After Smokey And The Bandit cleaned up at the box office – particularly in the southern states – everybody wanted a piece of the southern-fried car chase genre. Roger Corman was right there in the mix: adapting to the genre’s popularity was no problem for him since he had already produced car-centric quickies like Death Race 2000 and Eat My Dust. In a particularly ambitious moment, he tried to port the genre over to television by producing Georgia Peaches, a t.v. movie that brought the car crashes and smokey-dodging to the small screen. Unfortunately, the results show that the limitations of television work against the nature of b-movie fun.
Georgia Peaches plays it safe by building its plot from familiar southern and car-chase flick elements. Our heroes are hot-rodding moonshiner Dusty Tyree (Dirk Benedict), his mechanic girlfriend Sue Lynn (Terri Nunn) and Sue Lynn’s sister, singer Lorette Peach (Tanya Tucker). When Sue Lynn refuses to sell her gas station/auto shop to wealthy crook Vivian Stark (Sally Kirkland), Vivian gets them arrested. However, they are saved by Randolph Dukane (Lane Smith), an ambitious government man who is trying to bring down a cigarette-smuggling operation that Vivian is tied in with.
Pretty soon, Dusty is trying to infiltrate the smuggling ring while Sue Lynn and Lorette pose as a singing act to do undercover research on the well-to-do criminals who are working with Vivian. If that’s not enough, a stolen diamonds deal is also thrown into the mix. It all gets resolved in a tidy, Dukes Of Hazzard-style fashion, complete with car chases, crashes and a few explosions, too.
The premise is serviceable enough but the execution falls into the competent-but-indifferent variety. The script is weak-tea stuff, overplaying a stale brand of cornpone schtick in the dialogue and leaning on a number of unfunny jokes (for example, Tucker tells a story about singing at a nudist camp that is beaten into the ground via a string of subsequent nudist-camp references). It doesn’t help that the plot is the kind of formulaic stuff that could have functioned as a B.J. And The Bear episode with a few name changes.
As for the acting, the cast is game but the lack of authentic Southern types hurts it. For example, Benedict has the right kind of charm for his character but his accent and mannerisms are about as southern as a delicatessen. It’s also unintentionally amusing to see Nunn, future new-wave chanteuse for Berlin, vamping it up alongside Tucker in neon-colored Urban Cowgirl gear as she adds backing vocals to sleek countrypolitan tunes. Tucker is pleasant enough and convincingly southern but doesn’t show any special flair for acting. Meanwhile, Lane Smith is technically solid but does some kind of weird pseudo-Jimmy Stewart accent that is very distracting. Kirkland fares better as the show’s main villain as she was more of a character actress type by this point in her career.
Finally, Daniel Haller’s direction is confident and well-paced but impersonal. That said, t.v. movies rarely offer the opportunity for a personal touch – and in fairness to Haller, he does a solid job with the car chase scenes, including a few clever camera angles. The best he could hope to do was make something fits into its chosen genre – and Georgia Peaches achieves that modest ambition if nothing more.
Ultimately, the main thing that works against Georgia Peaches is its t.v. origins. T.V. movies are done on tight budgets and schedules and have to fit rigid formulas and levels of content. All of those format-specific limitations work against the kind of go-for-broke wildness and energy that define the best theatrical Corman productions. As a result, the watchable but bland Georgia Peaches comes off as second-bordering-on-third-division material.