Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Race with the Devil (1975)

If highway mayhem plus satanic cults sounds like your idea of the ideal exploitation movie combination then Race with the Devil was a movie made for you.

Roger (Peter Fonda) and Frank (Warren Oates) are motorcycle-racing buddies who run a bike shop. The business is doing well and Frank decides they should take a vacation together. He buys a gigantic motor home. There’ll be room for Roger and Frank and their wives and for their bikes on the back. Frank’s idea of a dream vacation is to get right away from people, so they set off in the dead of winter. With the motor home they’ll be self-sufficient.

Roger and Frank are overgrown teenagers in some ways but they’re basically regular decent guys. The trip goes well until one fateful night they encounter the one hazard that all vacationers fear - they run into a satanic cult conducting a human sacrifice. Even worse, the cultists realise they’ve been spotted. Now our hapless holiday-makers are on the run from enraged satan-worshippers.

What they haven’t realised is that their route to Aspen Colorado takes them right through the heart of devil-worshipper country. For hundreds of miles there are nothing but ordinary-looking country folk who are in fact minions of the Evil One.

When their wives are threatened Roger and Frank get fairly annoyed, but when the satanists trash their motorcycles they get really mad. That’s going too far. Now it’s time to buy weapons and get serious.

It’s one of those horror movies where most of the plot twists are expected, but that’s part of the fun of this sort of movie. Our unlucky campers don’t notice when they drive into the nearest town that all the townsfolk are clearly servants of the devil but we in the audience know right away.

What matters is that the lengthy chase is done with energy and a certain amount of flair, and with automotive destruction on the grand scale. This movie makes no pretense of aiming for subtlety but it does deliver excitement. It’s really more an action movie than a horror movie. It’s like Mad Max but with devil-worshippers instead of gangs.

Peter Fonda is a pretty limited actor but this is just about within his range and his performance is adequate. Warren Oates of course is fun. Loretta Swit (better-known for the M*A*S*H TV series) and Lara Parker don’t get to do much as the wives but they’re quite adequate as well. It’s not exactly an actor’s picture.

Director Jack Starrett keeps things fast and simple and the result is a highly enjoyable drive-in movie.

The Region 2 DVD lacks the extras that come with the Region 1 release but on the other hand it’s absurdly cheap, it’s widescreen and it looks good.

1 comment:

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

A great 1970's action flick overflowing with the rampant machismo of Oates and Fonda. I like its hybrid nature; part road movie/part horror movie/part action movie...with a dose of satansploitation and cultism thrown in.