She's a lot more dangerous than she looks.
Claudia Jennings is back today, setting a lethal mantrap in this photo made for her 1974 guilty pleasure bayou adventure 'Gator Bait. The movie is what it is—a ridiculous piece of sexploitation-lite made to take advantage of landscape and bodyscape. And Jennings is what she is—an actress trying like hell to make a bad film better than it has any right to be. Mission accomplished—'Gator Bait is watchable. Not good, but watchable. You can read about it here.
Jennings goes after big game in mid-1970s schlockfest.
Incredible though it seems to us, Truck Stop Women will be the 745th movie we've reviewed on Pulp Intl. And we never meant to do any. But writing reviews, commentaries, et al, gives us more latitude, legally speaking, to use all the imagery we upload. Tumblr doesn't have to worry about that. It's too sprawling, too decentralized, and ostensibly protected by a user agreement (which everyone ignores anyway). But as a dedicated website we don't have that luxury. So here we are with review 745, Truck Stop Women, which we watched solely owing to the participation of cult star Claudia Jennings.
Jennings was entertaining in efforts ranging from the swamp rat adventure 'Gator Bait to the futuristic dystopian thriller Death Race 2000. Here she's placed into another b-movie sub-genre—the hi-octane road adventure, which would beget such Americana as Smoky and The Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard. She plays a New Mexico truck hijackerworking for her criminal mom, whose operation is coveted by two mafia goons. The titular truck stop women, along with a few of their truck stop men, decide to resist this attempted takeover. The wonderfully named Lieux Dressler is one tough mother—unsentimental, opportunistic, and willing to battle to keep what's hers and her daughter's.
If the movie were a pure actioner, and Dressler and Jennings had been given 70% of the lines, the filmmakers might have had something good here. But with bluegrass backed sexual interludes and comedy riffs that mostly fall flat, this is not a movie we imagine Jennings was proud of. In fact, she's probably too good an actress to be subjected to its low grade parade of campy trucker tropes, but you take the work when it comes.
The good news is threefold—the movie improves as it veers farther away from its initial slapstick tone, the sexual vignettes, while dumb, do include Jennings, as well as the uber-stacked Uschi Digard, and the action scenes throughout are well staged. If you're a Jennings fan, her presence will suffice to get you to the end, but you'll certainly be thinking how much better this could have been. Truck Stop Women premiered today in 1974.
Don't let my title fool you. I'm not here to play and I'm definitely not about to mate with you.
This rare shot shows Playboy Playmate of the Year and actress Claudia Jennings in danger mode, a facet of herself she showed quite often in her various gun toting roles in b-movies, including Deathsport, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, and 'Gator Bait. This is from 1969.
If you get too close you'll definitely lose a body part.
This is fresh territory for us. No, not cheap b-movies. We talk about those all the time. What's new is featuring a film that's known mainly as a video release. But since we talked about the original 'Gator Bait and its star Claudia Jennings, pivoting to the sequel seems like a natural move. 'Gator Bait came out in 1974. Claudia Jennings' early death, plus the advent of VHS, made that film a home viewing classic and laid the groundwork for a follow-up. Writer-director-producers Beverly and Ferd Sebastian—yes, Ferd—entered the scene fifteen years after the first installment, which was also their work, and Gator Bait II: Cajun Justice was born.
Gator Bait II veers deeper into the swamp than 'Gator Bait, as well as deeper into pure sexploitation. Jan MacKenzie plays red-headed Angelique, who marries her bearish Cajun love only to watch in horror as other Cajuns that covet her freckled body try to permanently sink him in the swamp. These degenerates all pollute poor Angelique's wetlands, and from there it's the standard sexploitation progression from escape to bloody revenge. This movie sinks pretty low, but its makers weren't dumb. In casting its star they found a fully competent actress who, as a bonus, was also a rare combination of doe-eyed innocence and pure hotness.
We wonder whether that hotness was actually part of the family. MacKenzie's real name is Jan Sebastian, same as Beverly and ole Ferd—again, yes, it's Ferd. We can't confirm the connection, but having your daughter/niece/what-have-you headline your cheapie sexploitation sequel is pretty slick, because if she was related to them we seriously doubt she made industry scale for her efforts. Even so she's the only reason to watch the film. She has that in common with Claudia Jennings, who's the only reason to watch the original 'Gator Bait. Does that mean we're recommending Gator Bait II? Hell no.
2nd Amendment, motherfucker. If you say it's your right, then it's my right too.
Bernie Casey exercises his right to bear a chrome plated Colt Super .38 automatic in this cool promo photo made for his 1972 blaxploitation flick Hit Man. We love Casey. He died just last year, and was pretty much unheralded, but he appeared in a lot of fun movies, including Sharky's Machine, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Cleopatra Jones, Boxcar Bertha, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. He also had the good fortune to get naked with both Pam Grier and Claudia Jennings. The Jennings scene is flat amazing, but the Grier scene, which is actually from Hit Man, is hilarious. As Grier climbs atop him and presses her naked body full length onto his the expression on his face reads something like: “Oh. My. Freaking. God.” That's probably the only time in his life he wasn't 100% cool.
Cars were her addiction—and her destruction.
Above is a rare photo of U.S. born model, actress, and thrill seeker Claudia Jennings, who started as a Playboy centerfold, moved on to cinema, and died aged twenty-nine before her talent could be realized. Even so, she left behind several entertaining b-movies, such as Moonshine Country Express, Deathsport, and the eternal shlock classic Gator Bait. Jennings loved to drive fast. She considered herself an expert. She once said she could do just about anything with a car, a motorcycle, or a truck, including an 18-wheeler, but crashing was certainly not part of the plan. She died on California's Pacific Coast Highway today in 1979 when her Volkswagen sports car rammed a truck head-on.
You can't keep a good moonshiner down.
Home brew and rednecks, fast cars and dusty roads, shotguns and lots of banjo music are what you get in Moonshine Country Express, all of which is probably abundantly clear from a glance at the U.S. promo poster. You also get star Susan Howard, b-movie stud John Saxon, and support from Playboy centerfold Claudia Jennings, which means all the ingredients for a good time are here. The protagonists are righteous, the villains wily, and there's never any doubt that the family oriented 'shiners are going to upend the unctuous local strongman in this nearly scriptless flick about a daughter trying to sell her murdered father's stash of a-grade whiskey. We could say there's a metaphor here for small business versus big conglomerates, or liberty loving sovereigns versus the corrupt and connected, but we'd be making that shit up. It's just a mindless chase movie. It's hard to believe it would take another two years before this highly profitable formula finally moved to television in the form of 1979's The Dukes of Hazzard. We like to think Moonshine County Express was the eureka moment when someone realized it would work. If you watch this one, expect no more and no less than a Dukes episode in long form, but without the confederate flag, mercifully.
You have to be in it to win it.
When the dystopian sci-fi movie Deathsport premiered in West Germany today in 1978, the unusual poster above was used to promote it, the title having been changed to Giganten mit stählernen fäusten, which means “giants with steel fists.” That's obviously a terrible name, but whatever, that's what they went with. And what they got was David Carradine and Claudia Jennings in a tale of defiant freedom fighters known as range guides pitted against the minions of a state at eternal war.
The government needs to propagandize the population into joining the armed forces, so it stages televised gladiatorial spectacles in which statemen use fancy death machines to do battle. These contraptions are supposed to be so cool they bedazzle credulous viewers into joining the war effort. This is a really interesting point for an American movie to make, but this is b-cinema, which means the death machines are really just motorcycles the prop department welded extra aluminum to.
The budget may be low, but the framework of the movie is sound. Against its totalitarian/post-apocalyptic backdrop you get an ambitious stateman, played by all time b-movie villain Richard Lynch, pursuing a personal grudge against Carradine's legendary range guide. You may not know who Richard Lynch is by name, but if you've watched even a few terrible ’70s movies you know his face because of its distinctive scarring.
The movie also offers up cannibal mutants, desert mysticism, silver jumpsuits, crystal swords, and naked women—including Jennings in a couple of her nudest scenes. Ah, but don't fret, lovers of manmeat—Carradine wears a loincloth for most of the film. True, he's got one of those high fat content ’70s bodies, but on a typical Friday night, were the clock to strike closing time at the club, you'd take his hairy hunkiness home and be happy about it. In a way, that's true of the movie too.
Which part of “Keep yer goldanged hands to yer goldanged self!” don’t you understand?
Because it’s been written about on pretty every much cinema blog in existence, there’s really no point in us adding our two cents about ’Gator Bait. But you know what? We’re going to do it anyway. How else are we supposed to use what is possibly the greatest promo image ever shot? (See below). We hadn’t seen ’Gator Bait since we rented it for a bad movie night during college, and we’d forgotten how tame it is for a sexploitation film. Not to say it’s chaste. It isn’t. But for this genre, it’s strictly middle-of-the-road—or rather, the swamp. The plot involves Jennings being framed for murder, and later battling a gaggle of slobbering crackers who want to kill her almost as much as they want to climb inside her Daisy Dukes. ’Gator Bait was panned upon release, but today it’s a cult classic, owing, of course, to the presence of Jennings. She has only a few lines of dialogue, but she performs most of her own stunts and generally plays her semi-feral character Desiree to the hilt as she kicks redneck caboose all over the bayou. The movie isn’t very good, truthfully. In fact, it’s safe to say that if not for Jennings, ’Gator Bait would be totally forgotten by now. It went into national release in he U.S. today in 1974.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1971—First of the Pentagon Papers Are Published
The New York Times begins publication of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret U.S. Department of Defense history of the country's political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers reveal that the U.S. had deliberately expanded its war with carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, and that four presidential administrations, from Truman to Johnson, had deliberately misled the public regarding their intentions toward Vietnam.
1978—Son of Sam Goes to Prison
David Berkowitz, the New York City serial killer known as Son of Sam, is sentenced to 365 years in prison for six killings. Berkowitz had acquired his nickname from letters addressed to the NYPD and columnist Jimmy Breslin. He is eventually caught when a chain of events beginning with a parking ticket leads to his car being searched and police discovering ammunition and maps of crime scenes.
1963—Buddhist Monk Immolates Himself
In South Vietnam, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. He does it to protest the persecution of Buddhists by Ngô Đình Diệm administration, choosing a busy Saigon intersection for his protest. An image of the monk being consumed by flames as he sits crosslegged on the pavement, shot by Malcolm Browne, wins a Pulitzer Prize and becomes one of the most shocking and recognizable photos ever published.
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