Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rednecks, Repos and Moonshine

Over the weekend I final realised what it was that the alleged 'reality' TV series Lizard Lick Towing reminded me of.  As you may recall, I caught several episodes of this redneck repo show on Dave whilst waiting for the plumber a few weeks ago.  Since then, I've found it exerting a strange fascination over me and I've subsequently caught a few more episodes, (in between watching those storage auction shows I'm addicted to - I found another of those the other day: Container Wars), and I've increasingly found myself racking my brains as to why it felt familiar. Anyway, it finally came to me: Lizard Lick Towing is basically the modern equivalent of those seventies movies Burt Reynolds used to make.  You know the ones I mean: they're always set in the US South, usually Georgia or Florida, and feature lots of car chases, moonshine and Good 'Ol Boys called 'Bama', 'Skeeter' or 'Gator'.   But instead of Burt and his 'tache at the wheel of his Trans Am and Jerry Reed as his faithful sidekick, it's been cast entirely with ugly rednecks driving tow trucks.  To a Limey like me the accents seem similar enough (it's filmed in North Carolina rather than Georgia) and there are lots of car chases and hicks and hillbillies feudin' and fightin'.  No moonshine that I've seen, though.

The trigger for this revelation was watching the 1976 Burt Reynolds movie Gator last weekend.   A sequel to an earlier Burt hit, 1973's White Lightning, this piece of Southern Fried action was also Reynolds' directorial debut and, with its more laid back approach and emphasis on humour, in contrast to its predecessor, it pretty much set the pattern for subsequent Burt outings.  (That said, it is atypical in that Jerry Reed plays the villain rather than Burt's best buddy).  Despite its shortcomings, (it varies wildly in tone from scene to scene and culminates with some heavy-duty violence which jars badly with the comedic scenes which precede it), Gator is a pretty entertaining film, from an era when Hollywood seemed able to turn out this sort of relatively undemanding action movie with ease.  Obviously, Burt was the King of action flicks back then and I'm an unashamed fan of most of his seventies output.  But these days this sort of stuff seems a lost art - instead we get faux reality TV series peopled with hicks who don't have an iota of Reynolds' easy charm.  I mean, can you imagine how much better Lizard Lick Towing would be as a 96 minute film set in 1970s Florida with Burt, Sally Field and Jerry Reed in the leads (and Dom Deluise in a comic character turn as the amusing fat guy who has his car towed)?

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