The Road Hustlers

Director: Larry E. Jackson      
Jim Davis, Scott Brady, Andy Devine, Bruce Yarnell

Ah, an American-International picture! Wish I had been old enough to appreciate their movies before they disappeared - all I had at maturity was Cannon. But watching this movie, I really felt I was at the drive-in one summer night, sitting in a car with a bag of greasy popcorn.

This stirring drama of Southern moonshiners got me in the spirit right away with the title song, with such awesome lyrics as, "When they drive down the highway / You best give them some room / They don't trust a stranger / A stranger spells danger / And danger can lead you to dooooooom / GIVE THEM ROOOOOMMMM! / THE ROOOOOOOOOOAD.....HUSTLERS!!!!!! / Are sure to hit your town one evening / When the sun's going dooooooooown / You'll hear the roar of thunder pounding in your eaaaaaaaar!!!!!! / You'll feel the pavement shake when they appear! / You'll live a life of fear!"

We are introduced to the Reedy family, consisted of patriarch Noah, young and handsome sons Mark and Matt, as well as dumb and ugly brother Luke for comedy relief. (Noah has a wife, but see here, this movie is about man's business, so we can't have any focus on women other than the two bikini-wearing babes later in the movie!) The Reedy family has been supplying the folks of Lexingtion County with moonshine for several decades - none of that rotgut stuff that'll make you blind, but the good stuff that you'll happily pay $20 a gallon for. That hasn't gotten past the eye of Earl, stooge of a syndicate he's representing. They've "convinced" the other bootleggers in the area to join the syndicate, but Noah will have none of that monopoly stuff. Complicating things, two feds have been searching the area for all the stills of the bootleggers. They almost catch Matt, but Mike lures them away with an identical-looking car, singing during the chase that smash hit, "Rye Whiskey" ("Rye whiskey! / Rye whiskey!....")

Of course, the feds only find bricks in Mike's car when they pull him over, and the sheriff who's in the vicinity feels the only punishment worthy in the situation is a speeding ticket. When Mike leaves, the sheriff tells the feds that he himself has been trying to catch the Reedy family in the act for years, but has never come close. Ignoring the sheriff's recommendation to forget about it (saying to the effect of, "After all, they make the good stuff and not that rotgut!"), the feds for most of the remainder of the movie just show up to look stupid and ignorant of the ways of the deep South.

The Reedy family is able to dodge the feds but the syndicate starts to squeeze pressure on them, though they keep outwitting the syndicate at every turn. When the syndicate chases them on a speedboat, they toss sticks of dynamite at the speedboat (using the same explosion footage more than once), blowing it up. When they chase the family in a car, the Reedys use a primitive James Bond gizmo that leaks gasoline on the road, then they toss a road flare, burning the bad guys. When the syndicate gathers hitmen to attack the Reedy home, they are scared off by fireworks(!). Frustrated, the syndicate locates one of the Reedy co-workers, and sic a Bubba-type on him. Tongue-wiggling, "Bubba" bonks the worker's head on a car trunk a few times, but mostly bitch-slaps him. The Reedys are outraged by their friend being almost slapped to death, and plot to strike back at the syndicate.

It's no high art - it ain't even great trash (no nudity or onscreen sex, no one dies in the explosions etc.) - it's just a good ol' boy movie for good ol' boys wanting a good ol' time. But this might be the movie to be picked if you needed an example of a quintessential drive-in movie. It drives a familiar, expected route but the car is fast enough and comfortable to sit in.

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See also: Trackdown, Outlaw Force, Demented Death Farm Massacre