Day 14. The Monster Mile: One about cars or racing.
Blame this review solely on the staff of Scarecrow Video of Seattle. The B&S staff had this on our shortlists for our “Fast and Furious Week I” and our upcoming-December “Fast and Furious Week II” tribute weeks to the well-weathered leather, hot metal, and oily rubber burners of the home video-era. Well . . . we lie. This one was on our long-list actually, as we kept avoiding this used celluloid clunker. Then the Scarecrow gang had to come up with theme day #15 for the 2020 Psychotronic Challenge. So let’s just yank this one off like the icky-sticky, puss-soaked band-aid that it is and get it over and done with. . . .
So you’re Harry Hurwitz, aka Harry Tampa, and your genre-meshing of disco and vampires with Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula was a critical and box office failure. So, what do you do for your next picture? You team up with ’50s television producer Jules V. Levy (The Rifleman, The Big Valley), who was one of the (of the many) co-producers on Smokey and the Bandit (as well as John Wayne’s McQ and Brannigan, and Burt Reynolds’s White Lightning and Gator), to mesh the ol’ the Bandit with The Cannonball Run (1981). And, what the hell: while we’re at it, we’ll clip from The Gumball Rally (1976), because, why not? The Cannonball Run clipped ’em.
As you can see: there’s not an original part under this hood.
Okay, so the “script” is locked (we think), but who do you get to star in your road racing rip-off? Well, John Wayne and ol’ Burt aren’t signing up for this non-sense, especially after you unleashed Nocturna on the masses. Well, what the hell, Christopher Lee — who’s always grateful to get out of the horror genre — is game for a villainous role.
But who do you get for the lead: the guy who starred in Death Race 2000 (1975) and Cannonball (1976), of course, because, well, this Harry Tampa gas-guzzler isn’t that far removed from those films.
And who will be our Sally “Frog” Field to get our Bandit into a mess: Stockard Channing, aka Rizzo, from Grease.
Okay, now we need a “Sheriff Burford T. Justice” for this rubber-burning tomfoolery, only he needs to be a bit more regal . . . and he needs to be a “Count,” but who . . . yes, Mr. Lee, of course! He’s Count Lorenzo Borgia, an African horse rancher who’s also a racing fetishist. But wait . . . are they . . . ripping off Star Wars . . . and foreshadowing Lee’s work as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus? Alright, Harry! You ripped off Paul Hogan and George Lucas films that weren’t even made yet. Way to go, Mr. Tampa! This movie is going to . . . crash and burn.
“Hey, R.D! Is that Rick Moranis, who played Dark Helmet in Spaceballs, standing next to Christopher Lee — wearing a “dark helmet” on his head?”
Nope. That’s Hamilton Camp . . . yes, he was in Smokey and the Bandit. And Starcrash. And Evilspeak. . . . Anywhoo, back to the plot.
There really isn’t one. At least one you haven’t already seen before. But the real “plot twist” is that this rips off Crocodile Dundee — which wasn’t even made yet! But since Linda Kozlowski wasn’t up for a Sue Charlton sidequal, well, prequel, we got Rizzo.
J.J Dalton (Channing) is your obligatory, ambitious richy-bitchy photojournalist (where’s Kay Lenz when you need her) for Playboy Magazine (she the type who, when doing an expose on prostitution, ends up arrested for prostitution). And she concocts a new story pitch: she’ll be a navigator for a race car in the 5th African International Road Rally. And she hires movie stunt driver Carradine as her driver. And Carradine’s ex-boss? The good ol’ Count. Yep, another “Frog” screws over another good ol’ boy.
What’s amazing about this auto-salvaged mess is that it isn’t just some low-budget schlock studio production. No. This isn’t a Roger Corman Eat My Dust-cum-Grand Theft Auto-cum-Smokey Bites the Dust stock footage recycler: MGM/United Artists — obviously hoping for some Smokey stank on the ol’ celluloid — ended up with a knock off Disney’s The Love Bug. But not all is lost: Christopher Lee is wonderfully deadpan and its adept at comedy. Who knew?! And Stockard Channing is quite the champ dealing with all of the baboons. And ol’ David is Dave: he never disappoints. But he was probably pissed he starred into two “3000 movies” — and they both sucked tailpipe (Deathsport, aka Death Race 3000). But hey, at least he didn’t star in America 3000 . . . but David A. Prior sucked Dave into Future Force (1989) and Future Zone (1990), so, Dave still got slammed in the ol’ celluloid hoosegow.
The VHS tapes on this, released between 1984 to 1987, are bountiful in the online marketplace, while DVDs were issued in 2011 by both MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Video. You can watch a pretty clean rip on You Tube and you can stream it Amazon Prime. Our advice: watch the You Tube one for free, as the Amazon print is of a pretty low quality.
Hey, be sure to check out our “Drive-In Friday” tribute to five of good ol’ Uncle Harry’s films!
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.