‘Gator Bait (1974)

Welcome back to B-Movie Enema!  It’s getting cold outside, but you know what we can do about that?  We can go down south and visit the sweaty swamps where a barefoot poacher by the name of Desiree stalks the area and wrangles alligators.

Did I mention our barefoot poacher is Claudia Jennings?

It’s high time for us to take a look at the film most people seem to remember her best for – ‘Gator Bait! Whenever I see someone talk about Jennings online and asks people what their favorite films of hers are, inevitably, there will be many, many answers of “Gator Bait!” in the comments.  Absolutely, positively, without a doubt, both this movie and the 1988 sequel ‘Gator Bait II: Cajun Justice, stood out on the video store shelves.  It’s hard to resist the siren call of the redheads that graced both movies’ boxes.

I think it’s also the high point of Beverly and Ferd Sebastian.  Their careers spanned the 70s and 80s and mostly worked in exploitation and horror genres.  They’ve shown up here before with The Single Girls.  They are probably best known for Rocktober Blood.  That’s something that always had a really cool VHS cover too.  So it was appealing to people in the late 80s.  Later, when it came out of “”Blu Ray””, they created some accidental attention from fans when what they got after supporting a crowdfunded campaign was just not much better than a VHS bootleg on a Blu Ray disc.  Supposedly, they were trying to fund a sequel to that movie, but it also turned out they were in some trouble with a greyhound breeding place they had as well as a restaurant they were running.

I’m not entirely sure all of those details, you can find more information about it by watching the episode of Best of the Worst that dealt with it.

We’re not here for Rocktober Blood.  Someday?  Oh probably, but NOT today!  We’re here for a sexy, sexy swamp vixen played by Claudia Jennings.  If you want more on her, I urge you to check out my article on The Great Texas Dynamite Chase.

You know you’re in for a real knee slappin’ good time when the first thing you hear in the movie is the pluck of a banjo string.  Our song is about Desiree herself as we see her boating through the swamp and literally catching snakes out of the fucking water.  We also meet two guys who seem to be waiting for Desiree and expect her to be passing by any minute now.

You can drive my boat anytime.

Our nogoodniks waiting for Desiree have a plan.  A very bad plan.  They’ll catch her wranglin’ gators and then they will basically force her to have sex with them or go to jail.  This is a very very bad idea.  One guy, Ben, had a brother Leroy who tried to score with Desiree and she cut his balls off.  So our main guy with the plan is Deputy Billy Boy (because of course he is).  He’s none too scared to just pull up beside her boat and say, “In the name of the law, stop and pull down yer britches!”

You know, though…  Some bad apples…  Not all swamp deputies… So on and the so forth…

They seemingly corner Desiree.  She outsmarts the boys by tossing the bag of snakes she has onto their boat.  This causes Billy Boy to begin dancing around the boat, shooting the bottom of the boat to kill snakes.  It also causes Ben to fall out.  So he’s clutching the side and Billy Boy is shoot holes into their boat.  I assume it does not take a college degr… Er… an elementary school diploma to be a swamp deputy.  Anyway, this is bound to work out just fine, right?  Oops, Billy Boy shoots Ben in the fucking head.

Billy Boy runs back to the Sheriff, his daddy, and tells him SHE killed Ben.  Sheriff William Man scolds Billy Boy for messing with them Cajuns in the swamp.  They’ve been poachin’ gator for so long there’s no bother in trying to impose any laws on them.  In fact, the Sheriff seems to imply they were doing a service to the area.  Then, Billy Boy tells him she also sunk his boat.  Now he’s pissed.

At the Brackens’ where the Sheriff and the Deputy are headed to tell this rowdy bunch of morons that Ben was killed by them Cajuns, one of the Bracken sons tries to rape his sister until their paw, T.J., comes home and whips the kid for trying to knock her up with a dimwitted kid.  The Brackens are both really upset that Ben is dead, but also pissed that the Deputy took Ben out there to mess with Desiree.  Hillbilly Avenging Squad, away!

Back at Desiree’s home, she’s met by her younger siblings.  She seems to be pretty nice to them, but they seem disappointed she didn’t do so well today, but she explains she almost got caught.  Meanwhile, the Brackens and the law are going out to find where Desiree and her family live to exact some revenge.  What’s worse, though, is that Billy Boy keeps leaning on his version of the story that she killed Ben… and probably laughing at them for it.  So yeah, this is a volatile situation here.  You have a dumbass Deputy who is riling up a possibly inbred family of a kid the Deputy says was killed by a woman who is also well known for being rather fiery.  I’m sure this will go well.

What’s really interesting about this movie is that it’s not done too much yet.  We’ve seen Desiree doing what she does.  We saw the Deputy be a dipshit.  We see the Brackens now ready for revenge.  We’ve seen Desiree specifically spend time with a boy who I believe is mute.  There’s not a whole that’s happened yet, but it’s far from boring.  And, yes, you might think I’m saying that because Desiree is smoking hot and Loralee Bracken was sexy too, but no.  There seems to be a building tension with the Brackens getting ever closer to Desiree’s home – a home they do not know where it is because almost no one knows.  It just feels like a steady beat toward something horrible that will change the complexion of this movie going forward.

The next day, Desiree tells the young ‘uns that she’s headed out into the deep swamp and will probably be gone for two or three days.  The Brackens and the fuzz aren’t giving up to find Desiree.  Unfortunately for Julie, who is Desiree’s younger sister, she’s out skinny dippin’ nearby where hothead Pete Bracken, you know, the one willing to rape his own sister, is taking a shit.  thinking he’s found one of Desiree’s bunch, he goes back to their camp to get T.J. and the rest.

The Brackens and the fuzz follow Julie back to her home and they realize they have found Desiree’s home.  They assume she will be inside.  Pete assumes he’s going to break off a piece of Julie.  They all sneak up to the home and grab Julie.  They grab the boy as well.  The boy’s name is Big T.  I like that.  You know, because he’s small?  Anyway, they want to know where Desiree is, but the Brackens are fucking insane.  I don’t think they so much care which one they rape or kill or both.  Leroy terrorizes Julie to try to find out where Desiree might be.

This is a particularly intense and icky sequence.  First, I do not think that boy with no tongue is going to cause the Brackens or the Deputy to think any time longer before they kill him.  Janit Baldwin, who plays Julie, is 19 or 20 when making this movie, but I feel she is playing younger.  Like maybe 14 or 15.  Before this scene, and knowing that she was of age, the bathing scene just a few minutes before was nice and okay to ogle at.  However, how Leroy deals with her is gross.  It’s worse when she tries to get help from Pete when he comes in and breaks her and Leroy up only for her to be manhandled and raped by Pete and Billy Boy.  When the Sheriff says that maybe T.J. should break it up, and he just responds, “Oh, boys will be boys.”

Hmm…  Timely.

Okay, so T.J. and the Sheriff let Big T go so he can bring back Desiree.  Pete and Billy Boy are about to deflower Julie in the worst possible way.  Leroy, not so much liking being pushed around by Pete hits him with the butt of his rifle and then…  Well…

He shoots her in the pussy, killing her.

The Sheriff pleads with T.J. to pull back a little bit.  Raping Julie is not right.  She did nothing to any of them.  T.J. says that after Leroy and Ben, it was their turn.  The Sheriff realizes that he’s stayed out of the swamp business too long and now he has to do something.  After Leroy shoots up Julie, Billy Boy realizes he is now over his head.  He tells his father the truth.  So not only does the Sheriff have to deal with a crazy ass family, but also now he has to protect his son.

Oh, and Desiree has come home after Big T luckily found her.

It’s time for Desiree to pull some Rambo shit.  She lures the men away by dousing a boat in alcohol and blows it up with a torch.  She sees Julie on the bed and screams.  They hear her scream of agony.  So they burn down the house to remove their evidence.  The next morning she leaves some signs for the Brackens to follow.  The Sheriff begs T.J. to turn back, but he’s having none of it.  He almost seems to grow more and more incensed by what he thinks she’s done.  Good thing for them, she’s waiting for them.

And she wants them to follow her…

So they chase her through the swamp.  Along the way she sets traps for them.  She even sticks out her butt at them after she bests them.  That night, T.J. talks about using Desiree for ‘gator bait to lure alligators with.  However, as T.J. says the Sheriff knows a thing or two about someone being used as bait.  Turns out, the Sheriff, Joe Bob, had a fling with Desiree’s mother.  When her father caught them, he used her as bait, and Joe Bob shot and killed Desiree’s father.  It’s why he doesn’t want his son to go out there and messing with her or her little brother and sister.  It’s why he doesn’t want to bust up their poaching gig either.  T.J. has been using this as blackmail for 12 years.

Later, while the men are asleep at their camp, Desiree sneaks in and steals their food and water.  Leroy says she could have killed them, but she didn’t.  She only took their supplies.  He also reveals that Pete left early because he’s obsessed with Desiree.  He even said the night before that he’s never wanted someone so bad in his life.  We’ve got ourselves a good ol’ cat-and-mouse game with Pete tracking Desiree and Desiree hunting Pete.

She jumps him and said that he’s part to blame for killin’ Julie and he’s not gonna have it so easy.  She’s going to let the swamp take care of him.  The rest of the guys find Pete’s hat and then find his body.  T.J. vows to kill Desiree and all her kinfolk.  Billy Boy is starting to crack.  In a clearing, Joe Bob says she’s in the lead here because these are her woods and swamp.  They are going to be hunted by her.  Sure enough, she’s waiting in ambush.  She starts firing at her and hits Billy Boy.  He tells Joe Bob that she came back just to see if he’s dead.

Joe Bob demands that T.J. and Leroy help take Billy Bob back to the boat.  Leroy doesn’t want to help him and doesn’t want to be hampered by him.  So now, Desiree has the Brackens and the fuzz cracking.  She’s continuing to use her cunning and her knowledge of the swamp to kill them.  She’s acting almost like a good guy slasher.  Not a monster, but a sexy, sexy creature.

The truth about who killed Ben comes out and T.J. decides he’s going to kill Joe Bob with his bare hands.  The men start wrestling and Joe Bob gets the upper hand and starts whaling on T.J.  T.J. makes a comeback but before long, they tumble into a small pond where T.J. drowns Sheriff Joe Bob, and leave Billy Boy for dead.  This has been a really rough week for this town.

T.J. wants to go home asking his sole remaining son if he’s just too tired of all the killing now, but Leroy doesn’t want to leave before he gets him that Desiree.  As they walk through the wooded area, Desiree shoots at the Brackens.  T.J. has Leroy chase her through the part she ran off through while T.J. plans to go to the swamp and then catch her between them.  Leroy sees her through some leaves and approaches.  I mean, she’s looking rather fetching and she’s smiling at him so clearly this is not a trap whatsoever.

It’s a trap, but it doesn’t go off right.  He’s not close enough to be stabbed by it.  He tackles her to the ground and plans to cut her up but not before he kisses her a few times.  He then gets his shotgun and is about to blow her head off, but Big T shoots and kills him first.  Now, it’s just T.J. remaining.  He asks her to finish him off because he has nothing to live for, but she says it will be worse for him.  She will let him live – if he can get out of the swamp.  He then tells her that she’s just like her mother.  He should know because he’s her father.  She rejects this and just says her father is dead.

Considering T.J. still has a daughter at home and he’s still got nothing to live for, and he would be willing to kill his daughter (if that is true) for killing one of his kids…  He’s not a great father.

This movie is pretty damn great.  It’s simple as all get out.  There’s a woman who doesn’t like to be trifled with, she gets trifled with.  A coward blames her for a killing he committed by accident.  Revenge and counter-revenge ensues.  That’s it.

But this movie has a few things going for it.  First, the setting is cool.  The swamp is a scary place.  There’s gators, snakes, who knows what else.  Plus, the area around the Louisiana swamps is huge.  People could be living there you never knew lived there.  They will know that land better than you could ever hope.

Next, you have your Brackens and the fuzz.  In particular, T.J. (played by Sam Gilman) and Joe Bob (Bill Thurman).  These two patriarchs are fantastic.  You almost see them, at first, try to resist going all in with the revenge scheme but they can’t help it.  By the time Joe Bob has any balls of his own to stand up to T.J., it’s too late.  Both actors had long careers and got to be in some relatively big things either on TV or in movies.

But, come on…  This is Claudia Jennings’ show all the way.  Forget that every moment she’s on screen, she’s sexy as hell.  She’s playing a character that I think you can legitimately know will be able to more than easily take care of herself.  This isn’t a part for a model who still looks like her hair and makeup is perfect and every shot is a glamour shot.  No, this is gritty and has some physicality to it.  Also, she has this Cajun accent the whole time and it’s really good.  If I didn’t know who she was, I’d have sworn they just scooped up a girl from the swamp and dropped her into this movie.

I think that will be a wrap on this week’s B-Movie Enema.  Next week, I don’t think I’m quite done with the idea of people running around the woods and getting into big action moments and looking for revenge.  I’m going to the David A. Prior well for Deadly Prey!  See you back here in seven short days…

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