This 1977 film is, for the most part, set in Alabama so I don’t know why it opens with a shot of a car driving down a country road while someone on the soundtrack sings about running moonshine down a “bad Georgia road.” Then again, I’ve been to both Alabama and California and it’s pretty obvious that, while the film may be set in the former, it was filmed in the latter. Those hills and mountains in the background definitely belong more to Hollywood than anywhere in the South.
As for the film itself, it’s about Molly Golden (Carol Lynley), a spoiled New York fashion designer who inherits an Alabama farm from an uncle that she barely knew. When Molly finds out that the land is worth $100,000, she promptly quits her job and moves to Alabama, accompanied by her friend and assistant, Larch (John Kerry and no, not that politician with the private plane). Molly is planning on selling the land and then heading back north with her money. Unfortunately, it turns out that her uncle died owing everyone in the county money so, as a result, his farm is worthless and Molly is now in debt.
What is Molly to do? Fortunately, her uncle’s two farmhands — Leroy (Gary Lockwood, who once co-starred in 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Arthur (Royal Dano) — are onhand to explain to her that her uncle was a moonshiner. Molly decides to become a moonshiner, too! Her plan is for Leroy and Arthur to do all the work and for her to make all the money.
While all of this is going on, Molly is also falling for Leroy. She doesn’t want to admit because she’s a sophisticated New Yorker while Leroy is a redneck slob. This leads to some conflict between the two of them, as she’s always talking down to Leroy and trying to deny that she’s totally in love with him. Eventually, in a deeply uncomfortable scene (all the more so because the films attempts to play it for laughs), Leroy literally forces himself on her and Molly realizes that she could be totally happy runnin’ moonshine with a barely literate hick.
I’m a Southern girl and, perhaps even more importantly, I’m enough a country girl that I usually enjoy a good moonshine and car chase film. And Bad Georgia Road gets off to a good start with an enjoyable chase scene, even if the road that the cars are roaring down is clearly located on the West Coast instead of the Deep South. But things go off the rails as soon as Molly and Larch show up in Alabama. What there is of a plot plays out at a painfully slow pace and there’s absolutely zero romantic chemistry between Gary Lockwood and Carol Lynley. On the plus side, Royal Dano is enjoyable eccentric as Arthur, an old-timer who may not be educated but who knows everything that needs to be known about both the Bible and moonshine.
Bad Georgia Road is the type of 70s film that was specifically made to play in Southern drive-ins, where audiences would undoubtedly appreciate the film’s portrait of a clueless Yankee getting outsmarted by a bunch of country folk. (For me and probably most other people, that’s actually the main appeal of the moonshine genre.) But even if you think that Molly is a totally smug and self-righteous New Yorker, she still deserves better than to get stuck with Leroy, a man who looks like he probably reeks of chicken feed and spilled beer. Especially if you’ve seen his personable performances in films like Model Shop and 2001, it’s hard not to feel bad for Gary Lockwood while watching this film. What did that bad Georgia road do to him?
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