The Last American Hero (1973)
I can’t say I am into car racing but give me a backwoods stock car racing film with moonshine running mixed in and you’ve got my attention. Now top it off with a cast of character actors that I’ve come to appreciate and I’m hooked.
Rising star Jeff Bridges portrays Junior Jackson, the son of a moonshiner played by Art Lund. With Lund getting a year in jail for his still operation Bridges is left to ensure that Geraldine Fitzgerald who plays his Mother is looked after. Cocky and sure of himself behind the wheel he first tackles promoter Ned Beatty’s small circuit races and quickly becomes the star player. Time to move on to bigger things.
Next up Bridges tackles a higher quality of drivers on the larger circuit. When things don’t quite go his way as an independent entry he is approached by a favorite character actor of mine, Ed Lauter. “You’ve got the talent and I’ve got the bankroll.”
This doesn’t exactly sit well with Bridges and it’s back to the hills. But the fame and money are driving forces along with Valerie Perrine as the good looker who has a weakness for fast cars and the men who pilot them. From here it’s a tug of war between Ed and Jeff as they face off for the climatic race against the force that is William Smith.
This is a film that has an authentic feel to it. From the theme song by Jim Croce, I Got a Name to the actors that fill out the roles. Gary Busey is here as well playing Jeff’s brother. Along with Lauter, Bridges and Busey would also appear the same calender year in Lolly Madonna XXX. Lund and Fitzgerald fit the roles of Bridges parents and both look like they belong in the hills. Moonshine films were once a popular choice of topics from Robert Mitchum’s Thunder Road up through the seventies to films like White Lightning and Greased Lightning. Not to mention Thunder and Lightning. Seems like a trend here.
Overall this is a nice slice of what one would call Americana I guess.