Buster and Billie (1974) is an American motion picture released by Columbia Pictures. The film was of the tragic romance/revenge film genres. It was directed by Daniel Petrie, whose credits include films such as Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981).
In the title roles were future Airwolf star Jan-Michael Vincent as Buster, and Joan Goodfellow as Billie. In supporting roles, Buster and Billie also featured Pamela Sue Martin of Dynasty fame as Buster's girlfriend Margie, and Robert Englund, who later shot to fame in the Nightmare on Elm Street film series as Freddy Kreuger, in a small role as Buster's friend, Whitey.
This film is also notable as one of the earliest American mainstream movies to have male frontal nudity. Much of the movie was filmed in Metter, GA, Register, GA and surrounding areas. Townspeople were excited the movie was being filmed and were unaware of the movie's risque plot or nudity.
The film is set in a small Georgia town in 1948. It follows the adventures of Buster Lane (Jan-Michael Vincent), a handsome, popular high-school senior, who is engaged to be married to his pretty, popular high-school sweetheart Margie Hooks (Pamela Sue Martin). He is the 'big man on campus' and the leader of his group of friends.
Buster's friends often visit a girl from an underprivileged background named Billie-Jo Truluck (Joan Goodfellow), who dourly gives them the sexual favors they want. Meanwhile, Buster becomes disenchanted with Margie's refusal to have sex with him, and begins seeing Billie in secret.
At first he sees Billie just for sex but eventually finds himself falling in love with her. He becomes, in fact, so taken with Billie that he breaks off his engagement with Margie and starts appearing in public with Billie, who finds a new lease on life with Buster. They are happy for the first time in their lives. Happiness for them, though, is short-lived.
Buster's friends are extremely jealous that they cannot have Billie for their own use anymore and corner her one day when they are drunk and find her out walking. When she refuses to submit to them, they rape and kill her in the heat of the moment. Buster eventually finds her dead, and is hysterical. He then goes to the pool hall where his friends are, with the guilt evident on the faces of the main perpetrators of the crime.
Enraged, Buster kills two of them, while injuring the other two. He is put into jail for this, but is released on bail the day after her funeral, which no one attends except his parents. He rips up a truckload of flowers from garden beds in the town, and takes these flowers to Billie's graveside.Jan-Michael Vincent as Buster Lane
Joan Goodfellow as Billie Jo Truluck
Pamela Sue Martin as Margie Hooks
Clifton James as Jake
Robert Englund as Whitey
Dell C. Payne as Warren
Mark Pendergraft as Mole
David Paul Dean as Phil
David Little as Smitty
Vernon Beatty as Arland
Dale Pearce as Sally
Jessie Lee Fulton as Mrs. Lane
J.B. Joiner as Mr. Lane
Doris Pearce as Mrs. Hooks
Carl Reddick as Mr. Hooks
Joyce Woodrum as Mrs. Truluck
Jim Shirah as Mr. Truluck
Leonard Maltin gave the film a *1/2 score, and said that it was a "blubbery account of high school romance in 1948 rural Georgia...[and that it] can't overcome cliched premise." Other critics, such as Steven Scheuer, said that it was "an uneven but perceptive film" and that, in the lead roles, Vincent played his role "with strength and charm" while Goodfellow was "touching as the acquiescent town tramp." Likewise, the late Roger Ebert awarded the film three (out of four) stars and called it "an affecting story well told".
The film's title song "Billie's Theme" is sung over the opening and closing credits by Hoyt Axton. A re-recorded version appeared on Axton's "Life Machine" album the same year of the film's release.