Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pit Stop (1968)

Jack Hill was having great difficulty getting his great film Spider Baby released when he agreed to shoot this car racing film for Roger Corman. He claimed to hate racing and wanting to make an art film; but also wanting to chronicle the "Americana" of "figure 8 racing", in which the cars race on a track in the shape of a figure 8, naturally. This means that they're racing through an open intersection, which is basically insane. As racer Hawk Sidney (played by Sid Haig), puts it, "you got to be a little dinky!"

Haig steals the movie as an arrogant, obsessed racer trying to hang onto his prime job racing for promoter Grant Willard (played by Brian Donlevy). The "hero" is Rick Bowman (played by Dick Davalos), a street-racer who gets drafted into figure-8 racing and competes with Hawk and everyone else. Donlevy looks sort of like a femme hoodlum, in the style of Elvis or a regular at a lesbian bar. He's corrupted by his competitive instinct and Willard's scummy machinations. The great thing about the movie is that he's pretty corrupt from the beginning and just gets worse.

Other highlights include the figure 8 races that all turn into demolition derbies, an early performance by Ellen Burstyn (credited here as Ellen McRae), and near-constant acid rock by The Daily Flash. Like all of Hill's movies, it's a blast. Fans of car racing, acid rock, Sid Haig, or Elvis-lookalike lesbians shouldn't miss it!

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