Helmed by Beverly and Ferd Sebastion, ‘Gator Bait is a fairly straightforward 1974 flick about a bunch of rednecks and their pursuit of a gorgeous poacher. Said poacher is played by a Playboy Playmate of the Year, which has certain benefits for those heathens interested in that sort of thing. Those looking for deeper meaning are in for a tough slog.
The Sebastions, a husband and wife pair, were typically associated with such exploitation pictures as ‘Gator Bait. They also handled its sequel, ‘Gator Bait II: Cajun Justice, and directed 1974’s The Single Girls. That movie also featured the same Playboy Playmate of the Year, so…yeah.
That Playmate is Claudia Jennings and she stars as Desiree, a gator poacher rolling around the swamp in a boat full of snakes. Two idiots, Ben (Ben Sebastion) and Deputy Billy Boy (Clyde Ventura), set their sights on her and hope to blackmail her into doing the deed. Things get cockeyed, as they tend to, and Ben winds up dead in the marsh.
Billy Boy goes back to “civilization” and tells his father Sheriff Joe Bob (Bill Thurman), who in turn takes the news to Ben’s dad T.J. (Sam Gilman). This enrages the man and he gathers his other two sons, Leroy (Douglas Dirkson) and Pete (Don Baldwin), to hunt Desiree down. There’s a history between the swamp girl and the twisted family, plus Desiree has a little brother (Tracy Sebastion) and sister (Janit Baldwin).
‘Gator Bait could be termed a redneck exploitation flick or it could be termed a Cajun exploitation flick. Either way, it’s mostly a hunk of junk and it’s nowhere near exploitative enough. Having a Playboy Playmate as the lead is usually a good sign for those attracted to such worldly pleasures, but the Sebastions do next to nothing with her substantial resources.
They do find time to exploit the younger sister, which seems an odd choice. She’s the “forbidden fruit,” a character who goes for a dip in the buff while Desiree is out stalking gators. She becomes the carnal objective for Billy Boy and Pete, which doesn’t end well for the poor girl thanks to the psychopathic Leroy.
Leroy perhaps has more motivation than anyone else to get even with the devious Desiree because she hacked off his giggle berries in a previous encounter. Apparently life for Desiree and her residual clan consists of poaching gators and circumventing redneck rapists, which could supposedly fuel some I Spit On Your Grave-style reprisal.
Unfortunately, the Sebastions are more interested in selling motorboats than exacting revenge. While Desiree eventually gets around to taking out the mad men who won’t leave her alone, it’s a slow heave that doesn’t exactly pay off. And she still has to be rescued in the end, albeit by a mute kid with a really contemporary haircut.
As far as Jennings is concerned, nobody thinks she’s in this movie for her acting skills. In fact, nobody thinks this movie exists because of any sort of skill. It’s a tawdry affair that isn’t anywhere near tawdry enough. But this especially goes for Jennings, who is consigned to faking an accent that habitually fades in and out. Sometimes she sounds French Canadian, sometimes she sounds Native American.
There’s a song that drifts through ‘Gator Bait about the lead character that was written by Ferd Sebastion. It seems to have been sung by Lee Darin. It describes the character in that downhome kind of way, sort of spinning folklore about the woman of the bog. There should be more to her and it’s too bad the screenplay doesn’t back up the fabled intrigue laid out by the tacky jingle.
Nobody expects ‘Gator Bait to be a very good movie, but some might expect a little violence and/or titillation from it. The Sebastions deliver negligibly on both scores and what remains is a flick comprised of interminable boat chases and dark swamp-prowling. There are some funny bits here and there, but this is generally an unremarkable piece of cinematic rubbish.