Summer Heat (1982)

One of unsung B-picture director Jack (“A Small Town in Texas”) Starrett’s most appealing and hence underrated features, this disarmingly sweet, big-hearted, beautifully well-observed and surprisingly moving seriocomic slice of blue collar life centers on one Dolin Pike (the always affable and excellent Bruce Davison), an honest, well-meaning, but hopelessly down on his luck divorced father and prison parolee who’s struggling to keep himself afloat as a farm hand at a sheep ranch. Realizing that legitimate venues for the success he wants just ain’t working, Pike has to resort to his past criminal ways in order to obtain a better and more worthwhile quality of life. So Dolin, assisted by newfound girlfriend Baby (a spunky performance by the ever-sultry Susan George), decides to steal several grand from mean slickster local mobster Charlie Kardus (Anthony Franciosa in peak slimy form) and hightail to Mexico with Baby (who’s Charlie’s unhappy moll) and loving son Boots (the adorable Andre Gower) in tow. Directed with delightful and unexpected warmth and buoyancy by the usually more tough-minded Starrett, with an astute and credible script by David Neuman and Richard Gruddis, a lively, jolly country swing score by Steve Dorff, winning moments of unforced raucous humor, uniformly fine acting from a personable cast (Bruno Kirby is especially solid as Dolin’s loyal goofball buddy Flash), a strong subtext on the roughness, desperation and aspirations of arduous working class existence, and a grimy, realistically tart’n’tangy Texas ordinary schmo atmosphere which adds a gritty, lived-in, marvelously true-to-life quality to both the story and the characters, “Kiss My Grits” overall rates highly as a nicely touching and amiably laid-back little winner.