The Goddesses of Underground Cinema: Claudia Jennings

cj6playboyAmerican actress Claudia Jennings started out in theatre in Chicago. A meaty paycheck to appear in Playboy afforded Jennings the opportunity to move to Hollywood where she got her first job as Sunny in Gunther Collins’ 1971 film Jud. With 28 acting credits in television and film the spunky Jennings had an active career from 1971 to 1979. Jennings scored smaller roles in The Love Machine starring John Phillip Law and Dyan Cannon, The Man Who Fell to Earth starring David Bowie and Candy Clark and 40 Carats starring Liv Ullmann and Eddie Albert. Her natural and vivacious nature led to feature roles in drive in flicks like Group Marriage, Truck Stop Women, Gator Bait, Sisters of Death, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, Moonshine County Express, Deathsport, Fast Company and my personal favorite Unholy Rollers. She was a serious candidate to replace Kate Jackson on the popular TV Series Charlie’s Angels. Unfortunately the network people were freaked out over Jennings Playboy appearances so she lost the gig to Shelley Hack. Sadly, Jennings died in a car accident at the age of 29. A graceful ease, a contagious laugh, a natural beauty and just downright likable, even when she was playing less than likable characters. Although Jennings was in major studio films, they were generally lesser known and lower budget studio films, so I am squeezing her in for a pass here: Claudia Jennings is a favorite who deserves a spot on my list of The Goddesses of Underground Cinema.

Claudia Jennings in UNHOLY ROLLERS

cj2

Claudia Jennings as Karen Walker in Unholy Rollers (1972) 

In Unholy Rollers Jennings plays Karen Walker a tough, bad-ass roller derby superstar with serious attitude. The film documents her climb to fame and her eventual downfall. Rollerskating was my life from about 12 to 15 years of age and I always have a soft spot for films with the theme. Unholy Rollers is definitely one of the better, maybe the best of the rollerskating/roller derby themed flicks. Lots of derby action, great clothing and hair and a great memorable performance from Jennings.

Screenshot (1451)

Claudia Jennings in The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976)

In The Great Texas Dynamite Chase Jennings plays Candy Morgan; a prison escapee who robs a bank with dynamite to help her family keep their land. She befriends Ellie-Jo and together the two cross the country robbing banks with dynamite. Robbing banks with dynamite really seems pretty impractical, but in the movies anything goes. The ladies are spunky and a lot of fun and you root for them 100%. A really fun bit of fluff with a dash of sex and sass.

cj3sistersofdeath

Claudia Jennings as Judy in Sisters of Death (1976)

In Sisters of Death Claudia plays Judy, a sorority sister involved in a pledge that goes horribly wrong. Seven years later the girls involved in the wonky pledge are reunited and picked off one by one. A pretty lackluster and tame slasher with a few memorable moments and a funny twist ending. Sisters of Death really needed more punch but Jennings definitely stands out here as Judy.

Screenshot (1429)

Claudia Jennings as Desiree Thibodeau in Gator Bait (1974)

As Desiree in Gator Bait Jennings has very little dialog. She is pursued by some local rednecks, the sheriff and his son for a crime she did not actually commit. Her sister is killed by the group and she takes oh, so sweet revenge. The latter half of the film is Jennings quietly and carefully terrorizing these assholes. It does lag a bit in places but every second Jennings is on screen is a lot of fun.

Claudia Jennings as Sammy in Fast Company (1979)

In Fast Company Jennings plays Sammy; the girlfriend of aging race car driver Lonnie “lucky man” Johnson played by William Smith. Smith is a veteran driver with a plum sponsorship from Fast Co but is managed by a corrupt sleazebag played by John Saxon. Classic good guy knocked down but turns it all around premise with personable characters you will root for. Fun fare.

cj5

Claudia Jennings Playboy Pictorial

Claudia Jennings Filmography/TV Credits

240-Robert (TV Series) (1979)
Fast Company (1979)
Lucan (TV Series) (1978)
Deathsport (1978)
Moonshine County Express (1977)
The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1976)
Sisters of Death (1976)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
The Streets of San Francisco (TV Series) (1976)
Caribe (TV Series) (1975)
Movin’ On (TV Series) (1975)
The Manhunter (TV Series) (1974)
Cannon (TV Series) (1974)
‘Gator Bait (1974)
The Single Girls (1974)
The F.B.I. (TV Series) (1974)
Truck Stop Women (1974)
Willy & Scratch (1974)
The Brady Bunch (TV Series) (1973)
40 Carats (1973)
Barnaby Jones (TV Series) (1973)
Group Marriage (1973)
The Unholy Rollers (1972)
The Stepmother (1972)
Trampa mortal (1972)
Ironside (TV Series) (1971)
The Love Machine (1971)
Jud (1971)

2 Responses to “The Goddesses of Underground Cinema: Claudia Jennings”

  1. She’s very attractive and the movies she’s been in sound very interesting.

  2. Totally agree! Anyone who can take some “Gator Bait” and then go on to build a great collection of films is terrific – I also posted an appreciation as well: https://johnrieber.com/2016/07/01/truck-stop-woman-gator-bait-sex-kitten-claudia-jennings-cult-actress-with-tragic-story/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: