Night of Violence (1965)

Roberto Mauri started as an actor before directing became his main calling card. You may have seen some of his Italian Westerns, like Sartana in the Valley of Death and He Was Called Holy Ghost or his oddball jungle film King of Kong Island or Slaughter of the Vampires. Oh yeah — he also wrote the giallo Clap, You’re Dead and came back in 1980 to make The Porno Killers.

Prefiguring the giallo craze that would happen in around five years, thanks to Argento, this movie has a masked killer who preys only on prostitutes, hence its alt title Call Girls 66. 

When a prostitute is killed and several others are nearly snuffed out, that girl’s sister decides to investigate on her own, learning that not just one, but several famous actors seem to be behind the killers.

This movie has such a great payoff that I’m shocked that more giallo didn’t steal it. The killer is a man whose features were destroyed in the Hiroshima bomb blast and no woman will go near him, much less have sex with him. So he makes masks of famous actors and uses them to get close to the women, who he soon kills. Crazy, right?

You can watch this on YouTube.

The Stately Ghosts of England (1965)

Margaret Rutherford may have ben in more than 40 films, but she is best known for playing Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple in four movies and Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. She also dealt with some family craziness, as before she was even born, her father killed his father by beating him to death with a chamber pot. After seven years in a mental ward, he was released. After starting his new family, changing his name and moving to India, his wife killed herself, leading Margaret to be raised by her aunt. She was told her father was dead, despite him trying to reach her for years.

Once she began acting, she was pretty much protected from the world by her husband — and frequent acting partner — Stringer Davis. There have been rumors that the two never consummated their relationship, but they did adopt a child of sorts by taking in a young man named Gordon Langley Hall who eventually had gender reassignment surgery and became known as Dawn Langley Hall, the name she used when she wrote the biography of Rutherford, Margaret Rutherford: A Blithe Spirit.

In 1965, Margaret — who suffered bad spells and electroshock therapies in her life in an effort to stay away from the madness she thought infected her family — Stringer Davis and Tom Corbett visited the haunted homes Longleat, Salisbury Hall and Beaulieu for an NBC special based on Diana Norman’s book The Stately Ghosts of England.

Honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen, an absolute delight of old English manners, famous British actors and just plain goofball haunting silliness.

NBC promoted this show with articles in the New York Times and Show Magazine. There was plenty of William Castle-level BS in these, including all manner of ghost antics like slamming doors, ruined footage and broken cameras writer, producer and director Frank De Felitta asked for the ghosts to give him permission to film them.

Great story, right? Well sure, but De Felitta also wrote the novels Audrey Rose and The Entity. So he knew a great ghost story when he heard one.

 

 

Drive-In Friday: Drag Racing ’70s Docs Night

Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen were gods to us kids in the ’70. We bought the racing magazines and ripped out the glossy spreads of their cars and persons and Scotch Taped ’em to our bedroom doors and walls — right next to our Runaways (duBeat-e-o) and Suzi Quatro (Suzi Q) posters, and Roger Decoster’s mag-rips of his daring motocross jumps.

When the ABC Wild World of Sports held one of Prudhomme and McEwen’s drag or funny car races on a Saturday afternoon, the neighborhood streets cleared and everyone sat in front of the TV. The Snake and Mongoose were only matched by Richard Petty and Evel Knievel. They were the “Muhammad Ali” of racing. Everyone loved them.

So, to commemorate those “Funny Car Summers” of those youthful days of yore, let’s fire up that silver screen under the stars!

Movie 1: Funny Car Summer (1973)

Man, when this commercial came on TV . . . EVERYBODY went to see this documentary that chronicles a summer in the life of “Funny Car” racer Jim Dunn and his family.

The most popular, best known, and best-distributed film of the night — it is also the most disappointing (to those wee eyes of long ago) of the films of the night. You know how great Pawn Stars and American Chopper were when they first went on the air — then they turned into a Kardashians-styled sit(shite)com that’s all about Chum Lee and Corey Harrison bumblin’ about the shop and Junior and Senior fighting? Where’s the neat junk? Where’s the bikes? Where’s Frank and Mike? Who in the hell let Danielle, this Memphis blond chick, and Mike’s bumblin’ brother on the set? Where did the pickin’ go? This is American Pickers, right?

Well, that’s what watching this movie is like: all family drama and little vroom-vroom. Way to go marketing department and Mr. Distributor. You broke our little-tyke hearts — and pissed off our parents, who paid the drive-in fare, because we bitched from the backseat that we were bored — and watched 99 and 44/100% Dead (or was it The Exorcist) through the rear window, instead.

You can watch Funny Car Summer on You Tube HERE and HERE.

Movie 2: Wheels on Fire (1973)

Courtesy of Letterboxd

Wheels On Fire is a classic motor sports documentary — and also one of the most obscure and hard-to-find (as you can see, it’s even impossible to find a decent image of the theatrical one-sheet). But not in the land of Oz, since this was filmed in Liverpool, Sydney. This one kicks ass because of — before there were web-cam and fiber optics — has the first ever “race cam” strapped onto the drag car, which takes you behind the wheel at speeds above 300 kilometers (miles in the States) per hour.

Again, this one is near impossible to track down on VHS and DVD — and the DVDs are grey market VHS-rips. And there’s no trailer or clips . . . so in lieu of a trailer, check out these classic drag racing commercials.

Intermission! The Snack Bar is Open! Check out our classic drag racing poster art gallery while you wait in line!

Poster Top: All courtesy of Garage Art Signs. Bottom/From Left: Courtesy of American Hertiage USA, Garage Art Signs, Landis Publication Etsy, Repo Racing Posters

Movie 3: Wheels of Fire (1972)

Not to be confused (and it is) with the “on” movie above, Wheels of Fire focuses on the lives of five major drag racers of the era: Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, Shirley Muldowney, Richard Tharp and Billy Meyer, as they are each followed through a complete drag racing season. Yep. This is reality TV before Robert Kardashian had his first kid (I think; too lazy to check K-Dash B-Days), the very same kids who unleashed the ubiquitously-hated broadcasting format.

As with the oft-confused Wheels on Fire, there’s no online streams of this lost, classic drag racing film. It was on You Tube in several parts, but was removed. Only this 10:00 minute clip is available, which we’re posting in lieu of an official trailer (and don’t be surprised if it also vanishes to grey screen). The now out-of-print DVDs are available in the online marketplace from time to time (and, as you can see, it’s impossible to find a decent theatrical one-sheet). The NHRA web platform and their upper-tier cable channel rerun it from time to time.

Movie 4: Seven-Second Love Affair (1965)

Documentarian Les Blank of Burden of Dreams fame, which chronicled the making of Werner Herzog’s and Klaus Kinski’s Fitzcarraldo, made his docu-debut with this drag chronicle — its seeds (A Rubber Tree plant, ha-ha! ugh.) planted courtesy of his first behind-the-camera gig shooting drag racers in Long Beach, California.

This one has it all: Souped-up “Blower” Mercurys and Chevys (like in Two-Lane Blacktop), rails, and funny cars. While it chronicles other racers, this one is a showcase for Rick “The Iceman” Stewart as he attempts to grab the world’s record — as Los Angeles’ Canned Heat Blues Band provides the musical backing.

Les Blank has made this easily accessible as an Amazon Prime and Vimeo VOD that’s also available for purchase at Les Blanks.com and on eBay.

And so goes our “Fast and Furious Week: Part Deux.” Can you smell the rubber Big Daddy is cookin’, Dwayne? And, do you have a hankering for even MORE drag racing films? Then check out our first “Fast and Furious Week” reviews of Burnout and Fast Company.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Evil Brain from Outer Space (1965)

Editor’s Note: This review previously ran on November 15, 2019, as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror Month tribute.

About the Author: Paul Andolina is one of my favorite people to talk movies with. If you like his stuff, check out his site Wrestling with Film

Evil Brain from Outer Space is a science fiction film from 1965. It happens to be a couple of the Japanese Super Giant films that have been hacked up and spliced together to make one English dubbed film. It’s an odd movie about a group of aliens who send one of their own to earth to stop the brain of the evil mutant Balazar from destroying humanity. 

Special effects films and television shows are big in Japan and they have been since Godzilla roared onto screens. The Super Giant series from the late 50’s is a bunch of stand-alone films that are about the deeds of a man named Giant of Steel or as he is known in EBfOS Star Man. Star Man is a superhero basically and he wears some pretty nifty lycra outfits, he looks like a luchador that forgot his mask at home.

Evil Brain sees Star Man coming to earth to stop a few evil doctor/scientists who are in league with the evil extraterrestrial brain of Balazar. There is a hawk that hangs out with one of these doctors and a one-legged man who serves the other. There are some pretty awesome mutants who fight Star Man in this film as well. One looks like a chupacabra from the black lagoon and has strange tendril-like fingers and makes some weird noises, if I had seen this a child I would have been scared of him immediately. I actually said out loud, “WTF is that?” while watching the movie. He is by far my favorite part of the film. The other mutant is a long-haired demon lady who doesn’t quite know how to put on her lipstick. She jumps around and scratches the air while making demonic cat noises. There are also some generic henchmen mutants as well.

I would love to see the Super Giant serials in Japanese with English subtitles but I’m not sure they can live up to the insanity that is this film. It seems longer than it is because there is too much jibber-jabber. Honestly would love to see Star Man just mess up some mutants and forgo the plot altogether. If you like psychotronic films this is definitely the one for you. I have no idea what they were thinking when they pieced this bad boy together. I’d like to believe there was some acid involved and a whole lotta pot. It is in black and white but it still is a lot of fun. 

If you have any interest in the Tokasatsu trend in Japan and want to see an earlier effort you can’t get much better than Evil Brain from Outer Space.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Invaders from Space (1965)

A bunch of salamander men from the planet Kulimon in the Moffit Galaxy plan on taking over Earth by unleashing a lethal plague on mankind (maybe not what you want to watch right now). It’s up to Starman from the Emerald Planet to save the human race.

I always wondered why these movies didn’t make any sense when I was a kid. 

That’s because they were all part of a much larger story that we had no idea about. We’re coming into the middle of a movie serial called Kōtetsu no Kyojin (Giant of Steel). To be more exact, we’re watching episodes 3 and 4, which were called The Mysterious Spacemen’s Demonic Castle and Earth on the Verge of Destruction

That’s because Walter Manley Enterprises and Medallion Films bought these movies from Japan and then did pretty much whatever they wanted with them. While the original films are 48 and 39 minutes long, they jammed them together, took out 9 minutes and used library music and dubbed dialogue.

While the American version refers to the bad guys as salamanders, those that love Japanese crytozology will recognize them as kappas, the dreaded frog-like beasts that haunt rivers and lakes. They also have a doctor who can hypnotize people, a witch and their leader, who is able to change the rotation of the planet.

Starman predates both Ultraman and the sendai ranger shows, but he’s very similar. He tends yo leap off things and do tons of backflips. A lesser hero would get dizzy and puke from the acrobatics that he does, but that’s why he’s such a winner, I guess.

Walter Manley Enterprises also brought the Jayne Mansfield-starring The Loves of HerculesInvasion of the Neptune MenCurse of the Blood GhoulsGiants of RomeCavalier in Devil’s Castle and Revenge of the Black Eagle to America, amongst other films. 

They also made three more Starman movies. It all begins in Atomic Rulers of the World, which is Super Giant and Super Giant ContinuesAttack from Space which is The Artificial Satellite and the Destruction of Humanity and The Spaceship and the Clash of the Artificial Satellite; and finally Evil Brain from Outer Space, which took the full color films The Space Mutant AppearsThe Devil’s Incarnation and Kingdom of the Poison Moth and made them black and white. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Director Teruo Ishii, known as “The King of Cult,” made tons of movies. He directed 10 of the 18 A Man from Abashiri Prison films, all eight of the Joys of Torture series, Horrors of Malformed Men, Sonny Chiba’s The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, some Pinky violence films, a few biker movies, two Yoshiharu Tsuge manga adaptions (Master of the Gensenkan Inn and Wind-Up Type) and so many more. In all, he made 83 films and numerous shows for TV.

Ishii left the series after the sixth movie, as he learned that a child had imitated Super Giant, dressing up like the hero and jumping out of a window to the street below. This is why Japanese superhero shows began airing a disclaimer before every show, warning kids to not imitate the things they saw on screen. 

I would hope that no one copied any of the Yakuza and erotic torture that he’d be in charge of in his later films.

Seriously, I love this movie. It’s kind of goofy looking compared to the CGI superheroics that we have today, but it has a charm that none of them do.

You can watch this on YouTube and download it for free on the Internet Archive.

SLASHER MONTH: Color Me Blood Red (1965)

Part of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ so-called Blood Trilogy with Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs!, this one concerns Adam Sorg, an artist who is seeking the perfect color red for his latest masterpiece. While conventional science would tell you that blood would turn brown when it dries, in this movie, it remains the same garish tone that an Italian giallo would feature.

Color Me Blood Red and A Bucket of Blood are essentially the same basic film, except that where Roger Corman keeps much of the violence off-screen, you’re here for a Lewis film to see blood and organs splash all over the screen. You’re not here for subtlety.

Gordon Oas-Heim is positively unhinged here as the lead. It’s kind of amazing that years later, he’d play Manford the butler on The New Monkees. He also shows up in Lewis’ Moonshine Mountain as the sheriff (he used the stage name Adam Sorg here!) and also is in Andy Warhol’s Bad.

This would be the last film from the duo of Lewis and David F. Friedman. There were plans to make a fourth in the series — Suburban Roulette* — but Friedman thought they’d done all they could when it came to gore. He’d move on to make roughies and nudie cuties like A Smell of Honey, a Swallow of Brine7 Into Snowy and The Acid Eaters, as well as Love Camp 7 and Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS using the name Herman Traeger.

You can watch this on Tubi or get the Arrow Video blu ray from Diabolik DVD. That has audio commentary by Lewis and Friedman, as well as Something Weird as a second bonus film. If you don’t have the gigantic Lewis box set, this is a great purchase.

*Lewis would end up making a movie with this title in 1968.

Planet of the Vampires (1965)

American-International Pictures had made some money in the U.S. with Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and Black Sabbath. It just made sene for Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson to gain more control by producing the films themselves instead of just buying the rights.

Working with Italian International Film and Spain’s Castilla Cooperativa Cinematográfica, AIP provided the services of writer Ib Melchior (The Angry Red Planet) to create the American version of this movie, which was based on Renato Pestriniero’s short story “One Night of 21 Hours.”

planet-of-the-vampires-movie-poster-1965-1020430218

This movie was quite literally the Tower of Babel, as each major cast member performed in their respective languages: Barry Sullivan spoke English, Norma Bengell spoke Portuguese, Ángel Aranda Spanish and Evi Marandi Italian. And the low budget would have made a cheap-looking movie with any other director, but Bava was the master of in-camera effects and flooding his sets with color and fog. In a Fangoria article, he would say, “Do you know what that unknown planet was made of? A couple of plastic rocks — yes, two: one and one! — left over from a mythological movie made at Cinecittà! To assist the illusion, I filled the set with smoke.”

When 1979’s Alien came out, those that had been exposed to Bava’s work would let people know that many of the ideas in that film came directly from this modest film with its $200,000 budget — I know Joe Bob, everyone lies about budgets. While Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon would claim for years that they had never seen this movie before, the writer would later say, “I stole the giant skeleton from the Planet of the Vampires.”

Want to know how I know those claims are true? From the very start of this film, two large ships — the Galliott and the Argos — in deep space respond to an SOS call and are lured to a planet where alien beings either take their bodies over or murder them. The crew of the Argos instantly begins murdering one another — with only Captain Markary (Sullivan) able to pull his crew out of madness. When they arrive at the other ship, everyone is already dead, including Markary’s brother.

Soon, the bodies of the dead are walking as if alive, the ships are damaged beyond repair, and crew members are getting wiped out (look for a young Ivan Rassimov — later of the giallos The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and All the Colors of the Dark, and the Star Wars clone The Humanoid — as one of them!).

While this film is 55 years old, I have no interest in ruining the ending for you. Instead, I want you to sit and bask in its colorful glow, awash in fog and mystery, with pulpy science fiction heroes running around in fetishy costumes and discovering skeletons that could in no way be human. It is everything that is magic about film.

Atlas — the comic company that tried to challenge Marvel and DC in the 1970’s — combined I Am Legend with this film to create the comic Planet of the Vampires. Much like all of their books, it only ran three issues, but the first one boasts a cover with pencils by Pat Broderick with Neal Adams-inks and other issues have great work by Russ Heath. The first issue was also written by future G.I. Joe mastermind Larry Hama. I have no doubt that Atlas did not pay AIP for the rights to this.

— Sam Panico

In 1972 Marvel Comics founder and publisher Martin Goodman left Marvel, selling the company in 1968—a company which he founded in 1939. When Marvel failed to honor Goodman’s retirement agreement to allow his son Chip to run the company, Goodman Sr. created Seaboard Periodicals and the Atlas Comics imprint in June of 1974 to go head-to-head with Marvel.

And by April of 1975—it was all over.

During Seaboard’s ten short months of existence, they published between two to four issues across 31 titles (comics and magazine-periodicals) for a total of 72 issues. In addition to creating original superhero characters, Seaboard attempted to acquire the rights to Japan’s Toho Studios’ stable of monsters, such as Godzilla, along with TV’s then popular Kolchak: The Night Stalker (check out our “Exploring: Dan Curtis” featurette) and a series of pulp-action spy novels.

Another one of Seaboard’s choices for adaptation came courtesy of Charlton Heston’s back-to-back hits with Planet of the Apes (1968; check out out “Ape Week” of reviews of the franchise), The Omega Man (1971) and Soylent Green (1973) (check out our September 2019 “Atomic Dustbin” of Apoc film reviews)—so began the legal processes to acquire the rights to and create a comic book version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.

And Matheson refused.

So Seaboard’s staff of writers and artists came up with their own variant of Matheson’s tale: a hybrid of Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man that also bared a striking similarity to Yul Brenner’s New York-based post-apocalyptic entry: The Ultimate Warrior (1974). And, of course, as Sam pointed out, the writers at Seabord dumped a heaping, radioactive helping of the Master Bava’s Planet of the Vampires into the atomic dustbin for good measure. (You don’t think so? Check out those black leather-yellow piped uniforms in Bava’s film against the white-blue piped uniforms of the Ares IV crew.) And, as with their rips of those 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.’ apoc properties, Seaboard didn’t pay AIP a dime for the rights.

And while surely John Carpenter was influenced by those four films, an apocalypse film critic can’t help but wonder if Carpenter read those three mid-1975 comic issues of Seaboard’s Planet of Vampires in creating his vision of a dystopian Big Apple for his own game-changing science fiction film: Escape from New York (1981)—all that was missing was The Empire State Building’s use as an architectural spine to support a domed city on the isle of Manhattan.

But at least we got the awesome Michael Sopkiw as Parisfal in 2019: After the Fall of New York out of the deal.

And Sergio Martino didn’t pay AVCO Embassy a dime.

And, as Sam explored, a whole bunch of people ripped off Alien (read a rundown of his reviews of those Alien rips HERE and HERE) . . . which ripped off Planet of Vampires . . . and no one paid Dan O’Bannon a dime. So it all evens out. Bava wins the apoc sweepstakes.

You can watch Bava’s incredible film on Amazon Prime.

— R.D Francis

About the Authors: Sam Panico is the proprietor of B&S About Movies. You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

The Return of Ringo (1965)

This film was Italy’s third highest grossing film in 1965 behind For a Few Dollars More and the original film, A Pistol for Ringo. Here, Captain Montgomery “Ringo” Brown (Giuliano Gemma) comes back to his homestead to find his family decimated, his property stolen by Mexican bandits and his fiancee about to marry Paco Fuentes, the villain behind all this.

If you’re like, hey, is this an Italian Western version of The Odyssey, you’re right.

While Nieves Navarro doesn’t reprise her role from the first Ringo film, she does play the tarot card-reading saloon girl Rosita. Antonio Casas also comes back in a different role as a sheriff who has been dominated by the gang and hey — Lorella DeLuca is also in both movies.

Actually, this movie is totally different from the original to the point that the more cynical of us could just believe that they threw the Ringo title on it after the original was such a success.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. It’s definitely a worthy Western packed with rich drama and plenty of satisfying violence.  When asked to pick his top twenty Italian Westerns, Quentin Tarantino selected this as number ten.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

A Pistol for Ringo (1965)

Duccio Tessari is one of the fathers of the Italian Western, co-writing Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. He also wrote Bava’s astounding Hercules In the Haunted World and would go on to write and direct films like Kiss Kiss…Bang BangThe Bloodstained Butterfly and Tex and the Lord of the Deep.

Instead of a silent Man with No Name, Tessari based Ringo on the real-life Johnny Ringo and created a well-dressed, talkative cowboy who drank milk while so many others enjoyed whiskey. It helped that he had such a great talent in Giuliano Gemma, who would go on to play Arizona Colt and also appear in Westerns like Day of Anger and Long Days of Vengeance. He was billed here as Montgomery Wood.

Ringo starts the movie in prison for killing four men in a gunfight. He is released only if he rescues a land baron and his daughter from a gang of bandits led by Sancho.

Sancho also has an evil girlfriend named Delores who gets her claws into the land baron and tries to save her man through her feminine wiles. That makes perfect sense when you realize that she’s played by giallo queen Nieves Navarro (Death Walks at MidnightAll the Colors of the DarkDeath Walks On High Heels).

Known as Ballad of Death Valley in the U.S., where it was a success, this movie begat an official sequel, The Return of Ringo, as well as numerous Ringo titled films.

It’s theme song by Morricone also rose to number one on the Italian music charts.

Ringo’s motto is “God created all men equal, the Colt made them different.” Your mileage may vary for the many Italian Westerns made in the wake of Leone’s success. This is one of the better examples of the genre.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Red Line 7000 (1965)

You know how it is at B&S About Movies: discussing mainstream, Tinseltown-made movies is anathema. So when we started digging into the antecedents of The Fast and the Furious franchise for this tribute week, you know we’re heading to the VHS shelves stocked with the films directed by Daniel Haller (Die Monster, Die, Devil’s Angels, and The Dunwich Horror), William Asher (Johnny Cool and “Beach Movies”), and Richard Rush (Hells Angels on Wheels, Psych-Out, The Savage Seven) that star the actors we care about, i.e., Frankie Avalon (Blood Song), Fabian (Disco Fever, Kiss Daddy Goodbye), Mimsy Farmer (swoon . . . Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Autopsy), Annette Funicello, and Diane McBain (Maryjane, The Mini-Skirt Mob, The Delta Factor). So, yeah, we’re going to review Thunder Alley (1967), The Wild Racers (1968) and Fireball 500 (1966) in quick succession. We’d be derelict in our reviewing duties if we didn’t inhale anything with the Corman-AIP stank on it. (Ditto for Jim Drake’s (Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol) 1989 car-crash homage, Speed Zone.)

So while this “mainstream” film is directed by Howard Hawks and released by Paramount Pictures, we’re breaking those mainstream-rules since this racing “epic” features an early starring role for James Caan (who did this and the space “epic” Countdown and water “epic” Submarine X-1 . . . on his way to the apoc-epic Rollerball . . . oh, and some mob-movie called The Godfather).

But don’t let Caan’s presence and the iconic name of Howard Hawks fool you: This is pure Elvis-as-a-race car driver-via-process shots tomfoolery, ala Viva Las Vegas (1964), Spinout (1966), and Speedway (1968), without the singing. Hawks should have cast Frankie Avalon and Fabian, and dumped it in Drive-Ins, and called it a day. At least it would have turned a profit, like those abysmal (yet adoring) Elvis race romps.

“We gotta win this race . . . lemonade, that cool, refreshing drink.”

It’s true: The days of Hawks wowing us with the gangster classic Scarface (1932), the war epic Sergeant York (1941), the noir must-see The Big Sleep (1946), his one-two punch oeuvre with John Wayne of Red River (1948) and Rio Bravo (1959) (yeah, we know they also did ’62s Hatari, ’67s El Dorado, and ’70s Rio Lobo), and — the big daddy of sci-fi — The Thing From Another World (1951), were clearly behind him. Critics weren’t kind then, and retro-critics aren’t kind now, to this NASCAR romance-saga — and as someone who watched all of the Hawks-Wayne films with his dad (and loved them): I can honestly say this truly is the weakest film in the Hawks catalog.

In the backwash of Hawks-Paramount Pictures’ production, John Frankenheimer (Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, the blimp-disaster Black Sunday) put together the superior Formula One-centric Grand Prix (1966) with James Garner (chronicled in document, The Racing Scene). That Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film “blew the doors off” Paramount’s Red Line 7000, with a $20 million gross against $9 million, making it one of the Top-Ten grossing films of 1966, which earned a DGA Award for Outstanding Directing in a Feature Film — even though it featured real-life, stock-shot racing footage, just like the Hawks racing drama.

As with Tom Cruise developing his love of car racing into Days of Thunder (1990), Steve McQueen — himself an accomplished racer of Porsches — produced his affection for France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with Le Mans (1971) for 20th Century Fox. As with Red Line 7000, and unlike Grand Prix, McQueen’s racing epic — even though it filmed all of its racing footage “on-location” during the 1970 Le Mans race — failed at the box office, making less than its $8 million budget. Ditto for Paul Newman who made Winning (1969), his Indy 500-dreamer race romp with James Goldstone (TV movie heaven with Cry Panic and the amusement-disaster Rollercoaster) for Universal.

And what’s our analog god of all things UHF and VHS have to say about all this racing tomfoolery: Quentin Tarantino has stated that he’d “rather saw off his fingers” than sit through Winning, as it was worse than Steve McQueen’s Le Mans. He’s also said that if he was to direct a racing movie (Please do! Don’t let Once Upon a Time In Hollywood be the end?), it wouldn’t be pretentious, like Grand Prix, it would be like Red Line 7000, with it’s soap-opera-everyone-trying-to-sleep-with-everyone-else storyline, but fun — and play like a really great Elvis Presley race movie.

And Quentin loves his cars (in movies) and didn’t miss that Red Line 7000 features the then “new” 1965 Shelby GT-350 speeding on the track and that one of the characters drives a 1965 Cobra Daytona Coupe. In his own Once Up a Time in Hollywood, he broke production protocols and used over 2000 vintage rides in the film: the average film uses between 300 to 500 cars. To that “racing end”: Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) drove a 1962 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, Abigail Folger (Samantha Robinson) drove a 1969 Pontiac Firebird, and Tex Watson (Austin Butler) drove a 1959 Ford Galaxie.

So, am I out of line saying that I’m waiting for Humphrey Bogart to crawl out of the cockpit, unzip the flame retardants, and jump into the Holiday Inn sack with Lauren Bacall?

That’s how outdated (even back in the early UHF ’70s) this racing romp feels to me, with the horses traded out for cars and the western wastelands for circular asphalt. And that Nelson Riddle score! Talk about wanting to saw off fingers . . . and ears. Where’s that swingin’ n’ screechin’ Dick Contino (Daddy-O, Girls Town) jazz score when you need it? (The ‘Con bagged Leigh Snowden from The Creature Walks Among Us, so he’s a “cool cat” in my book.)

But that’s the plot, sans the horses and Nevada dirt: everyone is trying to bed everyone else except their own girlfriends, either punching out or trying to kill their romantic rivals. And in between: they race via process shots via stock footage (including several high-profile crashers) filmed at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, and Riverside International Speedway — A.J Foyt’s violent crash at Riverside earlier in 1965 served as the “death” of Caan’s team mate at Daytona. The “romance” gets so heated that Caan’s Mike Marsh trades paint with Dan McCall (Skip Ward of Ann-Margret’s Kitten with a Whip, Elvis’s Easy Come, Easy Go, and the box-office bomb Myra Breckiridge) and tries to kill him on the track.

On the casting side: George Takei, on his way to where no man has gone before, is Kato, a member of Caan’s pit crew. And no disrespect to the mighty Jonathan E., but how cool would it have been to see Paul Mantee of Paramount’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (and the Bond rips A Man Called Dagger and That Man Bolt) in Caan’s role (who was also a Paramount contract player)?

Again, it all comes back to the actors we want to see: Paul Mantee. Do you remember Paul on Seinfeld as the Health Inspector busting Poppy for peeing and not washing his hands? And — surely Sam will give me shite — we’re back to my “Six Degrees of Seinfeld” foolishness, again.

Sorry, kids. No freebies. Not even on TubiTV and Vudu. You’ll have to settle for an Amazon Prime VOD.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.