Speed Lovers/Thunder in Dixie
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First, in "Speed Lovers," the son of a racetrack mechanic gets into the octane groove and sets out to make a name for himself on the Daytona speedway. David Marcus, Peggy OHara, and Fred Lorenzen as himself star; music is supplied by Billy Lee Riley of "Red Hot" fame. Then, a racer obsessed with his girlfriends death at the hands of a rival driver tries to even the score in a big race. But when his plans go awry and land him in the hospital with horrible injuries, he decides to make peace with his rival. Set at Atlantas Dixie 400, "Thunder in Dixie" stars Harry Milland, Judy Lewis; with Richard Petty. 155 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
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These two films are great examples of Speedsploitation (part of the Hicksploitation family.) The first, Speed Lovers, is a hilarious ham-bone excursion into big hair, go-go music, and overgrown racetrack "kids" well into their 30s. The star (who also wrote, produced & directed the picture) is someone I wish I knew. The scene where he pushes the "bad guys" into a pool and grabs a last-minute kiss from one of the poolside molls before his escape sums up the spirit of this movie in living color. What a guy.
The second picture, Thunder in Dixie, is the polar opposite of the first, the Yang to its Yin. In black & white with a top-notch story of hurt, anger, revenge, betrayal, and finally resolution, this story really packs a punch. Although betrayed by a floozy who dies & seems a saint to racetrack driver Ticker, it's really his former partner & racer Mickey that you feel the most for. He's really sexy, yet his best friend turns on him, & his wife is the illegitimate lovechild of Clark Gable & Loretta Young. I like to think that after the conclusion of the movie, Ticker & Mickey realize that they love each other & run over Mickey's wife at the next race.
High octane recommendations for both movies, each for different reasons.
Genre rating: 3 stars
Note: This review is for Speed Lovers only. The sole release available here is a double-feature with 1964's Thunder in Dixie.
SPEED LOVERS wastes no time, immediately dropping us into a ten minute sequence filmed at Daytona. You know, when you've spent years watching modern Nascar, seeing this old footage really gives you a thrill. These guys throwing huge steel Fords and Dodges - NOT covered in logos, yet - all the while getting in horrific crashes. Really a sight to see.
The plot itself? Scott, son of a famous mechanic, wants to prove himself as a racer on the stock car circuit. What's funny is writer/director William McGaha - who looks at least 30 - miscasts himself as the "young" Scott, who also happens to be a bragging, whining, cocky little snot. And also, he might go down as the worst-dancing director in movie history....but the racing stuff is cool. And don't miss the "International Playgirls"!
On a side note, the print of this movie looks GORGEOUS! There are scenes that really pop watching on an HDTV. Seriously, 60's movies on Eastmancolor stock don't wind up looking this good nowadays. There's some fading in the racing stock footage, but that's all. Also, the hairs and damage that are usually rife on SW dvds are almost completely absent. This film was either well preserved or not circulated very much, or both. Is it art? No, but it is fun.
THUNDER IN DIXIE is a pals-turned-enemies story, playing out like an early-60's "Days of Thunder". Some good racing scenes. The POV going down the track is pretty well done.
One thing I found very striking about this film is the characters of Karen and Lily. The female characters in this are well written, and that usually can't be said in a genre where they're either vamps or shrikes. The actress playing Lily is particularly good. She plays vulnerable really well. You find yourself caring for her. That can't be said much for Something Weird movies, can it?
The B&W print of this movie looks very clean. Again, a very well preserved film. The acting in this is better than "Speed Lovers", much more grounded and emotional.
EXTRAS - always a joy on these double feature DVDs, and this doesn't disappoint. Included is a whole slew of racing movie trailers. I like the one for "Red Hot Racers", the Clark Gable movie that was put out under a different title. The trailer for "Road of Death" is a low-budget hoot, too.
Also there is "Hot Rod Girls", a 5 minute short which follows three damsels as they confront car repair and get oil over their clothes. I like the one in the white panties; cute butt. Then get ready for "The Talking Car", a 50's traffic scare film where young Jack and Mary are taught the perils of traffic by - get this - a talking cherry red Ford. The car even has 50's style Clutch Cargo mouth movements. How was this one never on Mystery Science Theater? Seriously, you could riff on the car's conversation with the kids and make it the filthiest thing ever!
The "Drivevision" short is one of the strangest things I've found on a SW dvd, but also one of the neatest. It is a 23 minute-long POV-style driving simulator that was produced by Aetna. It looks like it was made in the early 70's, and was actually shot in CinemaScope (or a cheaper version thereof). How'd they drive around with a 'scope camera bolted to the hood? With it being anamorphic, the whole simulator feel is very effective, especially if you zoom a little with your HDTV. It is a neat little bit of time travel to watch this. I was so curious after seeing specific signage, I went hunting to find where they filmed this. Turns out it was St. Petersburg, FL.
You have a gallery of movie art along with more audio from the Skyline Drive In. Something Weird must've acquired hours of these recordings...I've heard different stuff on different SW discs.
This is a good double feature. I hadn't even heard of this DVD before I got it in the Drive-In Classics box set.
If you like this review, read some of my others. I'm trying to do a review for every SW dvd I have.