Thursday, May 15, 2008

SO I HEAR "RACE WITH THE DEVIL" IS GONNA GET A REMAKE SOON. Hmmm. I have every faith that it will be unwatchable. After all, they just CAN'T do satan worshipper/car chase movies justice outside of the 1970's. And this 1975 drive-in theatre owner's wet dream of a movie has got it all. Devil worshippers prancing around a bonfire sticking daggers into the hearts of nubile nude blondes. Cross country car chases with buckshot a-flyin'. An annoyingly cutesy little dog hanging dead from a mobile home door. And a Mount Rushmore of 1970's borderline-competent acting talent that wobbles between embarrassing and engaging: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit AND Lara Parker. A quartet we know from "EASY RIDER", "IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT", "M*A*S*H*" and "DARK SHADOWS" respectively. (SIDEBAR: I seriously cannot BELIEVE that Loretta Swit will be 71 years old this year!!!). And the irony of Lara Parker starring in a Satanic cult movie after rising to fame as the evil sorceress Angelique of DARK SHADOWS is not lost on me -- and shouldn't be lost on you either -- or why else would you be WATCHING this kinda movie in the first place?!? Not forgetting for one minute the role Peter Fonda would play in 2007's cinematic masterpiece GHOST RIDER! Basic plotline (and seriously, this is all anyone REALLY needs to make a movie): Two couples (them four up there) decide to take a vacation to Aspen in their humongous mobile home. While camping in a secluded wooded area, what should they espy from their lawnchairs but a devil cult in the night. After doffing their clothes, one woman is sacrificed with a dagger to the heart. Naturally, it's JUST at this moment that Loretta Swit decides to poke her head out of the motor home and call LOUDLY for the two guys to get back inside.

Satanists start bounding across the river towards them as the mobile home skids off into the night as if the Devil was after them. And of course, he kinda is. The four drive to the next town where they report the crime to the local sheriff who (I'm sure I won't be spoiling anything when I tell you this) is IMMEDIATELY obvious as a member of the Devil Cult himself. I mean, the way R. G. Armstrong plays the part, the way his introduction is shot and just the way he looks SCREAMS he's one of the Satanists. And of course, knowing this is a 70's movie, there could be no other option. Truly, while I was watching the first shot of the sheriff it's almost like a loud bell went off proclaiming "Villain"! After examining the scene of the crime, the Sheriff finds a dead dog and intimates the four probably mistook what they saw and were probably drunk besides. We the viewers, of course, know different -- and so do our heroes. As the drive off towards their far off destination, they keep encountering devil worshippers who beat the living hell out of their mobile home. Suspicious people are everywhere the quartet stops and, after the movie passes its first hour of running time, things really begin to heat up.

RACE WITH THE DEVIL is one of those great, empty-headed drive-in movies that are a lot of fun. There is a slow build-up of suspense and tension (and this is a GOOD thing) until the final half of the film really begins to rivet you to your seat. The car crashes, pyrotechnics and stunt work are actually top notch and the film itself turns into something of a thrill ride. Of particular interest is the scene where those wacky Satanists have placed a couple deadly rattlesnakes inside the mobile home. It really is one hell of a scene; the snakes are real and they look to be right there on the set with the actors.

That nicely bleak, downbeat 70's thing can be found especially at the end of the movie (and come on, were you REALLY expecting anything different from a 70's movie?!? As Bugs Bunny said at the end of "WHAT'S OPERA, DOC". . . .well, you know what he said. I suppose RACE WITH THE DEVIL loosely qualifies as a horror film; although it's more of a car chase thriller owing to the fact that the occult trappings of the Satanic cult are only seen during two scenes of the film. All the rest of the time the Satanists are almost impossible to tell from the everyday rednecks populating the rural highways and byways. The rather nice thing about the film is that our four protagonists are not blissfully unaware of the machinations lined up against them; from the very beginning of trouble they are ALWAYS pretty sure that some skullduggery is afoot. Witness the surreptious way that Peter Fonda secretly picks up his OWN blood sample at the bonfire site; already suspecting that the local sheriff isn't going to prove too helpful. The problem is the four are simply unable to wrest themselves loose from the seemingly endless parade of Satanic cult members hounding them across the highways.

RACE WITH THE DEVIL would be my idea of the perfect film to place in the middle of a 70's car chase movie marathon. DEATH RACE 2000, of course, would be the lead off film followed by RACE WITH THE DEVIL and we'd wind things up with Ron Howard's first directorial effort: GRAND THEFT AUTO. Could there be a better way to waste an evening?!? I would naturally recommend you have a huge pile of fried chicken on hand while watching this marathon of movie goodness, by the way.

5 comments:

Cheekies said...

fried chicken would be a great
70's car chase movie marathon snackie.

Weaverman said...

Swine! You know I ain't allowed fried chicken! RACE WITH THE DEVIL is great fun and I look forward to the remake as much as I looked forward to the remake of WICKER MAN which was not a lot. The original has one element that you can never, never, ever replace - the late, very great Warren Oates, who was just simply one of the most watchable actors ever.

Cerpts said...

Cheekies,

Ain't it the truth!

Weaverman,

I ain't either.

Ms. Henrietta Hudson said...

peter fonda - the best legs in hollywood.

Cerpts said...

Oh girl, you behave!