Nightmare in Badham County
Rural Mayhem Nightmare in Badham County By Rich Osmond. Nightmare in Badham County (John Llewellyn Moxy, 1976) The 1976 TV movie Nightmare in Badham County tries for the same yankee-in-a-rat-maze despair found in the drive-in hits Jackson County Jail and Macon County Line...
Nightmare in Badham County (John Llewellyn Moxy, 1976)
The 1976 TV movie Nightmare in Badham County tries for the same yankee-in-a-rat-maze despair found in the drive-in hits Jackson County Jail and Macon County Line. The result, however, is a crazed TV movie/drive-in hybrid, trying to balance sleaze with social consciousness. However, any movie with the word “county” in the title is worth at least a look.
Kathy (Deborah Raffin) and Diane (Lynne Moody) are a self-styled “matched set” of California co-eds on a cross-country road trip. They develop car trouble in Badham County, a backwoods hellhole in an unspecified Southern state. After they mock the racist sheriff (Chuck Conners) and his pathetic pick-up lines, he arrests the girls for trespassing and rapes Diane in her cell.
At the trial, the sheriff organizes a good ole boy conspiracy that gets the girls sent to the Badham County Farm, a brutal women’s prison work camp presided over by former Sherwood Schwartz employees Robert Reed (as the dapper but psychotic warden) and Tina Louise (as a nasty guard/trustee). Reed and Louise are actually pretty good. The former Mike Brady’s Southern accent may be a little shaky, but he conveys just the right brand of casual menace, as does Ginger, rocking out as a sweaty lowlife skank in a position of power.
And if that’s not enough for you, Touched By An Angel’s Della Reese is on hand as a veteran prisoner, who teaches Diane the cruel facts of life at the farm. Diane is black and Kathy’s white, and since the prison farm is segregated, so are they. As bad as things are on the “white side” of the farm, they’re ten times worse on the “black side.” The racism oozes from the farm into the neighboring town, and the movie cranks up some righteous anger over it as well as the rampant sexual abuse on the farm, taking it seriously and generating real tension.
Said tension is undercut by some deranged footage added for Nightmare in Badham County’s overseas theatrical release. Some of the footage is quick shots of anonymous prisoners tearing off each other’s filthy smocks during catfights, or Robert Reed’s surprise shower inspections, but most of it features the twisted antics of the guard/trustee known as Miss Alice. The closing credits refuse to identify the actress who plays her, but once you’ve watched Miss Alice in action, you’ll never forget her. When she’s not whipping nude prisoners for stealing food and making like a pudgier, cracker Dyanne Thorne, she’s luring prisoners with fried chicken, stripping down herself (full frontal nudity…but don’t get too excited), then molesting them in her private sex lair. Not boring, that’s for sure, but it makes the ice-cold finish of the movie (and Reese’s despairing final monologue) a lot harder to take seriously.
The un-rated version of Nightmare in Badham County was released on video by Vidmark, but is now out of print.
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