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  Moving Violation Absolutely Smashing
Year: 1976
Director: Charles S. Dubin
Stars: Stephen McHattie, Kay Lenz, Eddie Albert, Lonny Chapman, Will Geer, Jack Murdock, John S. Ragin, Dennis Redfield, Michael Ross Verona, Francis De Sales, Dick Miller, Richard O'Brien, Paul Linke, Jason Wingreen, George Ball, Norman Bartold, Ted Hartley
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A Sheriff (Lonny Chapman) is in heated discussion with one of his deputies, an upstart who believes he should have a cut of the corruption money the authorities are enjoying in this small town. Just as things are getting really argumentative, they are distracted by a man walking along the road and decide to stop him, warning there is no hitchhiking allowed in this county. He is Eddie Moore (Stephen McHattie), an easygoing chap who doesn't want any trouble, but when the cops start harrassing him and break his guitar he is uncharacteristically furious. They drop him at the edge of town and go on their way, leaving Eddie to approach a diner where he is immediately attracted to the counter girl, Cam Johnson (Kay Lenz) - a fateful encounter.

Moving Violation - not to be confused with the eighties Jennifer Tilly comedy Moving Violations - was one of a plethora of countryside set action flicks brought to the world by executive producer Roger Corman, his wife Julie Corman taking the more hands-on producer role. These had been inspired by the success of Bonnie and Clyde back in the late sixties, some more loosely than others, but essentially most of the couple on the run movies, whether set decades before or not, were influenced by that groundbreaking hit in some way or another. In this case, it began looking as if it was going to be a comedy, but quickly turned more serious until it all came to a head in a very sobering denouement.

Though not before a whole bunch of vehicles were trashed and crashed as Eddie and Cam flee the Sheriff, for they are witnesses to him murdering that troublesome deputy and now the lawman wants to gun them down as well to protect his reputation. These car chases were accompanied by Don Peake's banjo and fiddle tunes, as if we hadn't noticed the Bonnie and Clyde connections before, though such a soundtrack can be jarring to those expecting a squealing electric guitar solo to underline the excitement of such sequences. Fortunately, though it sounded as if it was trying out for Smokey and the Bandit a couple of years later - a blockbuster which owed no small debt to Corman's brand of down home action - we did genuinely fear for the couple's safety.

A lot of that was thanks to McHattie and Lenz who managed a degree of personality for personas which could have been strictly cardboard; their screen chemistry was not going to set the world alight, but they did convince as innocents desperately trying to find a route out of a nightmare when they were thwarted at every turn. McHattie was well on his way to status as one of Canada's top character actors, while Lenz would be familiar for Breezy where she played a free spirited hippy who happened to take her clothes off quite a bit, something she applied to many of her following roles in the seventies and eighties, though she proved to have more range than that which has had her fans lamenting she never made the A-list she was obviously capable of.

Still, some are content enough with a strong cult following, which is better than being ignored if you're an actor or actress, and if Moving Violation did not represent the greatest work of these two stars you could understand why individually they generated interest. Eddie Albert, a movie veteran by this point, also showed up as the only lawyer willing to take Eddie and Cam's case, offering a light at the end of the tunnel the script refused to give in to, making you wonder if the whole movie had something against the police, or whether they were pandering to ver kids who were sick of being pulled over by overeager cops and wanted to see them get their comeuppance. You would hope they never met a Sheriff as downright nasty as Chapman's portrayal here, a truly vile specimen who thinks his badge gives him the right to shoot anyone he wants - the next decade would have seen someone like this as the hero, worth mulling over, though not cast with someone as portly and homely as him. Eventful, then, and just engrossing enough not to waste your time - you can't argue with Dick Miller as a hapless hitman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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