Tuesday, 2 April 2013
'Gator Bait (1974)
Redneck sheriff’s deputy Billy Boy (Clude Ventura) and his even dumber friend Ben Bracken are in their boat lying in wait for Desiree Thibodeau (Claudia Jennings). They intend to rape her. This proves to be a bad idea since Desiree is a lot smarter than they are, and it all goes badly wrong and ends in a shooting. Billy Boy, in a state of panic, runs back home to his daddy the sheriff and lays the blame for the shooting on Desiree.
Now the sheriff realises, to his considerable consternation, that he not only has to break the bad news to Ben’s father T. J. Bracken (Sam Gilman), he will also have to go into the very depths of the swamp to find Desiree.
Since Desiree knows the swamps better than anybody, and since she’s wild and dangerous at the best of times, it’s not an enticing prospect.
Sheriff Joe Bob (Bill Thurman), Billy Boy, T. J. and T. J.’s other two sons Pete and Leroy set off into the depths of the swamp. Leroy is a failed rapist, while Pete is an enthusiastic would-be rapist. He gets in some practice on his sister. This is not a very pleasant community.
Nobody knows exactly where Desiree lives with her brother and sister, except that it is very deep in the swamp lands. Finding her house proves to easier than expected, but this has disastrous and tragic consequences.
Soon afterwards the truth starts to dawn on the five men hunting Desiree that they’re no longer the hunters. It is now Desiree who is hunting them. She is a patient hunter. She intends that her revenge should be savage but slow.
The acting is mostly fairly basic. Most of the characters are repellant and I guess you could say the acting is effective since they come across as very repellant indeed. The exception to this is Desiree, and Claudia Jennings easily walks off with the acting honours. Jennings was a former Playboy Playmate of the Year who tried to convert her brief centrefold fame into an acting career. She made a series of low-budget movies before her tragic death in a car accident in 1979 at the age of 29. She was not a great actress but she was more than adequate for the roles she got, and she’s fairly convincing as the wild Cajun swamp girl.
Low-budget husband-and-wife film-making team Ferd and Beverly Sebastian were the people responsible for 'Gator Bait. They use the Louisiana locations quite skillfully and those locations are the movie’s biggest strengths. The various boat chase scenes are done fairly well. The script, by Beverly Sebastian, is as vicious as the characters.
Despite the title alligators play a minor role in the film. You actually have to feel sorry for the ‘gators, having neighbours like the Brackens. This is really a hicksploitation film, and contains just about every stereotype about rural communities that you could possibly imagine. Everyone is in-bred and everyone is dumb. Everyone is corrupt. The sheriff is fat, lazy and crooked. It’s the sort of representation of rural life that city-dwellers tend to enjoy.
It’s been released on a DVD-R by a small outfit called Panama Films. The transfer is fullframe and there’s a small amount of print damage. The picture quality and sound quality are acceptable enough for the modest price being asked.
'Gator Bait is a sleazy and rather unpleasant little movie. Those things could be forgiven, or at least tolerated, if it offered more in the way of entertainment value. As it is, it’s not really worth the effort unless you have fond memories of renting movies like this in the early days of VHS.