Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Moonshine Love / Sod Sisters (1969)

I’ve always been fascinated by stories about amnesia. We all know how it works from watching television in the 1970s and ’80s: you hit your head once, you’ve got amnesia; you hit it again, your memory’s back. Simple. Or is it?

One of my favourite films to feature a character with amnesia is Someone Behind the Door (1971) by Nicolas Gessner. In it, Charles Bronson plays a man with amnesia who is manipulated by a doctor, played by Anthony Perkins, into believing that the doctor’s cheating wife is his own – and that he must kill her. It’s a very different kind of role for Bronson, and a very effective suspense thriller.

Other films I liked which feature characters with amnesia include The Bourne Identity (1988 and 2002), The Long Wait (1954) – which is based on one of my favourite Mickey Spillane novels; Who Am I? (1998) – a Jackie Chan movie with a final sequence of stunts and action so amazing that I watched it whenever I stumbled upon on on late night TV; The Sender (1982), an effective but lesser known British horror film; and even The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), in which Kermit loses his memory and becomes a boring Madison Avenue advertising frog named Phil. 

Imagine how intrigued I was to discover that I had an unheard of (at least to me) Hicksploitation movie called Moonshine Love (1969) hiding on one of my Something Weird double feature DVDs (as a bonus feature) – and it’s about a guy with amnesia!

The description said “Hillbilly harlots Jeannie and Lil take a hankerin’ for a two-bit robber with amnesia and a bag of stolen loot in the feature-length regional skinflick, Moonshine Love!” Not to downplay enticing phrases such as “Hillbilly harlots” and “regional skinflick”, but I was excited by “a two-bit robber with amnesia”.

The movie does begin with the planning and execution of a robbery, and it is #NotQuiteClassicCinema gold! The robbery doesn’t go as planned, and our hero double-crosses the other two thugs and runs off with the money. Unfortunately for him, he has a bit of an accident and hits his head (and we all know what that means). Very, very fortunately for him, the robber is found and brought home by the aforementioned “hillbilly harlots” – perhaps better described by the original title of this movie, which is Sod Sisters.

As one of my twitter friends pointed out (hello Peter!) the next sequence features a pretty amazing go-go dancer performing onstage while the two double-crossed robbers lament their situation. I love the fact that this dance gets its own title card in the opening credits: dance sequence by Pat McGlamry. It does go on for five and half minutes of the film’s sixty-one minute running time – which is substantial. Alas, as my friend Peter points out, this is McGlamry’s only credit on the IMDb (and presumably her only film appearance), which is quite a shame.

The bulk of the rest of the movie really focusses on the sexy, sleazy goings on at this backwoods homestead. Needless to say, the Sod Sisters take more than a passing interest in this man with amnesia, who really becomes a helpful hand around the property. Most of the hicksploitation films I’ve watched at the home drive-in have been salacious stories with a PG execution. In other words, they may have been “adults only” titles in their day, but you could see more extreme nudity and sexual behaviour on the average modern TV show. Moonshine Love, on the other hand, still earns a hard “R’ rating with a fair amount of full frontal nudity and an extraordinary scene in which one of the sisters pleasures herself with a rather large carrot. It’s not pornographic by any means. But it is graphic.

Eventually, the forward moving plot of the first ten or fifteen minutes returns and there is a showdown of sorts. There is suspense, and action and comedy. It’s not entirely satisfying from a storytelling perspective, but it is entertaining.

The IMDb lists the running time of the movie as seventy-four minutes, which is thirteen minutes longer than my version seems to be. This could suggest that there is even more story, or perhaps more exploitation, in some other version of the movie. However, this could just be an inaccurate listing.

Moonshine Love (1969) is a much more sleazy and entertaining film than I expected it to be. As an “extra” feature on a DVD set that doesn’t even advertise it on the front, I expected it to be dull. It is, probably, the worst of the three movies in terms of quality. But it is the most extreme of the three movies in terms of delivering the exploitative goods. If that sounds like something you could appreciate, do not hesitate to track this movie down and watch it. If, however, you prefer well written and performed monologues to romantic scenes with vegetables, you would be better off to stick to movies like Common Law Wife (1961) or maybe Jennie, Wife Child (1968). One thing is certain, all of these movies could spice up any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Jennie: Wife/Child (1968)

As I write this my e-mail server is down, my website is down, and – more to the point – my blog is down. The entire website of the company that hosts my blog and website is down. I have no idea how long this will last. I don’t know if the problem will be fixed today – or ever, for that matter. It would be an unfortunate way to discover that my web-hosting company is out of business.

However, this kind of thing has happened before, so I suppose I should not jump to any conclusions. But since I have no idea when – or if – I will be able to post this, I will keep it brief.

I had never even heard of Hicksploitation as a genre until I watched Common Law Wife (1961) a couple of months ago. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and found it to be a surprisingly well made drama that happened to focus on more “adult” ideas than the mainstream cinema of the day would have typically featured. Jennie: Wife/Child (1968) is definitely cut from that same cloth.

What was especially exciting about Jennie: Wife/Child was the surprisingly good soundtrack music. Cult favourites Davie Allan & The Arrows, who famously created soundtracks for biker movies such as Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels (1966), Devil’s Angels (1967) and The Born Losers (1967), are not only included on the soundtrack of Jennie: Wife/Child, but they can also be seen playing live on stage in the movie! They sound like a more countrified version of themselves, but it is still great to see (and hear) them. They play three songs: Mario’s Theme, Lulu’s World, and Peckingpaw’s Theme. 

All of the songs in the movie were written by Harley Hatcher, who composed music for a number of films. The songs he wrote for Jennie: Wife/Child have a tendency to comment on the action of the story – the same way that James Brown’s did in Black Caesar (1973) – but that’s another story. Most of the songs were sung by Don Epperson, who appeared as an actor in several movies including Big Jake (1971) with John Wayne. Epperson can also be seen performing a song in Jennie: Wife/Child

One of the musical highlights of this movie was a little ditty called My Birthday Suit, sung by Lydia Marcelle. I don’t know much about her, but it looks like she released a few singles back in the 1960s and early 1970s. 

As for the movie, the acting is good, the story is good, and it’s a much better made film than you would expect of something called Jennie: Wife/Child. The cinematographer was Vilmos Zsigmond, who shot such classics as Deliverance (1972), The Deer Hunter (1978) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Needless to say the film looks great. 

Jennie: Wife/Child (1968) is surprisingly tasteful and entertaining for a movie that’s part of the so-called Hicksploitation genre. But then again, I really enjoyed both examples that I caught on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. I guess it’s a kind of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that I might have to explore further…