TRUCK STOP WOMEN (1974) Blu-ray
Director: Mark Lester
Code Red Releasing

Claudia Jennings has a very different idea of a "trucker's special" as one of Mark Lester's TRUCK STOP WOMEN on Blu-ray from Code Red Releasing.

Gangsters Smith (John Martino, THE GODFATHER) and Rusty (Speed Stearns, EAT MY DUST!) put Los Angeles stolen truck dealer Moiry (Herb Graham, THE HUMAN TORNADO) in a coma so the east coast mob can move in. As a reward, they are given a truck stop in New Mexico from which to coordinate the theft and transport of trucks to Los Angeles; but first they have to get rid of Moiry's contact Anna (Lieux Dressler, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS) who runs the operation as an extension of her own trucks top where she uses her diner and an adjoining motel brothel to gather intelligence on the contents of trucks which are then hijacked by daughter Rose (Claudia Jennings, UNHOLY ROLLERS) and runaway Tina (Jennifer Burton, THE ASTRAL FACTOR). Smith's and Rusty's arrival is pretty timely since Rose is getting tired of her mother's smalltime ambitions ("Would Jackie Onassis eat chicken fried steak!?"). With the promise of trips to Las Vegas casinos and inheriting Anna's truck stop, Rose sides with Smith (not so much Rusty who eats phallic candy bars while spying on the other two in bed). Anna and her mechanics Mac (Gene Drew, STEEL ARENA) and Curly (Dennis Fimple, CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE), however, chase Smith and Rusty off and drag Rose back kicking and screaming. When Smith's tubercular associate Seago (Paul Carr, BRUTE CORPS) reveals to Anna that Smith and Rusty are planning to intercept the transfer of millions of dollars in securities being transported under the guise of a cattle haul, Anna is reluctant to get involved any further with the mob until they kill two of her mechanics (including BLOOD AND LACE's Len Lesser). While Rose tries to play Anna's underlings against her, Anna and Seago plot to get to the securities before Smith and Rusty; but whoever is double-crossing the other must then face against Smith and Rusty in a final standoff.

Released theatrically by L-T Films in 1974 and then reissued by American International in 1976 around the time of their release of Lester's BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW, TRUCK STOP WOMEN is not as slick as the later film with much ill-synchronized ADR seemingly added to make up for insufficient coverage and a couple low wattage truck chases. Otherwise, the film is great fun with Jennings always a welcome and comely presence (especially at her most vicious and topless) and Dressler going off the rails during the last act. Of the supporting cast, Fimple is most enjoyable as the none-too-bright trucker who has to make a tally of how many of their number are dead and how many are alive to make his point to Mac and Anna that they are in over their heads. The expansive desert vistas are nicely captured by the 2-perf Techniscope photography of John Morrill – who photographed THE WITCHMAKER, BROTEHRHOOD OF SATAN, and A BOY AND HIS DOG in that format for L.Q. Jones – while Lester otherwise jams the film with damaged cars and jiggling breasts (even throwing in a topless couple whose make-out session is interrupted as they observe Rusty's out-of-control truck careening off a mountainside). Uschi Digard's assets are on display as one of the truck stop women whose bedroom antics with the truckers Anna observes on closed circuit television.

Previously released only on panned-and-scanned cassette by Vestron Video, Code Red's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray of TRUCK STOP WOMEN boasts strong colors and crisp detail when the photography is under controlled conditions. A handful of night and dusk shots are grainier and softer-looking, but that is the fault of the original photography (the second unit shots for the "I'm a Truck" sequence are also variable) and this in without doubt the best the film has looked on home video. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is clean although there are a couple drops in volume during the "I'm a Truck" sequence which may either be a fault in the mixing or the elements.

Like Scorpion's release of BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW, Code Red has provided TRUCK STOP WOMEN with an interview (9:11) and audio commentary by director Lester (moderated by Damon Packard). Lester frames the film as part of his trilogy of Americana Pop Art along with the earlier STEEL ARENA and the later BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW. Lester met cinematographer John Morrill on STEEL ARENA, and Morrill showed him Paul Deason's original script (which regular Morrill collaborator L.Q. Jones hated) but which Lester felt would make a fun "homage" to B movies. He fondly remembers the cast, including Jennings who was reluctant to take off her clothes again since she wanted to be known as an actress and also recalls her tragic death. Jennings' boyfriend at the time was songwriter Bobby Hart (THE MONKEES) who wrote and performed two of the film's songs with Danny Janssen (THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY) and Jimmie Haskell (DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY) and also performed other songs. Stearns was a stuntman on STEEL ARENA who Lester turned into an actor here (he also asked Rat Packer/restaurant owner Nicky Blair on a whim to play the mobster in the opening sequence). Lester notes the audacity of disrupting the film with the step-frame "I'm a Truck" montage – which was photographed by an associate during a cross-country trip – but Packard notes that the outré sequence is in keeping with the director's pop art sensibility. As on BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW's extras, Lester laments the time when filmmaking on location was a free of permits and garnered enthusiasm from the locals. Trailers for KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, ACAPULCO GOLD, RUNNING SCARED, THE JIGSAW MURDERS, and THE DESTROYERS are also included. (Eric Cotenas)