Wednesday Double Features – The Chase
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sn1w1yJKKEFor this week’s selection I went with an old favorite, seventies car chase films. I used to love these things, Cannonball Run, Smokey and the Bandit, even (especially) the Blues Brothers. These days I find them mildly gratuitous , and one of the reasons I make a distinction between porn and erotica (i.e.. Anything where the plot is just a thin excuse to link cathartic moments together)
The first film on my list, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, starts with a stickup which consists of our “heroes” race car driver Larry (Peter Fonda) and his mechanic Deke (Adam Roarke), holding a supermarket manager’s wife and daughter and phoning the manager and extorting the stores funds. The plan is to use their take (150,000 dollars) to fund a NASCAR career, but it’s hard to sympathize with them as they’ve already revealed themselves as brutal criminals.
From there they make their getaway in their souped up Chevy Impala. Their’s one catch,. Larry’s one night stand Mary (Susan George) took being dumped rather personally and stows away with them. From here it’s all a race to safety as they are doggedly pursued by an eccentric captain in the Sheirff’s department (Vic Morrow).
I’n not sure what I thought of this film. As I said before, it’s hard to identify with our protagonists. (Along with their brutality none of them are very bright) But there’s pretty good stunt work which is surprisingly realistic for the genre. (The Impalla, and the Dodge Charger they replace it with get beat up as much as the police vehicles and the need to stop for repairs are important plot points)
The next film on the list, Vanishing Point opens with car delivery driver, Kowalski (Barry Newman) about to drive his car into a road block. We almost immediately flash back two days with him leaving Denver to deliver a Dodge Challenger to San Francisco (having just finished his last delivery) on the way he makes a bet with the drug dealer he gets his uppers from, he will finish his run in fifteen hours.
On the way he runs two motorcycle cops off the road as they are trying to stop him for speeding and from there the movie turns into an hour long car chase. As this goes on he gains the attention of a black DJ named Super Soul (Cleavon Little) who turns him into a modern folk hero. And while this goes on he meets a variety of eccentrics including a prospectror hunting rattlesnakes for a revival meeting, two effeminate holdup met and a nude biker.
This was an interesting film that didn’t hold with any formula. I’ve liked Cleavon Little since seeing him in Blazing Saddles and always thought it was a shame that he didn’t have more starring roles, and he’s great here. Barry does a great job of portraying Kowalski as a haunted soul with a dark past addicted to the adrenaline rush of driving because it’s all he has left.