The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976)
Director: Michael Pressman
Writers: David Kirkpatrick and Mark Rosin
Starring: Claudia Jennings, Jocelyn Jones and Johnny Crawford

The Plot: Candy (Claudia Jennings) is a simple kind of girl from a simple farming home. After spending some time in the joint, she finally concocts a plan to escape from prison. When all goes as planned, her sister is waiting for her with a car just outside of the prison and Candy is then set out on the town. Ellie-Joe Turner (Jocelyn Jones) is a bank teller in a small Texas town, where nothing exciting ever seems to happen. When Candy roles into town though, she brings just the right variety of excitement. She walks into Ellie-Jo’s bank with two sticks of dynamite and threatens to blow everyone up if they don’t hand over the money. She executes her robbery perfectly and takes the money she makes in order to save her families farm before heading out West. Along the way she meets up with Ellie-Jo once again, as the young woman has taken to hitchhiking in order to find some form of excitement similar to what she has just experienced. It is here that the two form a close bond and start planning out their very next robbery.

The Review
The subgenre known as Hixploitation may be offensively titled, but it is a genre with at least some semblance of respect or honor for southern culture. Although these films may display outlaws and troublemakers, that in fact is a part of the southern way of life. There’s a certain amount of adoration for rebels to a degree, and growing up in the deep south I have seen this first hand. For better or for worse, we absolutely love a good outlaw. Certainly in the first half of the previous century, that rebellion remained very much intact with far more precedence and focus on the civil war being a part of the every day man’s life. Today, many kids might not know the difference between Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant if their battles weren’t immediately on the study-agenda at school. For those born prior to 1990, in my experience, there has always been a tiny bit of historical knowledge instilled in our minds. From the Looney Tunes cartoons we grew up watching (with their random Civil War references), to our own parents and upbringing, we caught the tail end of a streamlined diet of southern traditionalism. Whether or not it caught on, that was dependent on the person, but if you were born and raised in the South it is a cultural stigma that can never leave you. The Great Texas Dynamite Chase isn’t so much a cultural study on Southern heritage or upbringing, as much as it is a study on foxy-ladies who whip all kinds of serious butt.

Women taking revenge and generally kicking the butt of men doesn’t make for the most revolutionary of cinema by itself. The concept had been done before this film and it was surely done many times over since the release of this film, but the manner in which these familiar genre tropes are tackled are what makes the project as memorable as it is. The most fun movie on Shout! Factory’s Roger Corman Action Packed Triple Feature DVD set, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is a mixture of adrenaline packed action and southern attitude in a movie that can only be described as a precursor to Thelma & Louise. While I have never actually seen Thelma & Louise for myself, everything that I have ever gathered from the movie seems to point to the fact that it ultimately follows a very similar plot structure as this one. The major differences coming in the form of a shirtless Brad Pitt as well as stockpiles of dynamite, in each film respectively. There seems to be strong similarities between the two films, with both being about female empowerment whilst two women go on the run from the law, but in typical Roger Corman fashion The Great Texas Dynamite Chase offers a substantially more male-targeted vision of girl power. Expect ample amounts of nudity and just enough action to move us from one plot point to the next.

The tone that Great Texas… grabs is really pitch perfect for this genre type. Right from the very beginning, we are set in the world of hayfields and country music. The music is a mix of bluesy tunes with a little honkytonk piano along with strings. Craig Safan provided the music and he perfectly captures the popular culture of the time (blaxploitation funk) mixed with that raw southern twang. I like that the film isn’t afraid to experiment with various sounds, and the overall soundtrack is intense because of it. The film is generally quite brave in varying areas other than just the music, howver. Our two leads are given very uncompromising and sexual roles, with which they help sell the sexual revolution. These girls are tough and rebellious in their nature and we get to see this when Jocelyn Jones demonstrates her feminine powers at the very start of the film by having an apparent one night stand with some dolt who she quickly tells to leave once morning time has come. The picture of these tough, no nonsense, working women with sexual desires that need to be fulfilled is very quickly drawn out for the audience, and although there’s an exploitative edge to most of the sex in the movie, the women are ultimately the ones who incite most of it and do so while not appearing “loose” or ignorant.

The initial bank robbing sequence is quite nerve wrecking to be honest. We watch as Claudia Jennings walks into the bank with her stick of dynamite and strikes it up while making her demands toward the teller and those around her. Although the fuse length seems to go back and forth between cuts, the speed of the fuse remains fairly fast and we in the audience start to wonder just how much longer it has before it will finally explode. Despite the continuity gaffes, the tension of the scene actually works quite well. The film overall seems to survive due to the tension created from various action scenes, the quick witted character moments that are sprinkled in throughout and ultimately one of its biggest helping hands comes in the form of the humor. Comedy is as much a part of the story as the chase scenes and the action. Scenes such as the second bank robbery, where we discover that most of Candy’s dynamite sticks are duds, is a funny case of misfortune as humor or a comedic version of Murphy’s Law. The entire bit reminds me of current trends in comedy, where ideas such as this are rode to their extreme. The entire “Meet the Parents” series is based entirely around this concept, and after the first movie it was already beat into the ground. Ultimately though, I think the character moments and the interaction between the cast are what makes this movie as memorable as it is. The cast are all spectacular in their roles, with Claudia Jennings and Jocelyn Jones lighting up the screen as ferocious pieces of female empowerment.

The Conclusion
The film ultimately has its issues, as any movie does, but I think for a piece of hixploitation/carsploitation from this time and era: you really can’t go wrong. A very solid outing with a terrific cast and a focus on delivering pure fun through a cinematic cyringe. Overall, the entire package is stout and worth picking up, but The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is the standout film from the Roger Corman Action Packed Triple Feature. Check it out!

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