Sunday, October 30, 2011

RACE WITH THE DEVIL (Jack Starrett, 1975, USA)

Jack Starret’s classic B-film gem sports one of the best tag lines ever: If you're going to race with the devil, you've got to be as fast as Hell! Peter Fonda and Warren Oates take their wives on the best damn vacation ever, a cross country journey from Texas to Colorado in their new RV. Somewhere along the way, they pull of the road for the night and set camp in an isolated clearing. After racing their motorcycles and drinking beer, they settle down to relax and witness a satanic orgy…that ends in a bloody sacrifice.

Thus the race odyssey begins.

The remaining 50+ minutes is a mixture of suspense and outright terror as the Deliverance-like cultists seem to be everywhere: from the local sheriff to the tourists at the camp ground! This ubiquitous sense of unease is truly unnerving: every smile, glance, or greeting seems to have ominous undertones.

The action is violent and brutal with close-up camerawork in the narrow confines of the RV. Though this is a chase movie, the screenplay really focuses on the sense of dread and abandonment…strangers in a strange land. When the action sequences happen you have a personal connection and can feel the fear dripping from their pores. My only serious complaint is that Loretta Swit and Laura Parker are relegated to the roles of stereotypical screaming women. Otherwise, a great 70’s B-movie that outruns many contemporary action flicks!

Final grade: (B)