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  Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw She Makes You Wonder
Year: 1976
Director: Mark L. Lester
Stars: Marjoe Gortner, Lynda Carter, Jesse Vint, Merrie Lynn Ross, Belinda Balaski, Gene Drew, Peggy Stewart, Gerrit Graham, John Durren, Virgil Frye, James Gammon, Howard R. Kirk, Aly Yoder, Joe Kurtzo, Chuck Russell, Richard Breeding, Jesse Price, Kip Allen
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lyle Wheeler (Marjoe Gortner) makes money with his sharpshooting and quickdrawing abilities, but he could always do with more. When his car breaks down at a garage the owner tells him he must get a part for it that involves him going to the supplier, which could take twenty minutes, Lyle has no choice but to wait. As he does so, a travelling leather goods salesman pulls up and strikes up a conversation, trying to persuade him to purchase his wares, but Lyle politely declines, though he is interested in the salesman's fancy car. So much so that he climbs into the driver's seat and zooms off!

Yes, they were still releasing Bonnie and Clyde rip-offs even almost ten years after the Arthur Penn movie had first appeared, and Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw was one of those which drive-in specialists A.I.P. made. There was a note of interest about this one, more than many of the genre at least, and that was for the leading lady playing Bobbie Jo, as she was Lynda Carter, a former Miss World U.S.A. who at the time was making her biggest impression as Wonder Woman on television. She made an impression here as well, mainly because this item became notorious as the movie where Wonder Woman took her clothes off. Naked and on hallucinogenics, too!

Actually, if you were watching for that and that alone then it wouldn't take up more than a minute of your time, but there was a proper story around the nude scenes where the waitress Bobbie Jo was led astray by Lyle, who notices her at a diner and decides, "That's the lady for me". For some reason, probably because Gortner was the most famous actor in the movie at the point it was produced, Carter's character is dazzled by Lyle and agrees to join him on his escapades, though to be fair she is unaware of his criminality until he begins to slip up and by that stage she is emotionally attached to him. But you could see where it was going from early on, which didn't help the drama any.

The trouble here was that while we might not be supposed to be wholly sympathetic to Lyle, Bobbie Jo was set up as the heroine, which was fine for the first half hour, but after that you were treated to such sights as Wonder Woman grabbing an assault weapon and gunning down innocent people - wait a sec, weren't we supposed to like her? So how can we dismiss that? She has a best friend in Essie Beaumont (Belinda Balaski, a familiar face from Joe Dante movies) and she has the morals that Lyle lacks, so when Essie leaves the picture it appears to give her pal free rein to act as immorally as she can, which may be part of a tradition of bad girls in exploitation flicks, but doesn't suit the character nor the actress, leaving the audience all at sea when they should be caring about what happens next.

Also along for the ride of lawlessness are Bobbie Jo's sister Pearl (Merrie Lynn Ross, who took a co-producer credit here) and her boyfriend Slick Callahan (Jesse Vint, another familiar face from this sort of thing), and before long the four of them are robbing banks and blasting away at anyone who tries to stop them. Wait, you may say, shouldn't we be on the side of the police? Well the film doesn't appear to like them either, and Sheriff Hicks (Gene Drew) is a real piece of work who thinks nothing of opening fire no matter if he and his men are aiming at the right person or not - one memorable scene sees them massacre a couple in a motel room by mistake, but Hicks waves away this grave error accusing them of being sinners anyway. Lyle considers himself a descendent of the classic outlaws of the Old West (his idol is Billy the Kid), so if anything the film illustrates how those revered gunmen were little more than greedy thugs like he is, an unusual tack in that it resists romanticism, but resists entertainment too. Music by Barry De Vorzon.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Mark L. Lester  (1946 - )

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.

The 1980s was Lester's most successful decade, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Firestarter, Class of 1984 and Armed and Dangerous all finding huge success on home video. Other films include Class of 1999, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Night of the Running Man and Blowback.

 
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