Shanty Tramp is American sexploitation at its most lurid. This 1967 “roughie” is sleazy, dirty, violent and generally highly entertaining. It was written and directed by Joseph P. Mawra under the pseudonym of Joseph Prieto.
Lee Holland is Emily, the shanty tramp of the title. Her daddy is a drunk and they share a shack in the worst part of a very unappealing town. Her daddy knows she’s a whore and he knows it’s all his fault. When a revival preacher comes to town Emily’s daddy decides to put things right, with predictably catastrophic results.
The shanty tramp quickly catches the eye of the preacher man. He knows that here is a poor lost soul he must save. He invites her to come back later for some private spiritual advice, in his caravan after midnight. Emily has also caught the eye of Daniel, a young black man whose own daddy was lynched when he was a youngster. Daniel’s Ma warns him to keep away from Emily but it does no good.
Emily will also catch the eye of Savage, the leader of a biker gang. Savage’s gang descends upon the local dance spot and pretty soon all the bikers have got themselves enthusiastic new girlfriends. It seems that all the girls in this town are shanty tramps at heart. They all want violent boyfriends who’ll treat them to some rough loving.
After the night spot closes Emily invites Savage back to the bar’s storeroom so they can get to know each other better. But Savage is not impressed when she informs him that it’s going to cost him. So he decides to take what he wants without paying. Then Daniel arrives to save the day, and that proves to be Daniel’s undoing. Emily and Daniel get some action going and then Emily’s pa arrives and catches them. Poor Daniel thinks that Emily is going to do the right thing and explain things to her pa but instead she cries rape.
Emily’s pa, all fired up by the preacher man’s preaching, decides to save Emily’s soul by taking a whip to her and by getting Daniel lynched. Daniel takes off through the woods but soon he has a whole posse of irate townsfolk hunting him down. Things are not looking good for Daniel. Meanwhile the shanty tramp has her own problems which she solves by taking a knife to her daddy.
This movie combines the popular hicksploitation sub-genre with a whole mess of other sub-genres, many of which it invents for itself. It’s blaxploitation, but it’s also preachersploitation and it’s southernsploitation. There are hints of every kind of depravity one can imagine, all explored in a delightfully sleazy manner.
Lee Holland isn’t much of an actress but squeezed into a white dress which displays her charms to full advantage she certainly has presence. She is the ultimate shanty tramp, radiating sex and evil. The actor who plays the oversexed preacher is outrageously and superbly over-the-top. This preacher man has such a yearning to save Emily’s soul. As he memorably puts it, “I’m going to show her the power and the glory.” We hear you preacher man. Amen.
The movie was shot on location in Florida. Considering the themes it explored it was a fairly bold move to make a movie like this anywhere in the south in 1967. The Florida locations are magnificently seedy.
The script is liberally peppered with classic exploitation movie dialogue, adding considerably to the fun. There’s more of a general ambience of sleaze rather than much in the way of actual sex and nudity although Emily does get topless as often as possible.
The movie is presented as a double-feature along with Common Law Wife (which I haven’t had time to watch yet). It’s released by Alpha Video and it fully lives up to this company’s reputation for awesomely bad DVD transfers. Sound quality is OK but the picture quality is truly and spectacularly atrocious.
Shanty Tramp is great fun from beginning to end. If you’re an exploitation movie fan it’s worth putting up with Alpha Video’s horrible DVD just for the sheer glorious sleaziness of this movie.