Monday, January 04, 2016

Truck Turner

After Isaac Hayes won the Academy Award for writing the hit “Theme from Shaft,” the funky song from MGM’s pioneering blaxploitation film SHAFT, someone got it into his head that Hayes could act. After churning out an Italian crime movie, THREE TOUGH GUYS (Lino Ventura and Fred Williamson were the others), Hayes signed on to play the title character in AIP’s TRUCK TURNER, for which he would also compose the score.

Directed by talented Roger Corman alumnus Jonathan Kaplan (THE STUDENT TEACHERS) from a screenplay cobbled together by Oscar Williams (BLACK BELT JONES), Michael Allin (ENTER THE DRAGON), Jerry Wilkes, and an uncredited Leigh Chapman (DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY), the action-packed TRUCK TURNER casts Hayes as bounty hunter “Mack Truck” Turner, who teams up with partner Jerry (Alan Weeks) to bring in bad guys who have jumped bail. No stranger to violence, Turner kills a pimp during a shootout, which marks the hunter for death. Foul-mouthed madam Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols, raising a few Trekkers’ eyebrows) promises her stable of call girls (who include HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD’s Tara Strohmeier as “Turnpike”) to the pimp who knocks Turner off.

Hayes is less than convincing when reciting dialogue, though there’s no denying he has a physical presence. He also has nice chemistry with Alan Weeks, who helps carry the film in the early going with crude but funny banter. Yaphet Kotto, fresh off LIVE AND LET DIE and unhappy to be doing a blaxploitation movie, plays Harvard Blue, the pimp most likely to collect Dorinda’s bounty, and Kaplan regular Dick Miller (NIGHT CALL NURSES) as a bail bondsman is always a joy. Beyond the performances, the action carries the day, as Kaplan barely lets ten minutes go by without a bloody R-rated shootout or chase. Not that he takes it seriously — TRUCK TURNER is a very funny picture, which helps the violence go down easily. Annazette Chase (THE MACK), who plays Turner’s special lady, later played Hayes’ daughter in a ROCKFORD FILES episode.

1 comment:

Stephen Mertz said...

I saw this one upon its initial release in a rough part of town; i.e., I was the only white boy in close to a full house. It was a fun & memorable night of constant, good-natured banter between the audience and what was happening on screen, the women commenting on how fine Issac Hayes was, the men hooting it up over the violence and abundance of foxy ladies and everyone commenting on the clothes. Haven't had the heart to see it since.