|Reviews & Columns|
TV on DVD
Reviews by Studio
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
The M.O.D. Squad
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search|
Customer Service #'s
Before Jonathan Kaplan directed Jodie Foster in her Oscar Winning role in The Accused he made a few exploitation films and drive-in style pictures. One of the best known of these is 1974's Truck Turner, which was the feature film debut of Isaac Hayes, still riding high from all of the accolades piled on him for his work on Shaft. This time around Hayes didn't just supply the music for the movie, but he played the lead role too.
Hayes is Mac ‘Truck' Turner, a skip tracer who, along with his partner Jerry (Alan Weeks), works for a bail bondsman named Nate Dinwiddie (Sam Laws). After Truck and Jerry takes out a bad guy and bring him in, Truck heads off to visit his old lady, Annie (Anzette Chase), who is doing thirty days behind bars and Jerry goes home to his ‘grouchy ass wife.' The next day a guy named Fogarty (Dick Miller) asks them to bring in a coldblooded pimp named Gator (Paul Harris) but they're not interesting. Truck knows who this guy is and he's bad news, but Fogarty finally agrees to pay them a thousand dollars each and they agree. Their first stop is to pay a visit to Gator's girlfriend, Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols), a sassy woman who runs his stable. She's not about to give up his whereabouts but after they trail her a bit they start putting two and two together.
Eventually they get their man, but fail to heed the warning of an older pimp named Duke (Scatman Crothers) who tells them that there might be more to all of this than meets the eye. And there is. See, Dorinda offers up her stable of high earning hoes to the pimp that can kill Trucker Turner and avenge Gator's death. A few will try, a few will die but a man named Harvard Blue (Yaphet Kotto) just might prove to be the right man for the job…
Made fast and cheap for American International Pictures, Truck Turner is a blast. The whole thing is completely over the top and there's very obviously a sense of humor behind most of the movie, but it's played pretty much completely straight. Isaac Hayes doesn't show a whole lot of range or emotion here but he looks cool whenever he points his .44 Magnum at the bad guys (often shot from a low angle to make him look bigger and taller than he already was) or kicks a dope pusher through a glass phone booth. If he's not the world's greatest actor his ‘cool' factor more than makes up for that. He and Alan Weeks are fun to watch and make for a great team here, their banter and back and forth dialogue being the basis of much of the film's humor. Anzette Chase as Truck's woman is decent and Yaphet Kotto is great too, but the real scene stealer here is Nichelle Nichols. Obviously best known for playing the polite and well-mannered Uhura on Star Trek, a role that's miles away from the foul mouthed madam that she plays in this film. What's surprising isn't necessarily that she took the role, but just how damn good she is in it. She's got this wicked sense of confidence to her as she struts about dressed to the nines in the finest seventies fashions and she barks orders with the authority of a drill sergeant. She's a sight to see in this one, that's for sure.
The movie definitely plays to what was its intended audience. Violence happens frequently and with plenty of exploding squibs and even a ‘stabbing by way of naked lady' it's stronger than you might expect. There are some great fist fights along with the shootings and the car chases you'd expect and it's all choreographed quite well. It's also edited with a very quick pace, particularly the big set piece that closes the film, and set to a score as good as you'd expect given Hayes' involvement in the film. There isn't much of a message to the movie, no deeper meaning or anything like that, and it's not always the most grounded or realistic film, but it sure is a whole lot of fun and one that's worth going back to every once in a while.The Blu-ray:
Truck Turner arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. For the most part, this one looks quite good on Blu-ray. Some of the slow motion scenes show much heavier grain than the standard footage (which isn't surprising) but that's more of an observation than a criticism. Colors are reproduced very nicely here, particularly when you see all the pimps gather together at Dalinda's request, and the reds of the red paint used in place of fake blood really pops! Skin tones look good, compression and noise reduction are never a problem and detail is typically pretty solid as well. Any print damage that creeps into the frame is minor and all in all, this provides us with a very nice upgrade from the previous DVD release from MGM.Sound:
The only option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 track in English, there are no alternate language options or subtitles/closed captioning options offered here. Again, no problems to report. The quality of this track is quite nice, with properly balanced levels and good depth to the score whenever it kicks in. The gunshots pack a pretty serious punch and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Hayes' smooth voice sounds pretty powerful here, adding to his already otherworldly screen presence!Extras:
The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with director Jonathan Kaplan moderated by Filmmaker Elijah Drenner and it's a really fun listen. Kaplan looks back on this one pretty fondly, even mentioning at one point that this was the type of movie he enjoyed making more so than the female-centric drama's he has since become better known for. He talks about what it was like working with Hayes and the rest of the cast, pointing out different people who appear in supporting roles and explains why there's a character named Joe Dante in the film. He also makes some interesting observations about Nichols' infamous work in the film, talks about the locations used in the film and what it was like shooting on an unused floor of a home for unwed mothers, and the details behind the talked about but never made sequel and the part he and Walter Hill may or may not ever play in it! This is a really solid commentary. Kaplan's memory is sharp and he's more than happy to talk about the movie, the response to it, a scene that AIP had trimmed because they felt it went too far and pretty much anything else you could hope for. If you're a fan of this movie, do yourself a favor and take the time to give this a listen.
We also get an eight minute long panel discussion shot with Kaplan at a 2008 screening of the movie that took place at the New Beverly in Los Angeles. Stuntman Bob Minor is on hand here too and the panel is moderated by Joe Dante but Kaplan has the most to say even if he reiterates some of the same stories he tells in the commentary.
Aside from that we get a Trailers From Hell piece that features commentary over the film's theatrical trailer from Ernest Dickerson, an original version of the film's theatrical trailer, a radio spot, static menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Kino have done a great job bringing Truck Turner to Blu-ray for the first time. Not only does the film look and sound better than it ever has one home video but the commentary winds up being worth the price of admission alone! The movie itself remains a ridiculously entertaining picture, mixing healthy doses of action, comedy and cool to make for ninety minutes well spent in front of your home theater system. Highly recommended.
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.