After nearly a decade playing intellectually-challenged Jethro Bodine on The Beverley Hillbillies, Max Baer Jr. put his Business Administration degree to work and produced a string of low-budget films. His most successful became a 1970s cult classic.
Macon County Line (1974) tells the story of a pair of petty criminal brothers who pick up a female hitchhiker on their way to Dallas. Unfortunately, their car breaks down in Georgia, near the titular county line. They have a passing encounter with the sheriff, who doesn't much take to young strangers.
That night a brutal crime occurs. Several coincidences convince the sheriff our antiheroes are responsible, and he seeks revenge rather than justice.
The success of American Graffiti likely made this film possible. Both take place in the mythic America of mid-century, though Macon County is less clean and nostalgic. Both feature extensive scenes of cars cruising around. This film could have been shortened to an hour without them. The more comedic first half features an almost continuous pop soundtrack. And Macon directly steals one of Graffiti's gags. Finally, it ends with a "Where are they now?" update, reinforcing the claim that the film is based on a true story. It's not. Baer and director Richard Compton fabricated it.
However, this is no American Graffiti. Apart from the less inventive directorial approach, it begins with less likeable characters and grows steadily darker. The final twist may be a drive-in gut-punch, hard-hitting social commentary, or both.
Macon County Line reflects more the decade that birthed it rather than the one in which it takes place. It holds up passably well. Its success led to Return to Macon County, which features the same director, a similar plot, and future stars Nick Nolte and Don Johnson, but no particular continuity with its predecessor.