Benedict) being enlisted by the US Treasury to infiltrate a bootlegging operation run by Vivian Stark (Sally Kirkland in a rather thankless role).

Competently handled by Daniel Haller – Corman's former art director who turned out a couple of decent Lovecraft-derived horrors in the 1960s, Monster of Terror (1965) and The Dunwich Horror (1969), before settling for a career in television in the 1970s and 80s – the film is most interesting for the script contribution of William Hjortsberg, the author of Falling Angel (1978), adapted by Alan Parker as Angel Heart (1987).

Even flimsier is Smokey Bites the Dust (1981), which at least boasts some tantalising credits: direction by longtime Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith, co-production by Gale Anne Hurd, photography by Gary Graver and typically applause-worthy cameos by Dick Miller and Mel Welles. The title suggests a combination of Hal Needham's Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Griffith's earlier Eat My Dust (1976): a small-town tearaway, Roscoe (Jimmy McNichol) kidnaps the daughter Peggy Sue (Janet Julian) of the local sheriff (Walter Barnes) and they head off on a cross-state chase pursued by a variety of irate cops, friends, family and even a mad Arab. Like Eat My Dust, the thin story falls apart whenever it attempts to focus on the characters, but flagging interest is revived every few minutes by a series of excitingly staged car chases and crashes (some of which are so spectacular that they are repeated over the closing credits). This is the sort of film where cars routinely flip over onto their roofs and the occupants walk away without a scratch, an illogical concept taken to its worst extremes on TV shows like The A-Team.

Devotees of New World trailers should note that the trailers for The Great Texas Dynamite Chase and Smokey Bites the Dust do not feature an exploding helicopter.

LLOYD HAYNES

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