Monday, February 9, 2009

White LIghtning (1973)

Director: Joseph Sargent

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Bo Hopkins, Jennifer Billingsley, R.G. Armstrong

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: It's my kind of film. Booze, broads, car chases, corruption and revenge -- all the things that make life worthwhile!

Plot: An ex con, Gator McKlusky (Reynolds) teams up with federal agents to help them with breaking up a moonshine ring by going after the Sheriff of Bogan County, J.C. Connors (Beatty), the man who killed Gator's brother.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Yee hoo

Here's a kick ass little film that's a solid entry into the Hicksploitation genre. It'll come down to this: if you hate Burt you'll hate this, if you like/love Burt then you'll love it. I really enjoyed it. It's not without fault, mind you, but it's a great drive-in film that would be so much fun watching on a big outdoor screen as a double feature. Bust out the Beer, popcorn and pigsfeet!


Burt's signature laugh first appears less than four minutes into the picture. You have been warned.


The opening credit sequence is quiet and dark with the impending doom that is sure to befall the two bound young men. Sheriff Connors and his deputy are towing behind their boat those two fellas and you just know something bad is going to happen. It does. Right at the end of the opening credits. WOW! How's that for an starter?

Once Gator finds out that his brother's dead he escapes. Now this escape sequence is great. Why? Well, because it goes on for several minutes with him crossing streams to elude the hounds and so forth and when it looks like he's going to make it, he's caught. Nice touch. It's little things like messing with the conventions of action films that make it so much more than the typical drive-in fare of the day. But then again, this is a Burt Reynolds picture back when that meant something.

Back in the 70s Burt was the shit. He owned that decade. He was a good looking (damn it), rough and funny guy. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him. Kind of like a redneck James Bond as it were. But he was more than that. He was so easily likable and this was the period before he became full of himself and that toupee of his took root and scrambled his brains. Here he's in full badass mode just oozing with charm.

The stunt driving is amazing. The way they handle those cars on dirt roads is spectacular. Therefore it wasn't surprising to see in the closing credits that Hal "SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT & THE CANNONBALL RUN" Needham was the second unit director and stunt coordinator.

Would it surprise you that there's some great acting going on here? Besides Burt being Burt, you've got Ned Beatty who's ESPECIALLY good when he's in his quiet badass mode, Bo Hopkins (below) as a moonshine runner who's perfectly cast and looks like someone right out of a 50s car racing film and then there's the AMAZING R.G. Armstrong. This guy's a piece of work as the filthy hick boss of a moonshine outfit. WOW. The only standout performance in a bad way is Billingsley as Lou. She really got on my nerves and she was the only one who looked like she was "acting". There were times where you could feel she was waiting for her mark instead of letting it happen. Her character was annoying so maybe that was just fuel on the fire.

Bo & R.G.

As with a lot of films in this genre the locations feel genuine. There are no sets. It's all shot on location.

There's a neat little tension building scene where Burt meets Ned for the first time. Burt drives up to Ned and revs his engine for a bit of sabre rattling. Nice. Very Nice! I do have a minor issue with the ending. Well, it's just an abrupt resolution. It's almost as if they only had a little bit of film left so they shortened the climax. Gee, if I had a nickel...

KILL BILL fans will recognize a music cue Tarantino took from this film which is also found in the trailer above.

Regardless, this is a fun movie and Burt fans will dig this one. Next week I'm watching Burt's sequel to this, GATOR (1976) which he also directs. Cahahahaaaa.

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