This was the first of the car stunt movies set in the American South that Burt Reynolds made during the 1970s and involved some kind of battle with a sheriff or official. This group of movies includes the Smokey and the Bandit films and this movie's sequel, Gator (1976).
This movie's original title was 'McKlusky' which is the surname of the main character, Gator McKlusky, played by Burt Reynolds. Interestingly, the sequel to this movie was named after this character's first name, Gator (1976).
This movie was Dern's uncredited film debut. Dern was just six years old in this brief non-speaking walk on bit part. Dern plays the daughter of her real life mother Diane Ladd who appears in this movie as Maggie.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The chase sequence that ends with Gator's car sailing from a river bank onto a barge went seriously wrong. The plan was for the car (driven by stuntman Hal Needham) to land squarely on the mound of soft earth in the barge, on the take he fell short and landed on the rear of the barge with the rear of the car hanging into the water. Needham was hurt and stunned, Reynolds watching the scene from behind the camera dove into the water, swam to the barge and helped pull Needham out of the car. Needham recovered from his injuries.