Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hick flicks: the rise and fall of redneck cinema (2005), Scott Von Doviak.

Oh yeah?

Scott Von Doviak's argument that Days of Thunder (1990) is a soulless, corporate rip off of Stroker Ace (1983) is just one example why Hick Flicks might be the best book of film analysis I've read for a long time.  Days of Thunder is basically a remake of Stroker Ace, not a particularly well-respected Burt Reynolds vehicle.  Von Doviak uses it as an example to show how in around ten years the regional "hick flick" had been replaced by slick flicks.  "[Days of Thunder] is a strictly formulaic Eighties Cruise vehicle that already seemed dated when it arrived on screens in the summer of 1990," he writes, "...unfortunately the picture surrounding [Cruise] is strictly ersatz, making its ostensibly gen-yew-wine touches - like the cameos by actual NASCAR drivers...- all the more unconvincing." With this handy slapdown of Days of Thunder in favour of a bottom of the barrel Burt Reynolds movie - when he was at his Burt Reynoldsiest - Doviak nails it!  High five and pass the Mountain Dew!

Von Doviak limits himself to southern-fried 70s B's -- no to porn, biker movies and foreign fare.  Yes to anything wearing cutoff jean shorts, preferably pushing the speed limit!  His writing style is like listening to an affable yet unpretentious moviegoer.  It's clear he knows what postmodernism and feminist readings are, but mercifully he doesn't feel the need to wow us with academese.  His reasonable, lighthearted approach means that  the easily dismissible genre of "hick flicks"  has been given a fair study.

Boy, do they like their cars and trucks down south.  Hick flicks have NASCAR, truckers, CB lingo, even films that give the cars names and their own credits!  But again, Von Doviak's book goes just the extra inch in giving the historical context and rationale.  The traditions behind all this car-lovin' comes from when, during Prohibition, moonshine was made down south and the fastest drivers raced up north (evading cops enroute) where it would be distributed from bigger cities.  See, I didn't know that!  I also had no idea that in an effort to save on gas, Nixon proposed a reduction of the speed limit to 55 miles an hour for trucks and buses, a move that was not popular with commercial trucking associations.  A little background goes a long way in understanding the overwhelming popularity of Smokey and the Bandit, a movie that in 1977 was second place only to Star Wars at the box office!

This book was so delightful I would like to personally request a prequel.  Sure, Robert Mitchum's Thunder Road is held up as a big granddaddy to the genre, but what came before?  The regional theatres sure played a lot of cruddy "classic era" B's....!


Max said...

Lol, my girlfriend loves hick flicks. She is a self-proclaimed hick haha

Scott said...

Thanks for the kind words! You obviously have excellent taste.

Peresblancs said...

Unfortunately my palate wasn't strong enough to get me through Smokey and the Bandit II... or III... but the book was great!

PS I would happily hire myself out as a research assistant for future lowbrow projects you may be working on, to be paid in breakfast burritos.