Watching "High Octane" is kind of a bitter-sweet experience for me. Of course, many great episodes would follow, but this was the last of the original five episodes to be filmed in Covington, Georgia; while maybe the move to the Warner Brothers lot in Hollywood did have some advantages, I feel the show really lost it's genuinely rural, rustic feel captured in these very early episodes, and much of me wishes that they had managed to have remained filming on location in Georgia.
Anyway, "High Octane" is another really fun early instalment. As with all of the Georgia episodes, it captures the whole outlaw rebel vibe of the 1970s perfectly, and has much more of a realistic feel to it. Charlene Watkins makes a good guest star turn as Agent Roxanne Huntley, the Dukes' new revenuer contact; yet another character that it's a shame never came back for a return appearance at some point.
Of note regarding this episode is the gradual development of Boss Hogg – after taking a backseat for the first couple of stories, not only is he coming much to the fore by this point, but also being developed much more into the comedy persona that we would soon come to recognise. Typifying this is the scene where he and Rosco are out in the woods, in full camouflage gear, trying to find the Dukes' moonshine still – only for the General Lee to force them off of the road into a creek!
Daisy only has two small scenes in this one, and, being an early episode, the story is might lighter on featuring the General Lee than would become the norm from the second season onwards. As I've commented on my review for "Mary Kaye's Baby" (the only story from the entire 147 episode run where the General is totally absent), while I love that the General Lee is the icon of the show, at the same time I do feel that these early tales where things weren't always tied in so much to the car, gave the storytelling so much more scope. (Speaking of the General, this is the first time in the show that Luke is seen driving the car, trivia fans).
This is also the second of two instances where we see Champ Laidler as Brodie, a black friend of Bo and Luke's (he was also seen in "One Armed Bandits"). I think it's a shame that small roles like this didn't continue, and the series could have certainly merited a (semi)-regular black character to give it diversity. Anyone would think that black people didn't live in the Deep South (bar one half of the visiting "villains of the week" in many future stories!).
I also love Cooter in this one – not fully his "wild man" self of some other early instalments, but still much more of a "rough and ready" character than he would evolve into in due course. And check out his funky jacket in the scene, early on in the story, where he's fixing the General's tail light – it seems to be some kind of racing jacket, complete with signatures all over it. I wish he had worn this more in the series.
Character notes aside, the story itself plays out really well. As with many of the first season stories, it is still a comedy, but more on the side of comedy-drama (as opposed to the slapstick-heavy tales that dominated later in the show's run).
It's a mystery why Jesse's seemingly successful moonshine solution to the fuel problem never catches on – I guess we are to assume that it was quashed by the government, who don't want to loose their lucrative arrangements with oil barons.
When I recorded the series from $ky One (U.K.) in 1992, I actually didn't take to "High Octane" as much as the other Georgia-filmed episodes. I still liked it, but for some reason it didn't do as much for me as the other four. But over time, I've come to really like this episode. It has a great "good ol' boy" vibe, and – as with all give of the Georgia-filmed episodes – I love the rural locations. Watching it again tonight on DVD to review, I still really enjoy it; I consider it strong enough to give a solid 10/10.