Steel Arena (1973)

Thanks again to my friend Hoss for finding this one — early Mark Lester is not easy at all to track down!

Lester was able to get a bunch of stunt drivers — Dusty Russell, Buddy Love, Gene Drew, Dutch Schnitzer, Speed Stearns, Ed Ryan, Big Tim Welch and Dan Carter — and instead of making just a clip collection of stunts, he created a narrative around all the car damage.

Lester told The Pink Smoke, “I was at the Sacramento River on vacation, just river rafting. I ran into a group of guys there who looked like Hell’s Angels. And I said ‘What do you do?’ They said “We’re the Circus of Death.” They traveled the circuit putting on shows. So I went to some of those and just thought, “Wow.” Originally I wanted to make it as a documentary, then I realized “I know all the real people, I’ll just write a narrative around it.””

He also called this movie a post-Vietnam parable, with gladiators in cars. Kind of like Knightriders, except eight years earlier and no one holds Lester in the same esteem as George Romero. Well, you know. Except me.

I really dug the rambling nature of this film, as well as the open ending. If you can find it, take the time to enjoy it.

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