The 1970s was a great decade for exploitation film, and virtually no subject was off limits to enterprising filmmakers looking to make a quick buck on the drive-in circuit. The big studios rarely dipped their toes into most exploitation subgenres until they had proven to be profitable for the little guys, and sometimes they kept their hands off entirely– Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS might have made some money for its producers, but the majors certainly weren’t in any rush to hop on that particular train. One exploitation genre that had been around for some time before being refined by H.G. Lewis and Russ Meyer’s 1960s hits such as Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and Lorna (1965) is popularly known as “hicksploitation” (or “hixsploitation”).
Lewis and Meyer raised the profile of hicksploitation by making consistently profitable films in that genre in the 60s, and exploitation legend Bethel Buckalew made nearly an entire career from it in the early 1970s with films such as Country Cuzzins (1970), The Pigkeeper’s Daughter (1972) and Tobacco Roody (1972). As usual, the major studios were late to the game: American International Pictures produced Sixpack Annie, which was picked up for release by MGM in 1975. It makes sense that the studio would take the chance on Sixpack Annie, which features plenty of exploitable content (most notably Miss USA 1972 Lindsay Bloom in the title role), but is much less outlandish than some of its down-and-dirty drive-in contemporaries.
Annie Bodine works at a diner owned by her Aunt Tess (Danna Hansen) and spends most of her time carousing with her best friend Mary Lou (Jana Bellan) or her boyfriend Bobby Joe (Bruce Boxleitner) and being chased by lovesick Sheriff Waters (Joe Higgins) and sleazy local Bustis (Larry Mahan). When banker Mr. Piker (Donald Elson) informs Aunt Tess and Annie that they need to come up with nearly six thousand dollars in a week to stop the bank from foreclosing on the diner, Annie decides to head to Miami and ask her sister Flora (Louisa Moritz) for the money. Or, failing that, finding a “sugar daddy” of her own to pay off Mr. Piker and save the diner.
Once Annie and Mary Lou reach Miami, though, they find that Flora has hardly “made it big”– she’s barely scraping by as a hooker with a clientele mostly made up of nervous out-of-town businessmen. Worse, Annie is averse to any “weird stuff,” and not being all that bright, she’s susceptible to being duped by guys pretending to be rich. Mary Lou gets a job at a bar where she’s inexplicably dressed as a rat (a Playboy Bunny-inspired rat, but still) and Annie takes advice from Flora and career drunk Jack Whittlestone (Richard Kennedy) while she searches for her “Sugar Daddy” to no avail. Still, it comes as little surprise when the girls return home for a convenient Deus Ex Moonshine Still finale that puts the Sheriff and the villainous banker in their place.
Sixpack Annie has plenty of the distinguishing marks of the hicksploitation genre: beer, booze, bar fights, boobs, ridiculous accents and pickup trucks. The character of Annie herself is a pretty hilariously unappealing heroine for modern audiences. Not only is she a bit dim and pretty clearly an alcoholic, she’s ready to ditch her boyfriend for anybody who has the money to pay off the banker and save her Aunt’s diner (including the Sheriff!). This is to say nothing of Annie and Mary Lou’s casual homophobia– after picking up a couple of hitchhikers Mary Lou hopes will give them some “action,” the girls kick them out of the truck after it turns out they’re gay. “They must have some Yankee blood in ‘em,” observes Annie with some gravity. “Can you imagine a Southern boy acting like that?”
Needless to say, anyone who is easily offended will want to steer well clear of Sixpack Annie, or pretty much any hicksploitation movie, really. However, as a look back on what sort of thing even the major studios would release in the 1970s, it’s a fascinating time capsule and potentially a serious guilty pleasure. And for exploitation fans, this new MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD is a no-brainer. Previously only available on VHS, this new transfer is presented in the correct widescreen aspect ratio, with bright colors and sharp detail. The DVD is completely bare bones, but it’s still well worth having the film in a version that looks and sounds this good. Score another one for the MGM Limited Edition Collection!