MACON COUNTY JAIL (1997)--Directed by Victoria Muspratt. Stars Ally Sheedy, David Carradine, Charles Napier. JACKSON COUNTY JAIL was such a smash hit for Roger Corman in 1974 that he remade it twice. The first time was for television just a couple of years later as OUTSIDE CHANCE with Yvette Mimieux reprising her role. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only time a theatrical release has been remade for television with the same director (Michael Miller) and principal cast. MACON COUNTY JAIL is pretty much a straight remake, but instead of Mimieux and Tommy Lee Jones, we get Ally Sheedy and David Carradine as misunderstood escapees. And clearly Corman wants to remind us of MACON COUNTY LINE, another 1974 drive-in hit about two brothers running afoul of Southern lawman Max Baer. This movie has nothing to do with MACON COUNTY LINE, but the boxes might look nice resting side-by-side on video store shelves.
Poor Ally. She gets fired from her marketing job and returns home just in time to find her boyfriend pounding some fake-boobed bimbo on the hood of his car. While he’s whining, “It’s not what it looks like,” Ally’s busy packing, telling us about her new job in New York. On the cross-country drive, she stupidly picks up a hitchhiker, a punker chick named Bess who talks about how she stabbed her boyfriend to death. That night, Ally runs over a dog, and when she gets out of the car, carrying only her mace (just in case she is attacked by muggers in the wilderness), Bess steals her car, her ID, her money, everything.
Stumbling into a rural gas station, the redneck moron employee somehow thinks Ally is there to rob him and pulls a shotgun on her. The bumbling cops take her to jail, where she’s to wait to be arraigned on Monday. In the adjoining cell is Coley (Carradine), an escaped con/convicted wife killer who stands by helplessly while Ally is raped in her cell that night by the on-duty deputy, the n’er-do-well son of the local sheriff (Napier). Coley manages to get free of his bonds just as Ally is bashing her attacker’s brains out with a nearby stool, and the two are soon on the run from local law enforcement, now accused cop killers.
MACON’s biggest flaw is its ever-changing tone. It alternates scenes of dumb-country-bumpkin comic relief, like with the Fifesque cops or Ally’s encounter with a yokel working in a convenience store, with more somber moments Muspratt is just not mature enough to handle. Ally’s rape scene is quite graphic, but is made more nauseating by the filmmakers’ decision to inappropriately slather a sickly maudlin pop ballad over it. A later encounter with Carradine’s former cellmate and the thinly rendered women he lives with (wives, daughters, whores, what?) results in another cop killing, a serious story element that the film is too lightweight to have earned. Coming as it does on the heels of another cop’s death, in which his police cruiser smashes into another vehicle at about four miles per hour and causes them both to explode (!), the film doesn’t seem to know how to present its lawman antagonists.
Muspratt’s screenplay is not very good, and it's impossible to believe in its characters or situations--surprising, since it’s based on Donald Stewart’s JACKSON COUNTY JAIL script, and if she had just adapted it even more closely, she obviously would have had a better movie. Carradine’s performance is good--the lifer with a heart of gold and a tragic backstory to match--but Sheedy never grew into much of an actress (and her character is too stupid to earn much sympathy from us, rape scene aside), and the sturdy Napier is only given enough material to go through the motions with no character to work with. His sheriff is alternately murderous and compassionate, whatever Muspratt’s plot needs at the moment. Carradine and Napier first worked together twenty years earlier in another Corman film, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING.Buy MACON COUNTY JAIL on DVD from Amazon.com using Mobius' affiliate link