Johnny (Robert Walker) and Carol (Diane Varsi) Warder (and her five-year-old son) are living a meagre but quiet life in post-World War II North Carolina when they are convinced by Roger (Dick Clark of American Bandstand fame, who also produced the movie) – an old army buddy of Johnny’s – to rob a local bootlegger while all the townsfolk are whooping it up at a fair.
They bungle the raid and kill a few federal agents in the process and soon they are on the run, with Johnny and Carol taking on a Bonnie and Clyde-like existence (the film is clearly an attempt at emulating Bonnie and Clyde which was released a year earlier).
The finale has Johnny returning home in a badly damaged car with his wife dead beside him, but the scene is spoiled when Carol’s son – having been left sometime before with his grandmother – says “can we go to California now? – which would have been all right if the voice heard were not that of a grown woman trying to sound like a five-year-old child . . .
The film was shot around the towns of Ramseur and Coleridge in Randolph County, North Carolina, and director Bruce Kessler coached some very natural acting from some of the natives.
Country artist Merle Haggard appears (in his film debut) as the local sheriff. His song Mama Tried was originally written as the theme song for this American-International film.
John ‘Bud’ Cardos
Sheriff Homer Brown