THE PLOT THUS FAR
This is a powerful drama about a young woman who stumbles into a nightmare land of hijacking and humiliation while driving cross-country from California to New York.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
“Jackson County Jail” qualifies as one of those great legendary rarities: it’s a 70’s redneck drive-in exploitation movie that not only delivers the goods and then some, but also the kind of gritty, top-notch, fairly plausible flick that both wholly earns and completely lives up to its killer cult status. Mark Miller’s remarkably artful and assured direction plays a key role in making the film the grind-house classic that it is: the quick, unrelenting pace never let’s up for a minute, the action scenes are rousing and marvelously choreographed, and the solid, pretty complicated and arresting narrative hooks the viewer from the get-go. Moreover, the film’s astute depiction of the relative differences and similarities between cops and criminals is wickedly subversive: The crooks for the most part are loyal, honorable and compassionate folks while a majority of the police are total assholes.
This deliciously amoral masterstroke, a typically twisted piece of 70’s B-movie nihilism which boldly bucks convention, lifts “Jackson County Jail” well above the rut of your standard-issue by-the-numbers formula drive-in fare. Pity poor Dinah Hunter (Mimieux). One minute she’s a bigshot ad executive in Hollywood; the next, she’s ducking cop bullets somewhere in fly-over country. It’s a yuppie nightmare all the way for poor Dinah, a steady downhill once she tries a cross-country car ride. On the way she meets homicidal kids, a chiseling waitress, a righteous cop, and a prison guard from heck. No wonder she’s on the run with cool dude Coley (Jones). How else can you deal with a cross section of Roger Corman’s rural America. Next time she better take the plane like other bi-coastal types. Corman really hit pay dirt with hillbilly epics like Boxcar Bertha (1972), Big Bad Mama (1974), Crazy Mama (1975), and this one. One look at these and you’d think rural America is just as bloody and hormonally driven as big city America. But these epics are also in the great tradition of the American B-movie, those cheap productions that show guts, energy, and style. Sure, a flick like JCJ is also what some might call vulgar and exploitative, which it is.
The DVD comes with a grindhouse mode that shares with the double feature option of “Caged Heat”. The commentary, interviews and related publicity materials seem to be ports from a prior DVD release. All and all, it’s pretty fun and it gives the average viewer a chance to experience the good old fashioned world of crap cinema. However, Tommy Lee Jones remains the only person that can act in this film. In the end, I’d still recommend a purchase.