Borat

 (1997)

by Johnny Web

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 song, amigo.)

The boy 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.

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:

D

There's really nothing of merit to recommend except the one and only instance of breast exposure from Marcia Brady.

NUDITY REPORT

  • Maureen McCormick - brief breasts
  • Lisa De Leeuw - breasts
  • Danone Camden - breasts below see-through negligee
  • Various contestants in a wet t-shirt contest show precisely what you would expect.

THE CRITICS AND ACADEMIES

No major reviews online.

 

THE BOX OFFICE

Not available.

 

THE PEOPLE

   
2.9 IMDB summary (of 10)
   

 

The DIRECTOR

The film's auteur had a career just as schizophrenic as the movie itself. As Gary Graver, he was the personal cinematographer to an aging Orson Welles on such projects as The Orson Welles Show, The Orson Welles Magic Show and Moby Dick. As Rob McCallum, he directed about a hundred XXX movies with titles like:

 

Maverdick (1995) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

Wet & Slippery (1995) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

Hard-on Copy (1994) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

Tail Taggers 101 (1994) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

Flesh and Boner (1993) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

Heads or Tails? (1993) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

The Joi Fuck Club (1993) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

One Million Heels B.C. (1993) (as Akdov Telmig)

Victoria's Secret Life (1991) (V) (as Robert McCallum)

(If you hadn't noticed, Akdov Telmig is Vodka Gimlet spelled backwards.)

 

The list could go on and on, but I think you have the idea. In between his PG career and his XXX career, he managed to sandwich an R-rated compromise career under his real name, as the cinematographer for many workmanlike Corman-style films like Bikini Hoe-Down, Deathsport, Chatanooga Choo-Choo, and Grand Theft Auto.

Although the strange and inappropriate mixture of comedy and drama in Texas Lightning is not Graver's fault, it seems somehow fitting, since it reflects the diverse range of projects he worked on in his career.

Serious film historians will probably not devote many chapters to Gary Graver's contribution to world cinema, but one cannot claim he was ever unemployable. He obviously had enough talent and professionalism that he was always in demand. He directed more than 100 films, and worked as the cinematographer on nearly 200. His career, which began in the mid sixties as a director and cinematographer of drive-in movies, continued to flourish until 2006, when he passed away from cancer in November, aged 68. He had been the cinematographer on 29 more films in this new millennium!

 

 

 

DVD INFO

* full screen (full frame)

* approximately VHS quality: dark and grainy and washed-out, with poorly synched mono sound.

* no significant features