Anna (Lieux Dressler) runs a roadside whorehouse for truckers in the deserts of New Mexico, but what she doesn't know is her business is in jeopardy when the man funding it is shot dead in a hot tub - some mobsters wish to muscle in on her act. Another part of her moneymaking exercise involves allowing her girls to pose as hitchhikers and hijack passing trucks so that their contents can be stolen and the rigs themselves can be repainted and sold on too, and Anna's daughter Rose (Claudia Jennings) is part of that side of her operation. However, Rose is getting restless...
Sort of the seventies trucker flick equivalent of Mildred Pierce, Truck Stop Women might have been forgotten as with many of its ilk because of its cast of unknowns, yet there was that leading lady to contend with, and she was the much-respected Queen of the Drive-In, Claudia Jennings. She became a star first by posing as Playboy's Playmate of the Year in 1970, which quickly translated into a movie career where her stock in trade were gutsy gals who could beat men at their own game, but were not averse to taking their clothes off for them if it meant she retained the upper hand (or the upper bosom). Here there was a variation on that formula.
Yes, Claudia got to show a little range by playing the bad girl, and not a bad girl the audience is supposed to respect, nope, her Rose was an out and out villain here. That left the viewer in a strange position: Jennings looked and carried herself like the heroine, but everything she did here was a turn off, whether it be robbing the trucks or graduating to more serious crimes as she attempts to wrest control of her mother's business away from her and install herself as the next big thing in highway ne'erdowells. If nothing else, she demonstrated we were still intrigued by Jennings even when she took the role of a character who was almost totally without redeeming features.
Of course, this was part of a whole genre of American movies of the nineteen-seventies which took to the roads and found adventures there, perhaps reaching their apex with Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, but that was more family friendly, for with director Mark L. Lester in charge Truck Stop Women was an example of the meaner end of the scale. No character here was entirely admirable, leaving us to sympathise with who we judged as the least of all the evils we witnessed, and that left Anna the heroine by default. We could relate her longsuffering mother to the type of female we had seen in many a classic movie, rendering this a curious kind of echo of a Golden Age Joan Crawford film.
In fact, you could just about envisage Joan taking the role of Anna in something like this if she'd opted to carry on her career into the seventies, though you doubt she would have approved of the degree of nudity featured. Lester was well aware of what his crowd wanted, so not five minutes went by without some actress doffing her togs, including Jennings, which a given in her movies. Also appearing was cult model Uschi Digard, possibly the most famous face in this aside from Claudia's, if indeed you were looking at her face. But it was the plot which gave this its edge, a take no prisoners gangster yarn really, where Rose teams up with some Mafia types - we can tell they're from the Mob because Smith (John Martino) keeps using his catchphrase "Fuggedaboudit!" Her mother doesn't realise what a snake in the grass she has raised, leaving a tension about when she will find out and what she will do when she does, if she's still alive, that is. Not top drawer with it being so unsympathetic as a whole, but memorably gritty for all that, and a must if you liked trucker country tunes (there were loads here).
Prolific American director/producer who specialises in crowd-pleasing B-movies, usually action or horror. Earlier films include more serious works like the award-winning documentary Twilight of the Mayas and Steel Arena, plus 1976's hilarious exploiter Truck Stop Women, Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw and Roller Boogie, with Linda Blair.