New World Studios was the unchallenged king of drive-in cinema in the 1970s. Founded by Roger Corman after Sam Arkoff basically took over AIP in the late 1960s, the studio brought many great talents to the big screen, both in front of the cameras and behind. Directors like Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, Ron Howard, and a host of others trained with Corman's low budget company. And performers like Claudia Jennings made every film, even the bad ones, worthwhile. GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE is one of Jennings' best vehicles, though it is never discussed in overviews of her career and was a rarity on home video until New Concorde saw fit to release it on DVD under their "Roger Corman Classics" banner.
Jennings (who is a dead ringer for Farrah Fawcett throughout the film) is Candy, an escaped woman convict who robs a bank using two sticks of dynamite to save her family's farm. Enter Jocelyn Jones (the heroine of the underrated TOURIST TRAP) as Ellie-Jo, a bank teller whose life is so bland even her manager fires her for "lack of character!" With nothing to lose, Ellie-Jo aids Candy with the robbery and the two head off in their separate ways. But the two sultry vixens soon collide with each other on the road and begin a series of wild bank robberies using dynamite, shotguns, and resulting in plenty of police chases. Reluctant hostage Slim (Johnny Crawford, a long way from "The Rifleman") soon tags along and wins Ellie-Jo's heart on the side.
GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE would be a solid entry in the "road buddy/car chase" mini-genre of the drive-ins if it weren't for the fact that the film slows down too often to be particularly memorable. Jennings and Jones are easy on the eyes, but too much screentime is spent basking in the afterglow of the bank robberies. Any chase footage is surprisingly brief and the film takes a turn for the worse by having a love interest materialize in the shape of wimpy Crawford (who has some surprising nude scenes). The saving grace of the film in its final 45 minutes is the charming presence of Claudia Jennings, a true talent whose death in a tragic car accident was a tremendous loss to the film world. Who knows where her career would have gone if she had graduated from New World low-budget gems to big-budget blockbusters? Jocelyn Jones is nowhere near as good as she was in TOURIST TRAP, which seems to be the only film wherein she gave a decent performance. And don't get me started on the embarrassment of seeing Johnny Crawford as a hunky redneck (??).
Movie buffs will recognize some novel casting ideas. New World regular Tara Strohmeier (memorable in HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD) has a cameo as Candy's sister Pam; Chris Pennock (the bastard warlock Jeb Hawkes in the original "Dark Shadows" series) as dynamite supplier Jake in a sex scene with Jennings; and Priscilla Pointer (Amy Irving's mother) as a teller and Stefan Gierasch as a hotel clerk, both of whom appeared in CARRIE a year earlier as Mrs. Snell and Mr. Morton, respectively. A bloody riverside shootout in the final 10 minutes is memorable, and the sight of Claudia Jennings pumping lead into two cops is worth the price of the DVD! The final crane shot is a visual treat as well. GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE isn't really a "Roger Corman Classic," but comes highly recommended as a worthy introduction to the marvelous Claudia Jennings and will easily satisfy her die-hard fans.
New Concorde's DVD features a full-frame presentation of the film, which seems to lose a good amount of information on the sides. The transfer would have benefited from a 1.66:1 or a 1.75:1 aspect ratio. The video quality of the disc is superb, with only the opening credits suffering from an appalling amount of dirt and grain. Some portions of the film have a thin white line in the print on the left side of the screen, but it isn't overly distracting. The colors are sharp and clear the majority of the time and are never soft or weak. Audio is full and vibrant, bringing the cheesy Southern-fried country score to a satisfying level. Extras are meager, with a trailer (under the title DYNAMITE WOMEN) and cast filmographies present. But there are trailers for upcoming New Concorde titles: THE ARENA, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, and CAGED HEAT. (Casey Scott)
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