Hot Summer in Barefoot County (1974): Moonshine in the Sunshine
Living in the South, moonshine is something of a cultural heritage, and very close to me there’s a section of the county known as The Dark Corner where 'shine flowed like water to hear the historians tell it. A couple of years ago, they even made it legal to manufacture and sell moonshine around here, and let me tell you, if you haven’t had a cool glass of Apple Pie moonshine on a warm summer day then you’re missing out. Today’s film is just the type to watch while sipping away your cares. Hot Summer in Barefoot County sounds like a porn title aimed at Tarantino as a target audience (and with the amount of buxom barefoot ladies on display it still might be), but it’s really a dose of hicksploitation complete with hillbilly honeys, sputtering stills, and fast cars kickin’ up clouds of dust as they speed away from the fuzz.
Stella Holcomb and her daughters, Mary Anne (Sherry Robinson), Rosa Lee, and Vicky, are the best moonshiners in all of Barefoot County, and it just doesn’t seem that the local sheriff, Bull Tatem (Charles Elledge), can stop the flow of illegal booze. So in the capital, the state police dispatch Jeff Wilson (Don Jones) for an undercover operation to bring down the illegal booze. When Jeff gets to Barefoot County, he’s run off the road by a pack of rednecks lead by Cully Joe (Jeff MacKay) and crashes his car into a tree. Stella finds him, and she and the girls take him home to nurse him back to health. While he’s in their tender loving care, Jeff and Mary Anne fire up a romance, but when he finds out that the gals are behind the moonshining ring, Jeff ends up having to make a choice between love and duty.
Released in 1974 as a drive-in double feature with director Will Zens' Trucker’s Woman, Hot Summer in Barefoot County would end up with a release by Paragon Home Video before being scooped up by Troma for distribution. So while this picture might be strictly backwoods, it’s sure been given the love by them big city folk. Hot Summer in Barefoot County is predicated on Southern stereotypes; shit kickin’ rednecks, nubile country girls in cutoffs and midriff baring shirts, and inept cops with bungling sidekicks. In other words, it’s pretty much The Dukes of Hazard with 300% more girls and 100% less Waylon Jennings narration mixed with a generous portion of Thunder Road. While the film features some blink and miss it nudity, that’s not to say that the hillbilly gals aren’t the main attraction.
Sadly, the gals are not credited well, and I could only track down the name of one of them (and not even the one I thought was the cutest, Rosa Lee, which you can see to the side here). Actress Sherry Robinson, who played Mary Ann, the daughter that actually did the moonshine running, only holds one other credit to her name, H.G. Lewis’ The Gruesome Twosome, and that’s a shame. She reminded me of a down home version of Claudia Jennings, and she gave the standout performance in the film. Though, on average, that’s not saying too much. Jeff MacKay, who gave the film a great deal of the comic relief as the ever horny Cully Joe, is actually Robert Redford’s cousin, and this was his first film. He would go on to star in seven seasons of the TV show JAG, have a reoccurring role on Magnum P.I., and voice the Transformer Firelight in the original 80s cartoon.
Hot Summer in Barefoot County is not the best moonshining film out there (as that distinction would either fall on Robert Mitchum’s Thunder Road or Burt Reynolds’ White Lightning) it solidly entertains for the entirety of the ninety minute running time. However, rather than spend so much time on Cully Joe’s aggressive sexual antics, I would have liked to see a bit more in the way of car chases. Hot Summer in Barefoot County is a fun slice of drive in sleaze with a Southern twist. If you can’t enjoy the film with a tall glass of ‘shine, I recommend slipping into a pair of Daisy Dukes, kicking off your shoes, and taking it easy like we do it down South. Now, I’m not saying we all watch movies like that, but if you’ll excuse me, I have a wedgie that is calling for my attention.
Here's a Summer Treat, Troma has posted the whole shebang on YouTube. Check it out!