Georgia Peaches (Daniel Haller, 1980)
In her 1997 autobiography Nickel Dreams, country music legend Tanya Tucker tells how during the early days of her career she was managed by Delores Fuller, erstwhile Ed Wood girlfriend and featured player in Glen or Glenda? and Bride of the Monster. Unfortunately, being alone with Fuller eventually made the teenage Tanya so nervous her hands and feet would begin to itch uncontrollably, and they had to part ways. But by 1980, Tanya had overcome this psychosomatic aversion to cult movie luminaries to star in the TV movie Georgia Peaches, produced by Roger Corman and directed by Daniel Haller of The Dunwitch Horror and Die, Monster, Die! fame.
Georgia Peaches is the tale of a countrified, Mod Squad-style team of young sexy crime fighters portrayed by the once in a lifetime cast of Tanya Tucker, Berlin front-woman Terri Nunn, and Battlestar Galactica/The A-Team star Dirk Benedict. Before they are lassoed into the law and order game, super-cute grease monkey Sue Lynn Peach (Nunn) busies herself managing Georgia Peaches Automotive, boyfriend Dusty Tyree (Benedict) runs moonshine in his souped-up, gadget-laden Trans Am, and Sue Lynn’s sister Lorette Peach (top billed Tanya) struggles to make it as a country singer. But sadistic local crime queen Vivian Stark (Sally Kirkland) wants to buy Georgia Peaches Automotive to use as a front for her stolen car racket, and when Sue Lynn refuses to sell Stark frames the trio for grand theft auto. "Looks like there’s some rotten peaches in the barrel!" the sheriff exclaims as he leads them away.
Lorette, Sue Lynn and Dusty are bailed out by U.S. Treasury Agent Randolph Dukane (Lane Smith), who offers them their freedom if they join him in his crusade against "the illicit transportation of tobacco products in order to avoid state excise tax... bootleg butts!" The gang is a bit underwhelmed to be drafted into this particular war but become undercover agents anyway. Dusty hires on at a local sinister trucking company, while Lorette and Sue Lynn infiltrate the local nightclub scene as the spandex pants-wearing, harmonizing Honeysuckle Sisters. Soon the stakes are as high as the cigarette taxes when they stumble upon Vivian Stark’s role in what Dukane describes as "a crime ring so insidious that its tentacles spread to every state east of the Mississippi." Lorette is taken hostage by Stark and her yahoo henchmen, and soon the small screen explodes with van crashes, helicopter crashes, and fiery motorcycle action courtesy of Terri Nunn’s stunt double.
Besides Corman and Haller, another notable name behind the scenes is William Hjortsberg, who co-wrote the script. Hjortsberg is best known for his novel Falling Angel, the basis for the Alan Parker movie Angel Heart. Stick around for the end credits and you’ll see Corman alumni Gale Ann Hurd (billed as just Gale Hurd) credited as production coordinator. And if you only know Terri Nunn from Berlin’s icy new wave classics like "The Metro" or "Sex (I’m A...)" you may find it hard to imagine her as a sweet, down-home country girl, but she pulls it off with ease. Nunn was pretty busy as an actress before Berlin took off (her audition for the role of Princess Leah is on YouTube) and it’s too bad she didn’t stick with it.
Georgia Peaches is fun entry in the rural car crash subgenre, if on the tame side due to network TV standards and practices restrictions. But if you’re a Tanya Tucker fan, it is a must see. Tanya was also doing quite a bit of acting at this time, appearing on shows like Fantasy Island and the TV movie Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar & Grill, and even studied briefly with Lee Strasberg. But as she puts it in Nickel Dreams, she was "naturally lazy" and didn’t like to work at things that didn’t come naturally to her: "I never had the same drive to act as I did to sing." But Tanya totally got the tone of Georgia Peaches, playing it just straight enough while clearly having a good time with the more outlandish moments, like when Stark stuffs Lorette into a tiny freezer after kidnapping her, then later drags her around by a rope through the water as her yacht cruises along the coast! Best of all, Tanya gets to do what does come naturally to her, sing several songs in the nightclub scenes (well, lip sync, technically), including a rendition of her hit "San Antonio Stroll."
Georgia Peaches was released on VHS as Follow that Car (I would have gone with Bootleg Butts as an alternate title, maybe with a shot of Tanya in her denim shorts on the video box) and is now available on DVD as part of Shout Factory’s Roger Corman’s Cult Classics line, part of a three movie set along with The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, which I reviewed in Cashiers du Cinemart #10, and Smokey Bites the Dust, which I hope to review in Cashiers du Cinemart #17, if there ever is one (never say never).