I’ve been watching movies about gangsters and bootleggers for a project that I’m doing (more on that someday) and came across a flick from 1974 called Bootleggers. Having no real idea what it was about, I got the movie, popped it in the DVD player and was greeted with this:
For those not in the know, Charles B. Pierce directed Boggy Creek II, the lovable movie about bigfoot that was riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He also directed the first Boggy Creek movie, but that was a documentary. Turns out Pierce has directed a whole slew of films, mostly taking place in rural Arkansas.
And Arkansas was the setting for Bootleggers. The plot is basically the Duke of Hazzard. Old guy runs a still, his younger kin run the liquor for him. Rival bootleggers and the cops want them to stop. Hilarity ensues.
Oddly, while Boggy Creek II was a fairly horrible movie (wonderfully so), this one wasn’t so bad. It was amazing, but it was enjoyable. I’ll say one thing about Pierce, he knows how to capture rural Arkansas. You can tell there’s a real love there. The folks are crackers, but they’re his crackers.
Bootleggers was made in 1974, and if you’ve only seen Boggy Creek II, there are some things you need to know. While Pierce himself starred in Boggy Creek, he stays behind the camera for the entirety of Bootleggers. That’s not to say that you won’t recognize some Pierce regulars. Remember the skinny shirtless guy in Boggy Creek II? Well that’s Chuck Pierce, Jr, Charles B. Pierce’s son. He’s in this one too. He plays the main character as a kid. Some of the locals and extras are also familiar faces.
But the most welcome face is that of Jimmy Clem, Boggy Creek II‘s very own Crenshaw. In Bootleggers, he plays a good ol’ boy named Big-un Woodall. Seriously, his name is Big-un. Apparently, he’s Pierce’s go-to local, as he’s appeared in eight of the twelve movies that Pierce directed.
Filling out the cast is Slim Pickens and Jaclyn Smith (who went on to be one of Charlie’s Angels – the only one who stuck around for all five seasons).
The movie isn’t a masterpiece, but it sure does look pretty. It’s beautifully shot and makes great use of the Arkansas landscape. This is probably due 100% to the cinematographer, Tak Fujimoto. He went on to bigger and better things, getting his first big break as the cinematographer for Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. After that, he worked his magic on Silence of the Lambs and became M. Night Shyamalan’s regular director of photography.