It’s the early ‘70s, and Isaac Hayes hasn’t been suckered into becoming a Scientologist yet (that happened in 1993). He is making badass funk music, like his Oscar-winning score for Shaft. He soon was lined up to play the title character in Truck Turner, but he had a hurdle to get over before he could take on the role. Originally it was supposed to be a part for Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum or Ernest Borgnine, but they couldn’t get any of them. So, AIP’s Larry Gordon said: “Well, we can’t get any of them, so now it’s a black picture.” Nice to see that Hollywood always considered “black films” a lesser product despite them being big hits for their studios.
Truck Turner ‘s titular character is one badass bounty hunter, and he is soon on the case of Gator, a pimp who has skipped bail. He has a bounty-hunting partner, Jerry, and a woman, Annie, who is in jail for stealing a TV set and is soon to be released. Gator is soon eliminated, but Gator’s woman is pissed and puts a hit out on Turner. Can he survive or will he be wiped out?
The film contains one of Isaac Hayes’s better screen roles, although he only did a couple that were of note, with The Duke in Escape from New York being the best known. Of course, being the voice of Chef in South Park has eclipsed his screen work. He perfectly gets into the role and, being a guy on the large side, has a bit of heft, which suits the character. It’s also filled with some great character actors, such as Dick Miller, Scatman Crothers and Yaphet Kotto as Turner’s main antagonist. Nichelle Nichols totally steals it as Gator’s woman, and has some great lines.
Isaac Hayes, of course, supplies the score with his group The Movement. It’s reminiscent of the Shaft score, and is considered by many aficionados to be its equal. It’s one of two scores he did in 1974: he also did the music for Three Tough Guys, another blaxploitation staple in which he starred alongside Fred Wiliamson. Three Tough Guys seems to have fallen into public domain, but hopefully somebody can restore it to its ‘70s glory at some point.
The film was directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who is quite a decent director, so that certainly makes it one of the better blaxploitation films. It comes at the tail end of the real golden period for the genre, which was 1970 to 1974. Kaplan would go on to direct one of the very best teen rebellion films, Over The Edge, which has been an enduring cult classic. The film even has a character named Joe Dante (Dante, who has been friends with Kaplan since their Corman/AIP days.)
The disc is fairly barebones, but carries over the commentary track from Jonathan Kaplan. It sadly is missing the “Trailers From Hell” commentary, but that’s easily available online.