She's a lot more dangerous than she looks.
Claudia Jennings is back today, setting a lethal mantrap in this photo made for her 1974 guilty pleasure bayou adventure 'Gator Bait. The movie is what it is—a ridiculous piece of sexploitation-lite made to take advantage of landscape and bodyscape. And Jennings is what she is—an actress trying like hell to make a bad film better than it has any right to be. Mission accomplished—'Gator Bait is watchable. Not good, but watchable. You can read about it here.
Don't let my title fool you. I'm not here to play and I'm definitely not about to mate with you.
This rare shot shows Playboy Playmate of the Year and actress Claudia Jennings in danger mode, a facet of herself she showed quite often in her various gun toting roles in b-movies, including Deathsport, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, and 'Gator Bait. This is from 1969.
If you get too close you'll definitely lose a body part.
This is fresh territory for us. No, not cheap b-movies. We talk about those all the time. What's new is featuring a film that's known mainly as a video release. But since we talked about the original 'Gator Bait and its star Claudia Jennings, pivoting to the sequel seems like a natural move. 'Gator Bait came out in 1974. Claudia Jennings' early death, plus the advent of VHS, made that film a home viewing classic and laid the groundwork for a follow-up. Writer-director-producers Beverly and Ferd Sebastian—yes, Ferd—entered the scene fifteen years after the first installment, which was also their work, and Gator Bait II: Cajun Justice was born.
Gator Bait II veers deeper into the swamp than 'Gator Bait, as well as deeper into pure sexploitation. Jan MacKenzie plays red-headed Angelique, who marries her bearish Cajun love only to watch in horror as other Cajuns that covet her freckled body try to permanently sink him in the swamp. These degenerates all pollute poor Angelique's wetlands, and from there it's the standard sexploitation progression from escape to bloody revenge. This movie sinks pretty low, but its makers weren't dumb. In casting its star they found a fully competent actress who, as a bonus, was also a rare combination of doe-eyed innocence and pure hotness.
We wonder whether that hotness was actually part of the family. MacKenzie's real name is Jan Sebastian, same as Beverly and ole Ferd—again, yes, it's Ferd. We can't confirm the connection, but having your daughter/niece/what-have-you headline your cheapie sexploitation sequel is pretty slick, because if she was related to them we seriously doubt she made industry scale for her efforts. Even so she's the only reason to watch the film. She has that in common with Claudia Jennings, who's the only reason to watch the original 'Gator Bait. Does that mean we're recommending Gator Bait II? Hell no.
Cars were her addiction—and her destruction.
Above is a rare photo of U.S. born model, actress, and thrill seeker Claudia Jennings, who started as a Playboy centerfold, moved on to cinema, and died aged twenty-nine before her talent could be realized. Even so, she left behind several entertaining b-movies, such as Moonshine Country Express, Deathsport, and the eternal shlock classic Gator Bait. Jennings loved to drive fast. She considered herself an expert. She once said she could do just about anything with a car, a motorcycle, or a truck, including an 18-wheeler, but crashing was certainly not part of the plan. She died on California's Pacific Coast Highway today in 1979 when her Volkswagen sports car rammed a truck head-on.
Which part of “Keep yer goldanged hands to yer goldanged self!” don’t you understand?
Because it’s been written about on pretty every much cinema blog in existence, there’s really no point in us adding our two cents about ’Gator Bait. But you know what? We’re going to do it anyway. How else are we supposed to use what is possibly the greatest promo image ever shot? (See below). We hadn’t seen ’Gator Bait since we rented it for a bad movie night during college, and we’d forgotten how tame it is for a sexploitation film. Not to say it’s chaste. It isn’t. But for this genre, it’s strictly middle-of-the-road—or rather, the swamp. The plot involves Jennings being framed for murder, and later battling a gaggle of slobbering crackers who want to kill her almost as much as they want to climb inside her Daisy Dukes. ’Gator Bait was panned upon release, but today it’s a cult classic, owing, of course, to the presence of Jennings. She has only a few lines of dialogue, but she performs most of her own stunts and generally plays her semi-feral character Desiree to the hilt as she kicks redneck caboose all over the bayou. The movie isn’t very good, truthfully. In fact, it’s safe to say that if not for Jennings, ’Gator Bait would be totally forgotten by now. It went into national release in he U.S. today in 1974.
Nice girls don't explode.
There are quite a few internet cults out there, so when we watched Dynamite Women, aka The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, we were well aware that ex-Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings had a devoted online following. But we were skeptical. You see, Playboy scours the world for women who have a modicum of talent and are willing to strip for the magazine. That combination is rare, and when Playboy finds it their publicity juggernaut heaves into high gear. That’s why purely marginal talents like Anna Nicole Smith, Dorothy Stratten, and Jenny McCarthy were touted as the next big thing. In a sense, the magazine is continually chasing the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, their first centerfold, who went on to become a huge star and an unending source of free publicity. As the eternal search for another Monroe-like talent continues, the magazine gives its covers to declining semi-celebrities in an effort to generate both easy sales and maintain some measure of Hollywood credibility. Thus we’re treated to the sad sight of Lindsay Lohan, Heidi Montag and others posing for the magazine, and sometimes doing so without even removing their clothes—which more than anything else makes abundantly clear that Playboy is devoted more to publicity than to eroticism.
Thus watching Claudia Jennings in Dynamite Women is a surprise. Despite the hype about her beauty, you would never think—initially at least—that she could be a centerfold. With her long nose, sharp chin and expansive forehead, she looks more like the type you’d find serving burgers in a small town diner. But the more you observe, the more you’re drawn to her. The smile, the attitude, and the big, expressive eyes begin to weave a spell. While Dynamite Women’s tale of two female bank robbers isn’t Oscar material, the script does give Jennings a lot to work with—she’s allowed to portray a wide range of emotions, is asked to getphysical, and does well with both. As in other counterculture films, Jennings’ character soon finds herself in way too deep as the police pick up her trail. She wants to stop robbing banks, but of course needs one more big score to get away clean. In the end she and her partner Ellie-Jo (played by Jocelyn Jones, who resembles Jennings so strongly they could be sisters) must somehow survive a final stand-off against the cops if they hope to escape to Mexico.
It’s reasonable to assume Claudia Jennings would never have gotten a break in Hollywood if not for her Playboy appearances, but in at least one case—trying out for a role on Charlie’s Angels—she was passed over because of her nude modeling. Jennings never got the chance to prove one way or the other whether it was her talent or Playboy’s backing that sustained her career because, sadly, she was killed in an automobile accident in October 1979, at the age of twenty-nine. She had appeared ineighteen movies, including cult favorites Gator Bait and Deathsport, but had never been given a chance to shine in a truly important role. Dynamite Women might be the closest. While not great, it is entertaining, and by the end, we understood why Jennings has an internet cult. Based on what we’ve seen, she deserves one.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Hollywood Black Friday
A six month strike by Hollywood set decorators becomes a riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios when strikers and replacement workers clash. The event helps bring about the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which, among other things, prohibits unions from contributing to political campaigns and requires union leaders to affirm they are not supporters of the Communist Party.
1957—Sputnik Circles Earth
The Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik I, which becomes the first artificial object to orbit the Earth. It orbits for two months and provides valuable information about the density of the upper atmosphere. It also panics the United States into a space race that eventually culminates in the U.S. moon landing.
1970—Janis Joplin Overdoses
American blues singer Janis Joplin is found dead on the floor of her motel room in Los Angeles. The cause of death is determined to be an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
The newspaper Pravda is founded by Leon Trotsky, Adolph Joffe, Matvey Skobelev and other Russian exiles living in Vienna. The name means "truth" and the paper serves as an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991.
1957—Ferlinghetti Wins Obscenity Case
An obscenity trial brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the counterculture City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, reaches its conclusion when Judge Clayton Horn rules that Allen Ginsberg's poetry collection Howl is not obscene.
After a long trial watched by millions of people worldwide, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson subsequently loses a civil suit and is ordered to pay millions in damages.
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.