Checkered Flag or Crash (1977)

If it looks like a low-budget Drive-In potboiler and plays like a low-budget Drive-In potboiler . . .

Hey, be nice! This isn’t a duck . . . this a Paul Heller and Fred Weintraub production backed by Universal Studios!

Come on, now, you VHS packrats. You know your Weintraub-Heller oeuvres by now. Fred and Paul brought us the martial arts classics that are Enter the Dragon (1973), Black Belt Jones and Golden Needles (1974). Then they went blaxploitation with Isaac Hayes in Truck Turner (1974), went apoc with The Ultimate Warrior (1975), and gave us Jim Kelly in Hot Potato (1976) and Peter Fonda in Outlaw Blues (1977). Behind the lens is Alan Gibson who gave us Goodbye Gemini (1970) . . . .then ended up doing things like Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Behind the Brother P111299 Valiant is Michael Allin, who not only brought us the aforementioned Enter the Dragon and Truck Turner, but also gave us a big-screen Telly Savalas in Border Cop (1980) and the beautiful, Star Wars* dropping-disaster that was Flash Gordon (1980).

And who’s up on the big screen thespin’ with burnin’ rubbers and oil?

Well, we’ve got Joe Don Baker (who, in the same year, also tore up the asphalt in Speed Trap; reviewed later this week . . . then he ended up in Joysticks), Susan Sarandon, Larry Hagman, and brother of Jesse, Alan Vint (Earthquake, Macon County Line, Unholy Rollers).

Now, with a pedigree like that, this duck is gonna fly . . .

Baker is washed up NASCAR driver “Walkaway” Madden, known for his hardcore “crash or win” attitude . . . and he always walks away from those crashes. Larry Hagman is Bo Cochran, the slippery Southern entrepreneur who convinces Walkaway to be part of “The Manilla 1000,” his big, 3-day off-road spectacle tearing through the Philippine jungles. And Bo tosses Susan Sarandon’s photojournalist C.C Wainwright in the cockpit to capture all the action.

And what “action” do we get?

Well, lots of grumpy-sexist Madden and bitchy Wainwright innuendo-cum-PG profanity bickering on their way to love . . . and lots . . . and lots of sand rails, retrofitted VW Bugs, and “motorcicles” (courtesy of Hagman’s good ‘ol boy drawl) racing around . . . and around . . . and around.

Hey, wait a minute! Back up the Bug, there Joe Don.

This sounds exactly like Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz’s Safari 3000 . . . only with Joe Don Baker and Susan Sarandon in the David Carradine and Stockard Channing roles . . . who were actually in the Burt Reynolds and Sally Field roles . . . hey, this is a Smokey and the Bandit** rip off!

And “quack” goes the duck. But if you’re a Joe Don Baker completist, then this soggy Mallard is for you.

Oh, and emptor the caveats, kiddies . . . this Universal Studios epic is not to be confused with Charles Band’s 1976 occult-cum-car crashing epic Crash! starring Sue Lyon and John Carradine (and ripping off 1975’s Race with the Devil) or 1963’s The Checkered Flag, the directing and writing debut by William Grefe (Mako: Jaws of Death and Whiskey Mountain).

You can watch a free rip of Checkered Flag or Crash on You Tube.

* We reviewed a gaggle (I know that’s a geese reference, work with me, Cletus) of Star Wars droppings and ripoffs with our “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurette.

** Hey, Cletus! Did you know we also reviewed a tar barrel load of hicksploitation flicks? Be sure to check out our “Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List” featurette. It’s a good ol’, down home load ‘o fun, son!

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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