Monday, March 7, 2011

Not on DVD Week: 'Gator Bait (1974)

After the success of John Boorman's "Deliverance", the world of Hicksploitation game about. For a while, films like "God's Bloody Acre" (1975), "Sixpack Annie" (1975) and "Scum of the Earth" (1974) became regular in Drive-In theaters, with more emphasis on white trash rednecks and their unwholesome worlds. It's easy to see the appeal of these movies-whilst the likes of "Deliverance" gave us more of the "city folk" protagonists, these movies were all about showing audiences a world in sensationalistic manner. One of the most well known entries in this sub-genre of exploitation is husband-wife exploitation team Beverly and Ferd Sebastian's 1974 flick "'Gator Bait", which as of now isn't available on DVD.

Desiree Thibodeau (former Playboy playmate and exploitation vet Claudia Jennings) lives deep in the swamps, poaching alligators to support herself and her siblings. When Billy Boy (Clyde Ventura) and Ben Bracken (Ben Sebastian) try to kidnap her for sexual purposes, she outsmarts them-and causes Billy to accidentally shoot Ben dead. Ben tells Sheriff Joe Bob Thomas (Bill Thurman) that Desiree did it, so Ben's dad and sons start a search party to stop her once and for all. Well, it leads to her sister Julie (Janit Baldwin) almost getting gang raped and then killed, and when Desiree finds out, the hunters become the hunted.

If there are any problems with "'Gator Bait", they would be that everyone other than Claudia Jennings is a pretty terrible actor, and it ultimately feels like it doesn't live up to its full potential. This is a movie set in the swamps, yet the directors rarely manage to make it the eerie place it should be. Also, Desiree's revenge is satisfying, but it feels like they could have gone a little further with it.

That out of the way, while it certainly could have been better, it's still a decent little slice of exploitation that makes for a good weekend afternoon viewing. Jennings, while not exactly an award worthy performance, is actually not bad as far as Playboy playmates turned actresses are concerned, delivering her dialogue with the proper amount of conviction for a movie like this. Also, while some might complain about the movie being slow paced, I rather like the deliberate pacing, which makes the revenge aspect of the film work just fine. There's also been talk among some that the film has something of a feminist subtext. Personally, I don't see it, but I can see why some would thing that. Desiree is pretty much the smartest and most likable character in the movie, and all of the men are idiotic pigs who want her to be a servant and nothing more. I guess her actions could be seen as the female sex lashing out against white male oppression, and even if that's not the case, it's impossible not to root for her.

So as it stands, "'Gator Bait" isn't exactly a classic work of exploitation, but makes for a fun but slight little time waster. Interestingly enough, a sequel came out fourteen years later, and while it's also not on DVD, I hear it's pretty bad, and by the time it came out, the hicksploitation bandwagon had all but ended.

Rating: 6.5/10


And now, something for the fellas:

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