Written and directed by Gary Graver (better known to some as adult filmmaker Robert McCallum), who cut his teeth working as a cinematographer and director of photography for Orson Welles, Roger Corman and, oddly enough, Al Adamson. This one, according to the text on the back of the keepcase packaging, started off as a gritty thriller, more of a horror movie more in line with something akin to Deliverance but was re-edited to integrate some comedic scenes. As such, the film is completely disjointed and neither good as a thriller or suspense film, or as a comedy. In fact, it has very little of anything going for it all, aside from some genuine curiosity value.
Karl Stover (Cameron Mitchell of Viva Knievel! and The Toolbox Murders) is a bitter drunk of a man. He treats his wife like crap and for the most part, he's a jerk. He decides to take his son, Buddy Owen (Mitchell's real life son, Channing Mitchell), away for the weekend with a few of his drunken jerk buddies to teach him how to 'drink, hunt, and f*ck.' They claim they're going to make a man out of the meek boy (who in reality, looks to be in his thirties here, making it a little hard to suspend our disbelief), whether he likes it or not.
The guys grab their gear, their guns, and their booze and hop into a big ol' pick up truck and off they head into the mountains to hunt rabbits. After a run in with a cop, they hit a local watering hole where a country and western band is playing and a wet t-shirt contest is going on. After some beers and some dumb jokes, Buddy Owen starts taking a shining to the girl behind the bar, Fay (Maureen McCormick who will always be Marcia Brady to most of us). The affections seem to be returned for Buddy Owen, as later that night he's got Fay back at his hotel room and they get to getting down. As they're doing the do, who should show up but his dad and his drunken buddies, who storm into the room and have their way with Fay, much to Buddy's dismay.
With Marcia Brady successfully gang raped and Buddy's male ego beaten to a pulp, tensions start to mount when the group goes hunting the next day. The more his dad and his friends pick on him and tease him, the angrier Buddy Owen gets and the more he thinks about how they screwed up his chances with the cute bar maid, the more his rage grows until they might regret being out there in the desert with him alone, especially seeing as they've literally just handed him some loaded guns.
Poorly paced, this one drags way more than you'd expect it to. The story takes its sweet time to get going and the movie feels very padded. Completely unnecessary scenes of character development end up going nowhere and rendering themselves useless in the process while sub plots about cheating girlfriends or weepy mothers kind of wander off into the sunset never to be seen or heard from again. The only thing this one really has going for it is an interesting cast. Aside from the Mitchells and McCormick, Peter Jason (of They Live and about a billion TV appearances) shows up here as one of the drunken hunting buddies, as does Adam Wade (who had a blink and you'll miss it spot in the original Shaft). April Sommers, who had a small part in Al Adamson's Jim Kelly vehicle, Death Dimension, also has a small part. You'll see a lot of recognizable faces in the film as it plays out, which makes it moderately interesting as you'll probably spend the better part of the movie trying to figure out where you've seen them before.
Adding to the 'huh?' factor of the film is the fact that it ends on such a strange note that you can't help but at least remember it. Without going into too much detail and spoiling the obvious plot, let it suffice to say that McCormick busts out her guitar and treats us to a somber country and western love song before the end credits hit the screen. While she's obviously lip synching on camera, she did do the vocals for the song and is credited with writing and performing it in the end scroll (she did release a CD of country music in 1995, making the film just a little prophetic in that regard).
The curiosity factor isn't enough to save this one, however. The pacing is so bad and the plot so completely disjointed and, quite frankly, dull that it really pulls the film down to depths from which it cannot escape. On a 'so bad it's good' level the movie does offer some mild camp value in the dated fashions and stereotypes but even then there's not enough of it to make the movie any more fun.
Media Blasters presents Texas Lightning in a 1.33.1 fullframe transfer. Whether or not this is the film's original aspect ratio is debatable but the compositions look alright and there aren't a lot of cropped heads to note, indicating that maybe fullframe is the way to go on this one. Unfortunately, the video quality leaves quite a bit to be desired. The transfer is overly dark in spots (during the opening titles you can barely read the right hand side of the title card) and the color is really washed out. There's print damage and heavy grain throughout and the image is consistently dirty looking (and not in a good way).
The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is full of background hiss throughout and suffers from more than a few minor audio drop outs. There are pops here and there and at times the dialogue sounds muffled. For the most part, you can follow everything, but it's obvious that very little, if any, effort was put into cleaning up the audio for this release and it all sounds very flat.
Extras on this release are limited to a newly created trailer for Texas Lightning that is simply a montage of clips from the film with some video generated titles overtop, and trailers for four other Media Blasters/Guilty Pleasures releases, such as Banned and Hell's Bloody Devils. Chapter selection is also included and the disc includes some static menus with the theme song playing out over top of them.
Texas Lightning is a lousy film that gets an equally lousy presentation. Bad video quality, crappy audio, and a lack of any real extras don't add up to much, particularly when the movie isn't any good. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.