Color, 1974, 82m.
Directed by Mark L. Lester
Starring Claudia Jennings, Lieux Dressler, John Martino, Paul Carr, Dennis Fimple, Jennifer Burton
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
God only knows what the MPAA was thinking when it gave a pass to this '74 drive-in staple, whose title promises upbeat T&A thrills in the style of Roger Corman for a film that's a lot closer to Russ Meyer in its levels of brutal violence and rampant bare skin. That shouldn't be surprising with director Mark L. Lester at the helm in one of his earliest outings before he went on to glory with Class of 1984, Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, Roller Boogie, and the immortal Commando.
The film doesn't pull any punches right off the bat as a couple of mobsters bust into the home of their competition and repeatedly blast him into a bloody, bullet-riddled mess while he's enjoying some sexy suds in the bathtub with his naked girlfriend, who also gets offed for her trouble. As it turns out, the mob is working its way across the country and has its eyes on a truck stop run by Anna (Kingdom of the Spiders' Dressler) and her daughter, Rose (exploitation favorite Jennings), which is actually a front for a brothel. The ladies also swipe their tricks' trucks and repaint them to cover their tracks, a racket that soon pits mother against daughter - or does it? - when the temptation of money and betrayal comes calling.
Tonally schizophrenic in that way only '70s films could pull off, Truck Stop Women is a fascinating mish mash of country and western songs, rampant bare breasts, bloody tragedy, and far better performances than you'd expect from both Dressler and Jennings, the latter fated to die a mere five years later in a car accident. A popular Playboy model, she left behind a strong legacy of titles including The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, 'Gator Bait, Moonshine Country Express, Deathsport, and Fast Company. She gets a great showcase here to show off her dramatic chops, and it's a shame she never had a chance to parlay that into major Hollywood stardom. Also keep your eyes peeled among the trucker girl montages for an appearance by none other than Uschi Digard, enthusiastically giving it her all as usual.
Originally released in theaters by Manson International Pictures, Truck Stop Women got a wider release from American International Pictures and went on to VHS infamy courtesy of Vestron in the '80s. Incredibly, the first authorized digital release didn't appear until Code Red's Blu-ray in 2016, which finally restores the original Techniscope framing never presented before in a home theater format. The expansive compositions are absolutely essential to enjoying the film, which looked like a sloppy, washed out mess in past transfers; here the original vibrant color schemes are also restored to their original glory. The cheaper Techniscope process means the image is grainier than usual (A Boy and His Dog was shot that way around the same time and features a similar look), but what's here is accurate to the original presentation and about a billion times better than you've likely seen it anywhere else. The DTS-HD MA English mono audio sounds authentic to the source; it's clear and pleasant enough with fine support for the songs, but nothing that will give a home theater system a workout. Lester's all over this release as well courtesy of an audio commentary (moderated by Damon Packard) and a 9-minute video featurette, both of which go into great detail about the making of the film. Lots of good info's here about the cast and background of the project, such as the fact that it was originally offered to L.Q. Jones. The commentary is much easier going than the featurette, which is riddled with tacky, very lo-res graphics and even lower res video clips (some sporting a Divx logo!). Also included are bonus trailers for Kingdom of the Spiders, Running Scared (the 1980 one), The Jigsaw Murders, and The Destroyers.
Reviewed on July 3, 2016.