TRACKDOWN (1976; Just For the Hell Of It).
Cultures clash in the name of B-movie exploitation when a rural cutie ditches her boring life and is reeled into prostitution, and a good ol' boy cowboy locks horns with big city ethnic stereotypes. This West Coast mix of McCLOUD and THE SEARCHERS is a simple, brainlessly efficient programmer that delivers on its generic premise, while providing a showcase for the limited acting chops of top-billed Jim Mitchum (Robert's eldest son)... One day, while Montana rancher Jim Calhoun (Mitchum) is off riding the range, his blonde teenage sister Betsy (Karen Lamm) secretly boards a bus to Los Angeles. Of course, within seconds of hitting Hollywood Boulevard, this pretty rube has her suitcase and cash stolen by a Chicano gang. Then she's romanced by a swarthy Latin romeo named Chucho (Erik Estrada, a year before CHiPs made him a lunchbox icon), unaware that he's connected to the gang who robbed her! Less than 20 minutes in, poor Betsy has been gang raped by pot-smoking cholos, introduced to a local pimp (Ray Sharkey, with his polyester shirt unbuttoned down to his navel), sold for $500 to gangster Johnny Dee (Vince Cannon), and transformed into a cash cow callgirl by a high-class-madam (Anne Archer). When Calhoun hits L.A. in his pick-up truck to find his runaway 17-year-old kin, the police are worthless and the only caring individual is (pre-THAT'S INCREDIBLE!) Cathy Lee Crosby, who runs a girls' shelter and is charmed by Calhoun's laid-back, no-bullshit attitude. Ironically, while Calhoun pounds the street, Betsy embraces the idea of selling her coochie for C-notes. That is, until she meets her first S&M john. In the final half-hour, bull-headed Calhoun and Chucho (who's now smitten with Betsy) go into trackdown mode and confront Johnny Dee, as all logic is tossed into the nearest dumpster... 6'-3" Mitchum inherited his pop's imposing physique but not one iota of his screen presence -- he's laconic to the point of being sedated -- as fish-out-of-water Calhoun encounters the city's "weirdos" and deviants," gets hit on by a gay dude and jumped by a trio of trannies. At least he's believable enough in the fisticuffs department. Elsewhere, Archer's role is one-note, Estrada has no concept of subtlety, and Karen Lamm (who was twice married to Beach Boy burn-out Dennis Wilson) is particularly vacuous. The tawdry story by (future Heidi Fleiss boyfriend) Ivan Nagy is nothing original, but director Richard T. Heffron (best known for TV-movie classics such as DEATH SCREAM and OUTRAGE) keeps it rolling along, with workmanlike cinematography by Gene Polito (UP IN SMOKE, COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT). Though no revenge classic, it's solid, nostalgic fun on a slow night.
© 2008 by Steven Puchalski.