Tuesday, January 2, 2018

MACON COUNTY LINE (1974) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Shout! Factory/Shout Select
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 88 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widecreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Richard Compton
Cast: Alan Vint, Cheryl Waters, Geoffrey Lewis, Joan Blackman, Jesse Vint, Max Baer Jr

Minor 70's drive-in cult classic Macon County Line (1974), a dusty slice of hillbilly thrills set in 1954, where rowdy brothers Chris (Alan Vint, Badlands) and Wayne Dixon (Jesse Vint, Forbidden World) are driving through Louisiana on a two-week bender of booze and low-rent broads prior to both of them enlisting into the military, one brother is forced to join following some criminal activity while the other joined willingly shortly after as a show of solidarity with his brother. The film opens with a raunchy sex-comedy scene complete with a bare-assed freeze frame title card, the brothers escaping out the window of a woman's window avoiding her husband's wrath, also making off with her purse in the process. Hitting the road they continue to travel the South waxing philosophical about their lot in life and causing some minor mayhem, before picking up a cute hitchhiker  named Jenny Scott (Cheryl Waters, Act of Vengeance), who doesn't appear to be the most angelic person either, but the three get one well and seem kindred spirits, with Jenny taking a liking to one of the brothers more than the other, leading to some minor feelings of third-wheeling among the boys. 

When their car breaks down the brothers seek some vehicular first aid from the local grease monkey, Hamp (Geoffrey Lewis, Salem's Lot), while waiting for repairs to be made they are given the third degree from the local sheriff Reed Morgan (Max Baer Jr., TV's The Beverly Hillbillies) who doesn't much like these young rowdy kids in his jurisdiction, threatening to round them up for vagrancy if they choose to stick around for too long. 

The sheriff is fleshed out a but more in a parallel storyline, a loving husband who leaves town to pick his adolescent son Luke (Leif Garrett, Cheerleader Camp) up from military academy and take him on a hunting trip. He's a good father and loving husband, though it gave me pause when he lectures his son about how white and black folks shouldn't mingle, on one hand he's not overly forceful about it, he's calm and fatherly, but he's definitely reinforcing racial prejudice in his son, showing the insidious way that casual racism/prejudice is handed down from one generation to the next. 

Once the brother's car is repaired they along with Jenny are back on the road, heeding the Sheriff's warning they make for the county line but are waylaid when the car conks out again! Unbeknownst to them they are right near the Sheriff's home, he's out of town with his son, but his wife is home alone. They camp out for the night in a nearby barn, but that very same night sheriff's wife is brutally raped and murdered  by a pair of low-life drifters who have a real hatred of cops, once they discover she is a cop's wife they really lay into her, mostly happening off screen but it's still a harrowing scenario. 

The sheriff and his son arrive home and discover the horrific site of their violated/murdered loved one, seeing the familiar car nearby the lawman wrongly assumes the worst of the travelling trio and he goes after them with his son and shotgun in tow. The ending scenes are tense and nail-biting, taking place in and around a houseboat on the river, which I found evocative of both Cape Fear and A Bay of Blood, with little Leif Garret delivering a shocker of ending that comes to rest with a scene showcasing the futility of it all, in a way I felt the film was channeling Easy Rider to a degree, with the youth counter-culture running against the grain of the local hillbillies.

Audio/Video: Macon County Line (1974) arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory imprint Shout Select looking wonderful in HD, the 1080p HD 1.85:1 widescreen image has a healthy looking grain field and visually looking quite stunning when compared to my Warner Bros. DVD from 2008. The image is crisper and cleaner, the low-budget film looks quite nice in HD with decent depth and clarity as to where the DVD was very flat and soft throughout, I wouldn't call it revelatory but is superior in all areas.

Onto the extras Shout Factory carryover the audio commentary  with late director Richard Compton )moderated by William Lustig) and the "Macon County Line: 25 Years Down The Road" featurette from the now OOP Anchor Bay DVD, items that were not featured on the Warner reissue in 2008, so it's great to have them ported over for the Blu-ray debut. Shout! in association with Cavetown Pictures  also offer up a new interview with editor Tina Hirsch who recalls flying to L.A. from New York and falling into working on some sleazy black and white Roger Corman picture, and that leading to more work and getting first on-screen credit. Meeting Richard Compton which lead to getting the editor gig on Macon County Line, and offering her own philosophies on editing, which are contrary tot he traditional rules of editing. There's also a brief image gallery of black and white promotional still and poster artwork. 

This single-disc Blu-ray comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a 2-sided (not reversible) sleeve of artwork, a-side featuring what looks to be one of the original posters and the b-side is a scene from the film of the two brothers in the car, the disc is adorned with a scene of Cheryl Waters character waiting for a ride at the gas station.

Special Features:

- NEW Interview
With Editor Tina Hirsch (22 min) HD
- Audio Commentary With Director Richard Compton moderated by Bill Lustig of Blue Underground
Vintage Featurette – "Macon County Line: 25 Years Down The Road" (8 min) - Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD

- Radio Spot (1 min) HD
- Image Gallery  (1 min) HD 

Macon County Line (1974) has a serious gut-punch of an ending for a movie that starts off as a free-spirited romp, it sort of comes out of nowhere and it cuts deep on all sides of the equation, tragedy spurred by ignorance and prejudices, this is one drive-in shocker that delivers the good every time, a seriously underrated drive-in flick from the 70's. 

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