To see the poster art and read the tag lines for
Texas Lightning is to prepare for a good ol' boy romp in the best Hal Needham
tradition of fast pick-up trucks, easy women, brawling, beer drinking, hound
dogs, three-named cowboys, dumb-ass lawmen and firearms. The cover of the DVD shows a young guy in
blue jeans sitting on a giant cowboy hat, raising a Budweiser and surrounded
by girls in cowboy boots, halters and short shorts. The promo reads, "they're stormin' on the taverns,
thunderin' over the roads, and just plain havin' a good ol' time."
Now try to reconcile that with this plot summary:
A burly, manly bully of a country dad (Cameron Mitchell) wants his son
(Cameron's real-life son, Channing Mitchell) to stop bein' such
momma's boy and start actin' like a real man, redneck style. Pursuing this
goal, he forces the kid to go
rabbit hunting with him and his two pudgy, ign'rant friends. It will
be the boy's rite of passage into manhood, a chance for the older generation
to teach him to shoot and drink and chase poontang. Cuz' when Texas
Lightning strikes, a boy becomes a man. (Hey, that's what it says in the
tries to be a good sport as the three assholes rag mercilessly on his ass,
so the first day of hunting goes fairly well, but that night turns into a
disaster. At the local honky-tonk, the young man scores with a pretty
barmaid (Maureen McCormick of the Brady Bunch), probably because she's never
seen anyone act all shy and polite in a shitkicker bar. The kid gets Marcia
Brady back to his room and is making love to her when dad and his
dentally-challenged cronies show up and decide to throw the kids a proper
shivoree. Their idea of a good time is to knock the kid unconscious and rape
the living daylights out of Marcia.
The next day, the older guys act as if nothing improper had happened, but
the kid goes ballistic during the hunting expedition. Instead of shooting at
rabbits and lizards, he starts blasting away at the older men. Finally he
takes their truck, strands them in the desert, drives back to the
honky-tonk, listens to Marcia Brady sing a sad-ass country lament (slash)
love song, and apologizes to her. They kiss and make up. While the closing
music plays, the film shows a couple of minutes of ... er ... "highlights"
from scenes we have watched throughout the film, for no other reason other
than (presumably) to fill out a
contractually obligated running time.
Yup, just a good ol' Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Dukes of Hazzard kind of premise -
"just plain havin' a good ol' time," like a dad
participating in the rape of his son's first love, and the son in turn
attempting patricide, then stranding his dad in the desert.
Some years ago, the VHS video box for this film called it a "warm, funny
story of a boy growing up."
WTF is going on here? These pieces don't fit together.
Well, they kinda do if you know the film's history.
It seems that the film was not originally designed to be a "good ol' boy" movie.
Writer/director Gary Graver originally created a serious drama called "The
Boys," which would have been a sensationalistic shocker in the manner
of I Spit on Your Grave. Producer Edward
L. Montoro said that was not what he was paying for, and forced the director to
re-cut what he had and to shoot additional comedic footage to turn the film
into a proper Needhamesque drive-in flick. The final cut includes a zany wet t-shirt contest
which occupies substantial running time, for
example, and most of the action is accompanied by hard-drivin', feel-good bluegrass
guitar and banjo music in the general toe-tappin' style of the Foggy Mountain Boys.
According to IMDb, "The new version was released to the theaters as Texas
Lightning, while the original cut of The Boys remains officially unreleased
to this day. An illegitimate video was released in Finland in the early
90's. There might also be other European bootleg editions."
The net result of the re-cut was what you have probably already deduced,
a film with an inappropriately casual attitude toward very serious and tragic
matters which would be better suited for a drama,
as originally planned. One thinks that the ultimate fate of dad and his
rapist cronies, unresolved in the theatrical cut, must have been far more
gruesome in the director's original cut. Ultimately, one concludes that the
film's bottom-dwelling IMDb rating is well deserved because of its
cavalier attitude toward rape as well as its almost complete lack of merit, even on the guilty pleasure level, save for some rare breast
exposure from Marcia Brady. Even that savory flesh is ruined by a DVD
transfer which is approximately VHS quality: dark and grainy and washed-out,
with poorly synched mono sound. (Marcia Brady's song is post-dubbed, and
very poorly at that, although it really is her voice.)
Not only are the movie and the DVD bad, but if the marketers really
wanted to use that poster to sell us on a good ol' boy romp, it should not
have shown the kid drinkin' a can of Budweiser. Orderin' a can of Bud in a
Texas honky-tonk is pretty much a sure sign that you're a tourist from
Oxfordshire, Podner. You might as well come in wearin' one a them little
derby hats and swingin' your brolly like John Steed. Why don't you just
order a fuckin' Guinness while you're at it? Everyone knows that any self-respectin'
Texas cowpoke would be drinkin' a Lone Star out of a longneck bottle.