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Backwoods Bumpkins and Country Crackers: 20 Southern Fried Hick Flicks

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

Backwoods Bumpkins and Country Crackers: 20 Southern Fried Hick Flicks
One of the most loved subgenres of Classic Exploitation Cinema is the "hick film" or what is more commonly referred to as "Hixploitation/Hicksploitation". These movies were created to exploit the cultural stereotypes of Rural American southerners who were/are often regarded as "hillbillies", "crackers" and "yokels". The subject matter in these films usually dealt with outlaw moonshiners, deranged weirdos and racist rednecks (and sometimes combinations of all of those). What makes Hixploitation cinema so entertaining is how it gives viewers a look at the lifestyles of country folk be it good, bad or ugly. It also makes total sense that white people have many of their own oddball, neanderthalic traits depicted on film for audiences to witness and enjoy. After all, Exploitation Cinema should always be an equal opportunity offender or glorifier. The Hick Flick remains a special staple of popular and cult movie history and they deserve to be cited as such. In their hicked out honor, GCDb has chosen 20 of our favorite classic titles featuring law breaking liquor makers, inbred wackos, bigoted buffoons and religious rabble.

Preacherman (1971)

Preacher Amos Huxley (Albert T. Viola) does the Lord's work and he does it well. It turns out that in between preaching sermons at the local church, Preacher Amos is a conniving grifter. He has been using his persona as a servant of God as a front to rob people and mess with the pretty local girls. On his travels, Amos meets an old farmer who has a beautiful daughter named Mary Lou (Ilene Kristen). Since Preacher Amos loves the gals, its not long before he puts a scam on both the farmer and his daughter by convincing them that an angel named Leroy is coming to visit them. This is an old flim flam Amos uses to have sex with Mary Lou. When he hears that the cops are out looking for him, he decides to stay awhile longer. One day, the farmer shows his secret moonshine still to Amos. He explains that since his beloved wife died, they needed to make extra money to keep their home. Amos is surprised to see this, hes also thrilled. Amos tells the farmer that the devil loves money and that this moonshine is the devil's vessel that creeps into good souls and corrupts em! Therefore his only way to make the Lord happy in this situation is to sell the evil shine and make money to put into a "new church". With Amos helping the farmer and Mary Lou sell the white lightning, they start really raking in the cash. (GCDb)

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Child Bride (1938)

Deep within the rural surroundings of "Copperhead Mountain", the town's schoolteacher (Diana Durrell) is on a mission to banish child marriage within the mountain-rugged community. Of course, this doesn't bode well for many of the well-over-30-years-of-age-male residents and their lust for 12-year old girls. Not accepting any changes, the mob, led by twisted Jake (Warner Richmond) attempts to give the schoolteacher a whipping, but is saved by Ira Colton (George Humphreys). This isn't the first time Ira has laid the smackdown on Jake, so you know it's just a matter of time before the tables get turned. And they finally do get turned once Jake fakes a rumor of Ira's wife cheating on him. Without skipping a beat, a drunken Ira attacks his wife (Dorothy Carrol) which results in his death. Sneaky Jake then bargains the now-widow Colton for the marriage of Jake and her under-age daughter, Jenny (Shirley Mills). Jake and Jenny do make it to the altar, but will they live happily ever after? To this day, CHILD BRIDE still remains outrageous as ever. Although the subject matter and much of the filmed results are on the dated and campy side, once you see the image of Jake and Jenny (who is VERY underage) hand in hand and recieving a kiss on the lips, you're immediately thrust into a discomfort zone. Shocksploitation seems to start here! (GCDb)

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Cockfighter (1974)

"Frank Mansfield is a man on a mission. He's taken a vow of silence, sold his home, gambled away his RV and given up on love and friendship. He refuses to let his focus stray and he eyes his goal with the obsession of a man possessed. He must become the Cockfighter of the Year and his prized bird, White Lightning, is gonna take him to the top." The cast is top-notch, the settings and action are extremely realistic, and the film's subtext takes a fascinating look at what it means to be a "winner" and how this desire for perfection can drive a man to the brink. As hotheaded protagonist, Frank Mansfield, Warren Oates is something of a revelation, with his gestures and body language emoting all the things his mouth does not. Although it's a bit of an odd entry into the exploitation cinema lexicon, Cockfighter just shows the wide variety of material that played at drive-ins and theaters in the 1970's and is an exemplary piece of authentic American cinema. P.S. For those looking for the Southern-fried crime drama depicted on the film's alternate "Born to Kill" poster, this film doesn't exist. It was merely a clever retitling with a bit of phony artwork intended to lure audiences into theaters after Cockfighter bombed on its initial run. (GCDb)

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Convoy (1978)

In 1978, as a means of averting fuel shortages and to kick start a national conservation movement in the U.S., the government imposed a national speed limit of 55 mph. In popular culture, truckers were revered as America's last great "freedom riders." Big rigs took a seat next to horses, motorcycles, and muscle cars as the bastion of American individuality. Convoy opens with a team of three desperado drivers--'Spider Mike' (Franklyn Ajaye), Bobby 'Love Machine' aka 'Pig Pen' (Burt Young), and Martin 'Rubber Duck' Penwald (Kris Kristofferson). The three drivers are lured into a speed trap by Sheriff Lyle 'Cottonmouth' Wallace (Ernest Borgnine). After a confrontation with Wallace goes bad, Rubber Duck heads south and is followed by several of his loyal truckers where they systematically use their rigs as weapons against the local authorities in Alvarez, Texas. As it is, Convoy is a great, big-wheeled version of Peckinpah's earlier Western classics. Despite the criticism levied against this movie, it serves as a prime example of the country/trucker rise in popular culture in the late 1970s and early 1980s. TRIVIA: Convoy was inspired by C.W. McCall's one hit wonder of the same name. (GCDb)

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Dixie Dynamite (1976)

This film that could be seen as a precursor to Ridley Scott's 1991 female outlaws on the run, crime classic Thelma and Louise, is about a land owner that forces the local authorities to close down all the stills producing moonshine. This is all done to make the locals lack enough money to make their mortgage payments. The scuzz buys up all the land, knowing Natural Gas is under it, and throws everyone out. The local police Deputy, Frank (Wes Bishop) is the epitome of the mean southern police officer. The late great Warren Oates plays Mack, a guy who is the best and only friend in the world to the main heroines of the film: Dixie (Jane Anne Johnstone) and Patsy (Kathy McHaley). Mack used to be a great dirt bike racer in his younger days. Now that their land is taken, Dixie and Patsy become wild chicks on motorcycles toting shotguns and dynamite! They are the fierce female vigilantes of the hills! There's outrageous action aplenty in this good ol' gal cult classic. TRIVIA: One of the motorcyclists in the race sequence is in fact an unbilled Steve McQueen. He took on this job of a motorcycle stuntman out of boredom after not being in a movie for several years. He was paid less than $200 for his work. (GCDb)

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The Dion Brothers (1974)

Calvin Dion (Stacy Keach) quits his job working on a D.C. assembly line, tired of watching his minimum-wage life leading nowhere while the district's biggest cheats cash in. He then calls his brother Rut (Frederick Forest) into town from West Virginia, teams up with some small-town heisters, and pulls off an armored truck robbery. Only for Tony, the heist's mastermind, to rob the Dion boys himself, leaving them with nothing but a fleet of cops to deal with. Calvin and Rut had the stolen cash earmarked for their own seafood restaurant (the Blue Grotto), and they'll be damned if any slick Yankee is going to take it away from them. Being "good ol' boys," they find this development downright invigorating: an opportunity to track some live game. They snatch up Tony's girlfriend (Margot Kidder) and hunt him down, kicking past doors, chasing through hallways, guns blazing irresponsibly, Starrett's camera giving restless chase throughout. It becomes clear that our charming criminal enterprisers are actually unrepentant sociopaths, chasing an eden they never deserved. The Dion Brothers is Badlands' drunken, disgraced ex-con stepbrother based on a script co-written by the legendary Terence Malick. (Esquire)

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Hot Summer in Barefoot County (1974)

This movie is a great example of Southern rural regional exploitation. Things kick off fast from the start. We meet Mary Ann Hogan, a hot little mama doing a drop off run for her family's white lightnin' business. The law is already hot on her tail. Sheriff Bull Tatum is the pudgy black bearded officer who has been chasing Mary Ann for months along with his deputy Clyde. Unfortunately (for them), the two keep getting shutdown due to Mary Anne's suped up red sportscar which she uses to fly back and forth from her farm to a restaraunt where she sells her wares to the owner who then sells the "stumphole" to customers under the table. Since Sherriff Tatum can't seem to catch Mary Ann, the higher ups in the state office decide to send an officer named Jeff Wilson down to Barefoot County to investigate. Jeff's idea is to go undercover so he'll be able to get information on the secret moonshining operation without calling attention to himself. This hixploitation gem is always popping with emotion, action and humor. All the actors are excellent. It plays like a mix of Thunder Road meets Smokey & The Bandit meets the Petticoat Junction TV show. (GCDb)

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Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)

Tom White (Lewis regular Willam Kerwin) picks up Terry Adams (Blood Feast star/Playmate Connie Mason) on his way to a teacher's conference down south. They take a rather suspicious looking detour (set up by two characters we're introduced to later) and wind up in beautiful Pleasant Valley. As they drive down Main Street, the townfolk surround their convertible and they find out that they are the "guests of honor" in Pleasant Valley's centennial celebration. While it seems rather odd to make them the focal point of the celebration, they go along with it so as not to offend the townsfolk. They're joined by two other vacationing couples - the Millers (Jerome Eden and Shelby Livingston) and the Wells (Michael Korb and Yvonne Gilbert)- and set up at the local hotel. Terry senses that all isn't quite right with the way the townsfolk are acting and that something is terribly wrong, but will she be able to convince the others before they succumb to the terrorific temptations and horrific hospitality of Pleasant Valley? And what about ol' Teetering Rock? Just what the hell is going on? While not as much a "shock value" flick as Blood Feast, it's a much better crafted film where the gore comes at better intervals and in a more suspenseful fashion. Lewis had figured out what worked and what didn't with his first foray into the gore film and really perfects his genre here. (GCDb)

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Country Blue (1973)

Ex-con Bobby Lee Dixon (Jack Conrad) returns to his old stomping grounds of Valdosta, Georgia where his sweetheart, Ruthie (Rita George) awaits. Ruthie's pa, 'Jumpy' (Dub Taylor) practically raised Bobby and has a job lined up for the ex-con at his car garage. But Bobby doesn't want the life of a "Grease Monkey" and has dreams of escaping from Georgia and traveling to Mexico with Ruthie. Problem is, he's gonna need some quick cash to make the trip. After having some previous experience of sticking up a grocery store, Bobby persuades Ruthie to join him in a bank robbery. Ruthie expectedly hesitates, but perhaps it's in her bloodline (Thanks to Jumpy) to follow the path of an outlaw. Afterall, Jumpy was once in Bobby's shoes since he taught him everything he knows. Plus he wants his daughter to be happy since she's no doubt in love with Bobby. Soon enough, the duo make their first successful score at a bank. But professionals these guys aren't. Since they didn't take a lot of caution in concealing their identities, plus having the nerve to rob a gas station on their way out, the law closes in on them. Just when it looks like it's over for the outlaw lovebirds, in comes Bobby's old friend, and local queenpin, Arneda (Mildred Brown) who stages a breakout for Bobby & Ruthie. The action begins and it's freedom all the way to Mexico. (GCDb)

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Shanty Tramp (1967)

Released in the Summer of 1967, Cinemation Industries (the company who brought you pictures with titles like I Drink Your Blood, The Sadist and The Night God Screamed) released Shanty Tramp, a fully foul black and white 72 minute film about a non-conformist (“trampy”) Southern gal who: beds a corrupt traveling evangelist, fends off a violent biker, encourages a semi-pornographic dance competition, hooks up with an impressionable—but unable to resist her charms—African American mama’s “boy,” sets into motion an explosive car crash, kills an unsuspecting family member, revels in a barroom brawl, seduces an innocent man and then cries rape, and has as an incestuous relationship with her severely alcoholic father (Yes, you read correctly!). In the lead as Lee Holland, Eleanor Vaill has the overripe and over-painted face and figure of a Las Vegas burlesque star. Her dead-voiced line readings—she’s not an “actress” but, instead, a “presence,” add a grit and realness to this already gritty and real Drive-In novelty. Bill Rogers as the unnamed but perpetually horny “Preacher,” a tent-show evangelist with exceptional oratory skills, brings to ugly life the sleazy yet flourishing underworld of traveling revival speakers out to make a buck off the backs of the impressionable, unsophisticated and hopeless. A slice-of-lurid-life painted with broad, garish and salacious strokes and embellished with sixties youth culture, Rock & Roll music, hicks, violence and illicit backwoods activities (Moonshine anyone?!). (GCDb)

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Honey Britches (1971)

Donn Davison serves up a heapin' spoonful of low-budget backwoods chicanery involving a motley crew of jewel thieves who run out of gas on a secluded country road and cause all sorts of trouble for the residents of a nearby shack once they commandeer the house for their temporary hide-out. The stranded group of law-breakers includes Philip, a balding middle-aged man with a bad English accent delivering corny lines like “It would appear that we have run out of petrol;” his unbelievably tall girlfriend Susan who swaggers around in white go-go boots and barely-there shorts with her ass literally hanging out the bottom, and young punk Kirk, who enjoys slapping around his dopey hippie girlfriend Karen. This bickering group of malcontents arrive on the doorstep of sweet n sexy Reba Sue, who gladly accepts the visitors into her home in the best of good ‘ol country hospitality. Reba Sue’s husband arrives at the house a short time later, a bug-eyed slob named Harlan who makes a living selling his home-made corn likker to the locals with the aid of his dim-witted friend Tobey. Harlan is a bible-thumping drunk who does little more than stare bug-eyed at the ample chest of Susan, while the gang decides to make themselves at home, and commandeer the operation of Harlan’s moonshine racket. This slice of regional exploitation film-making has had a remarkably long life, playing in theaters multiple times under different titles, from the original Shantytown Honeymoon to things like Hillbilly Hooker. (GCDb)

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tick...tick...tick... (1970)

In a small Mississippi town, deputy Jim Price (Jim Brown) is elected sheriff over John Little, the incumbent. Racial tensions exist in the community and Price gets little assistance from Little, leaving office, or from Mayor Parks, who insists he be consulted on any decision the new sheriff makes. A white man, John Braddock, is arrested on a manslaughter charge after his drunken driving causes the death of a young girl. Braddock's father carries considerable influence and demands his son be freed. Price's deputy, Bradford Wilkes, is beaten by Little's former deputy, Bengy Springer. Another arrest is made, this time of a black man, George Harley, accused of rape. The townspeople's mood turns uglier by the minute, particularly when Braddock's father threatens to spring his son by force if necessary. Little's conscience gets the better of him. He agrees to become Price's new deputy. Together they try in vain to persuade other men in town to side with them against Braddock's vigilantes and to convince the Mayor to call in the National Guard for help. Alone against the mob, Price and LIttle form a barricade and prepare for the worst when their fellow townsmen suddenly join them in the street. (Wikipedia)

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Bloody Mama (1970)

This Depression era, hixploitation-gangster film is based on the real lives of criminal Kate "Ma" Barker and her Gang. The movie stars the late Shelley Winters as the loudmouth, crass, crazy mama and Don Stroud, Clint Kimbrough, Robert De Niro, Robert Walden and Alex Nicol as her out of control, deranged sons. The film follows the family after they leave their neer do well father behind and decide to go off on the road to live a life of crime and cause general havoc. This film is filled with scenes of nudity and violence (which makes it a must see for exploitation fans). There's also scenes which insinuate homosexuality and incestuous relationships between Ma Barker and her sons. The film recalls other period gangster films of the time like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) as well. The final shootout is really excellent and emotional to watch. One thing this film does really nicely is move back and forth between over the top, knee slappin' humor and tragedy. Thats probably its best aspect. For fans of Robert DeNiro, you'll be able to see him before he was cast in breakout films like The Godfather 2 and Mean Streets. DeNiro plays the young Lloyd Barker who is a junkie. DeNiro gives a very goofy and comedic but also tragic character portrayal. Its not one of his best roles, but its an interesting one. (GCDb)

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Walking Tall (1973)

In Walking Tall we are introduced to the legendary Tennessee lawman Buford Pusser (Joe Don Baker). In the opening scenes, Pusser, a pro wrestling champ has returned to his small Tennessee hometown after several years of being away. Upon his arrival he begins slowly noticing that the people and places have changed. This is mostly due to a criminal organzation known as the Dixie Mob who control all the illegal activities in and around Tennessee. Buford decides to run for Sheriff and when he wins it kicks off a destructive one man war against the corrupt businessmen and criminals who are operating behind the scenes. Buford’s methods of taking the fight to the bad guys is highly volatile as he uses a giant plank of wood as a battering ram to break bones and bust down doors. Buford has a one track mind towards upholding law and order, but many others see him as destroying the only “harmless vices” they have in their lives that they pay good money for. Whether its busting moonshine runners, drug dealers, gambling dens or prostitutes, Buford sees it all as a scourge in the state that has to be wiped out. (GCDb)

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Moonrunners (1975)

This film which inspired the hit TV show Dukes of Hazzard, is narrated by the Balladeer (Waylon Jennings), who introduces and comments on the story of cousins, Grady and Bobby Lee Hagg, who run bootleg liquor for their uncle Jesse Hagg of Shiloh County. Uncle Jesse is a Baptist, who knows the Bible better than the local preacher. He has been a widower since Aunt Libby died ten years ago. He still makes liquor, according to his "granddaddy's granddaddy's" recipe, in stills named Molly and Beulah. Every drop is aged two years, and bottled in glass (never plastic). The Haggs have been making their recipe since before the Revolutionary War, and Jesse only sells to a friend in nearby Florence to ensure that his liquor is never blended with any other. The county boss is Jake Rainey, a friend of Jesse's from the old days when they both bootlegged for Jesse's father in 1934, and owner the local bar and brothel. Jake has control of all the other moonshine in the county, and sells it to the New York Syndicate (mob). He needs Jesse's supply to fill an order, but Jesse will not sell to Jake since Jake would mix it with lesser quality liquor. To get at Jesse’s supply, Jake uses Sheriff Rosco Coltrane, to harass the cousins. At the same time he uses Zeebo, and Reba (Jake’s wife who is having an affair with Grady) to goad the boys into a trap. (Wikipedia)

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White Lightning (1973)

Burt Reynolds stars as Bobby "Gator" McKlusky an Arkansas moonshiner turned prison convict. While in the big house, Gator learns that his younger brother Donny, a college age civil rights activist has been murdered by slimy, corrupt police Sheriff J.C. Conners (Ned Beatty). Gator’s seething need for revenge leads him to make a deal with the government to help them take down the illegal liquor ring The Sheriff is secretly benefitting from in return for clemency. Upon his release Gator is given a supercharged muscle car that he drives back to his old stomping grounds and immediately begins creating a ruckus. His plan is to infiltrate the moonshiner organization and get hard evidence of Conner’s involvement. His contact in the underworld is his old pal Roy Boone (Bo Hopkins) an easy goin’ dude just tryin to get by. Gator also meets Roy’s girlfriend Lou (Jennifer Billingsley) a blonde haired belle who he ends up having a fling with right under Roy’s nose. Gator knocks down doors and gives the dirty rednecks (including Conners) what fer, bringing his own kind of destructive, one man justice to the assignment he’s tasked to do. (GCDb)

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Jackson County Jail (1976)

Dinah Hunter (Yvette Mimieux) has trouble on the job. One day she gets home early after a fight with her boss, and finds her boyfriend with a topless girl in the house. He tries to explain, but she isn't dumb. She calls an old friend from New York who she worked with back in the day. Dinah gets her old job back. Now she's leaving LA and wants to drive to New York by car. Dinah makes a pit stop, has a coffee and the bartender tries to cheat her on the change. Outside she sees a young couple (the female is pregnant - they faked it), and she takes them with her. The couple steals her car and hits Dinah with a gun until she falls on the ground. She wakes up and runs to a local bar, she wants to call the police. The bar owner allows her to make a phone call, but the number he gives her isn't the right one. He then tries to rape her (no luck cuz a cop comes in). Dinah tries to explain but in this Hillbilly town the cops don't believe her and put her in the Jackson County Jail. The Sheriff is very gentle to her, tells her the next morning she will be released. Her cell mate is Coley Blake (Tommy Lee Jones). Later on she and Coley are trying to sleep and the deputy comes back into Dinah's cell. Guess what? He rapes her. Coley sees everything but can't help stop it. The deputy feels sorry after that but Dinah is so depressed, she takes a chair and beats him to death. Meanwhile Coley gets the keys, escapes and takes Dinah with him. The two fugitives get in quite an adventure while they evade the law. (GCDb)

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The Burning Hell (1974)

In his follow up to If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, Ron Ormond teamed up once again with the staunch Southern Baptist preacher, Estus Pirkle. This time, to discuss the everlasting fires of Hell! As with Footmen, The Burning Hell centers around Pirkle's stern message to an attentive congregation of backwoods good 'ol boys and tone deaf, blue-haired matrons of the Country Jesus. The narrative is set up by a visit to Pirkle's home by two generic biker-types who want to discuss prophecy according to "Dr. Long" who denies that "a burning hell" actually exists. Pirkle informs both men that the Greek New Testament proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hell does exist and both of them will spend an eternity in a lake of fire if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior. "Ken" becomes confrontational and informs Pirkle that he's "still got some livin' to do." (GCDb)

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The Klansman (1974)

This adaption of William Bradford Hui’s popular 1968 novel of the same name, is a multi-cast, purposely sensational (as the book was) look at race relations, changing times and shifting attitudes in America’s Civil Rights-era south. Ripped from the headlines, The Klansman is both an unabashed exploitation picture and an attempt at social commentary. The spirited cast of characters who inhabit the dusty town of Atoka County, Alabama—this picture’s Ground Zero—include Richard Burton (!) as a heavy-drinking but sympathetic to the black cause land owner, OJ Simpson as a militant-minded revolutionary (nighttime shots of Simpson lurking in the bushes readying for an ambush have a resonance today that they didn’t at the time), Linda (“Dynasty”) Evans as a woman whose unconventional behavior leaves her ostracized, “The Queen of Las Vegas” Lola Falana as beautiful expatriate who is violently gang-raped, Lee Marvin as a beleaguered (and conflicted) Sherriff, and Cameron Mitchell as a (necessarily) racist Ku Klux Klan rabble rouser. The ugly situations, insulting dialogue, and indignities are plentiful. The Staple Singer’s ironic theme song “The Good Christian People” is a clever plus. (GCDb).

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Polk County Pot Plane (1977)

After exchanging marijuana and money, pals Oosh and Boosh (A Dukes of Hazzard type duo) and their crews have to escape from the police. Unfortunately, they are caught and some of their marijuana is lost. So the mafia who hired them decide to help Oosh and Boosh escape from prison in exchange to get the money back. Next, our "heroes" have to retreive the money from the drug dealers (who land a plane in the middle of a field) and escape from the police. As you can see, some of the plot elements are different from Dukes of Hazzard but they have similar selling points which is car chase scenes. Just look at the opening credits, we see a montage of car chases while country music is playing. It's very similar to the tone of DOH. What makes this film look better than the TV series is the higher budget (I guess) while all of the car chases are done in a James Bond/Blues Brothers/Gone in 60 Seconds style. It has lots of crashes with big objects (like a house) being crashed into and many more police cars. It has a really good funky soundtrack that's similar to the kinds you hear in Blaxploitation movies. It makes the scenes look/sound more exciting and memorable. If you love carsploitation and hick movies this is one that you'll want to check out. Approved by Quentin Tarantino (he showed this film as part of his Grindhouse Film Festival in 2007). (GCDb)

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