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Truck Stop Women/Stunts
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by Jack Sommersby

"The Underrated Lester Delivers the Goods"
3 stars

Good for rainy Saturday afternoons

Mark L. Lester has directed both 1974's enjoyably trashy "Truck Stop Girls" and 1977's decent whodunit "Stunts," both B-movies, and the differences between the two are interesting in terms of style coming just three years apart by the same craftsman. The latter is broad exploitation centered on the New Mexico-based crime ring Anna's Truck Terminal run by a foxy mother and daughter who specialize in posing as stranded motorists on the highway in skimpy clothing, flagging down civic-minded truckers, assaulting them, and subsequently stealing their shipments and selling them on the black market. When an East Coast Mafia wing with competition in Texas gets wind of their operation and lucrative profitability, they aim to take over, manipulating the daughter to turn against her mother. Chock-full of agreeable gratuitous female nudity the proceedings are shameless, no doubt, and Lester finds the right ingratiating tone so you don't really care if the scattershot plot makes so much as a lick of sense just as long as the expected goods in this genre are suitably served up, which they are. Unexpectedly, considering its budget restraints, the camerawork is exceedingly handsome from start to finish. Vibrantly shot in widescreen, the 2 35:1-aspect ratio spherical compositions are a constant joy to take in, even in talking-heads close-ups, and there's never a moment when we're not apprehensively drawn into the picture on a primordial level. Lester, who also produced the picture, has a surefire grasp of what undemanding audiences inherently desire. Diametrically opposite is the cruddy-looking "Stunts," which finds that reliable under-the-radar actor Robert Forster as the bereaved older brother of a sibling who was killed on a movie set while hanging onto a helicopter - his harness attaching himself to it inexplicably failed, and he dropped to his death. The brother, himself a renowned stuntman, arrives to take over and commits to performing the very same death-defying feat before all is said and done, only more stunt-people start getting killed in equally-unexplainable deaths, leaving us wondering the motive behind the dastardly scheme, with a few viable suspects to choose from. If you're willing to forgo common sense in that no police detectives are ever called to the scenes to investigate, the unassuming "Stunts" should suffice. Forster is his usual solid self, always underplaying rather than posturing, the dialogue is functional, the intricacies in stunt-performing are interesting, and, though the grainy lighting is generally unattractive, Lester does a clean, unfussy job devoid of ostentatiousness. All in all, "Truck Stop Girls" and "Stunts" deliver the goods but not in any remotely kind of inspired way, mind you.

Lower your expectations and you'll be fine.

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originally posted: 11/20/20 13:13:23
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Directed by
  Mark L. Lester

Written by
  Mark L. Lester
  Paul Season

  Claudia Jenkins
  Robert Forster

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