With the words ‘Action Packed’ adorning the upper portion of the latest release from Shout! Factory and their long running series of genre films from the iconic B-movie God himself, Roger Corman, the latest Corman Cult Classics set is quite an interesting one.
A relatively bare bones triple feature, the ‘Action Packed Collection’ edition of this series features three of Corman’s New World Films more action heavy products. Georgia Peaches, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase and Smokey Bites The Dust all get their day in the sun here. And while this release itself may not be the strongest features wise, these are three of the more interesting releases to see the light of day thanks to Shout! Factory.
Batting lead-off for this release is the middle release seen on the front cover, the 1977 release, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase. Directed by Michael Pressman, the film stars Claudia Jennings (seen in the fellow Corman release, DeathSport) as Candy, one half of a sultry bank robbing duo (partnered with Ellie Jo played by Jocelyn Jones), whose main deal is to rob banks by using dynamite. The pair team up with a man name Slim, and ultimately go on the run across Texas.
As far as the feature goes, it works for what it is. Basically a pre-Thelma And Louise Thelma And Louise, the film is very much rooted in your typical female crime picture (not the most common film, but it’s starkly cliché here). The performances as a whole are entertaining, particularly the two leads, who ultimately have a solid chemistry. Toss in your Corman staple of straight forward dialogue and copious amounts of nudity (Jennings was, after all, the 1970 Playboy Playmate Of The Year), and you have the best description as to what to expect from this film. There is a lot of solid acting in this picture, making this a really interesting member of the New Worlds film canon, particularly with the combination of really engaging performances and some relatively thrilling action and action choreography.
Now, while the film itself may be entertaining, it’s the transfer and overall quality of the feature that does it in. The audio is absolutely dreadful here, wholly over-modulated, making each statement made by a member of this cast a weirdly shrill pitch. Akin to people conversing through car horn blurts (particularly during the first car chase), the sound here is horribly distracting. The video quality is fine for a DVD release, but paired with the dollar bin release style audio transfer and lack of any special features, and you have a release that is more distracting than entertaining.
Next on the list is one half of the release’s second disc, The Georgia Peaches.
Also known as Follow That Car, the film is best known as Corman’s attempt at TV work, as this ultimately became a TV movie, after originally being pitched as a pilot. The film follows the story of Dusty and his main squeeze Sue Lynn Peach, who run moonshine in Georgia. After being framed by the evil Vivian Stark, the duo and Lynn’s sister attempt to bring down a cigarette smuggling ring that’s headed up by Stark herself.
This may ultimately prove to be the releases most interesting film. Dulled down due to the fact that it was originally a TV movie, Peaches is a sterile take on something like The Dukes Of Hazard, but also one that’s really relatively engaging. There are quite a few fun performances here, particularly that of both Sally Kirkland and Dirk Benedict, the film has a really fantastic cast, and also a visual style that, while oozing a TV sensibility, does ultimately give the film a really distinct look within Corman’s canon. Also, this has probably the release’s best transfer. With a fantastic audio mix, the film’s visuals are also quite wonderful, given the rest of the films within this release. However, it’s too bad that this is ultimately the one member of this disc that doesn’t have a single special feature. Really a damn shame.
Finally, the other half of that disc, the car chase flick, Smokey Bites The Dust. Starring Jimmy McNichol, brother of Kristy McNichol, the film follows a high-school student who kidnaps the homecoming queen. Basically a 90-minute chase film, Smokey stars a really interesting cast, but due to the film’s PG rating, is one of the more sterile members of the New Worlds family.
As a film, this one just doesn’t work. Campy as all hell, the film is ultimately more silly than it is interestingly off the wall, like most Corman films, and come the film’s conclusion, simply doesn’t work. Truthfully nothing more than an excuse to get cars into chases, not only is this film absurdly poorly paced and ultimately lacking in anything resembling a worthwhile narrative, the film is offensive in some instances, and simply innocuous in others. Janet Julian is fun here, giving a great breath of life to an otherwise overly dull and drab film, a film produced by none other than mega-producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator). Jimmy McNichol is laughably bad here, as is director Charles B. Griffith, who proves that while chases may be fun, when paired with an uninteresting narrative, they are nothing more than poor plot devices.
However, the transfer here may be the biggest issue. Yet another poor audio transfer, the film’s sound is weirdly mixed, giving the viewer moments of quiet, followed with a blast of overly mixed car crashes, making it about as polarizing a soundtrack as the film’s visuals are. Grainy as all hell, this is not a film that’s aged gracefully, and you can tell.
Overall, the best one can say about this release is that these are without a doubt the best transfers of these films we’ve received and as part of a much bigger collection from Shout, these serve a really interesting purpose. Giving us a glimpse into a portion of Corman’s producing career that doesn’t often get talked about (people tend to focus on his sci-fi films or prison films), these are three really interesting, if quite flawed releases. The lack of supplemental material is definitely a real issue here, as one of the things that has made this collection so great, has been the superb extras. With only two trailers, there is very little here to give to people who aren’t otherwise fans of the genre or the man whose name adorns the masthead of this release.