RACE WITH THE DEVIL
(director: Jack Starrett; screenwriters: Wes Bishop/Lee Frost; cinematographer: Robert Jessup; editor: John Link; music: Leonard Rosenmann; cast: Peter Fonda (Roger Marsh), Warren Oates (Frank Stewart), Lara Parker (Kelly Marsh), Loretta Swit (Alice Stewart), R.G. Armstrong (Sheriff Taylor); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Wes Bishop; 20th Century Fox; 1975)
“It was just goofy fun–probably the reason it caught on as a cult classic favorite.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Action filmmaker Jack Starrett (“Nowhere to Hide”/”The Gravy Train”/”Cleopatra Jones”) rises to his greatest heights as a director to helm this incredulous hybrid horror and chase film; it’s a violent quickie B-film written with dry wit, efficiency and expediency by Wes Bishop and Lee Frost. It’s a follow-up to John Hough’s 1974 Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, a sports car racing flick filled with chases that starred Peter Fonda.
Dirtbike racer Roger Marsh (Peter Fonda) and his mechanically gifted sponsor Frank Stewart (Warren Oates) and their respective wives, Kelly Marsh (Lara Parker) and Alice Stewart (Loretta Swit), hop into Frank’s spanking new $36,000 ultra-modern RV to go on a ski holiday in Aspen. They cut through rural Texas and take the back roads, finally landing in an isolated Eden where they stop at night in a field. The drunken guys accidentally witness when looking through their binoculars a Satanist ritual across the river that results in the sacrificial knifing to death of a young naked blonde woman. Unfortunately they are spotted by the Satanists and a long chase through the state of Texas ensues, whereby everybody in Texas, including the law officers, are pictured as yahoos and their enemy. The foursome find the devil worshipers have greatly damaged their RV, Kellys’s lap dog was sacrificed, deadly snakes were placed in the RV, and they are attacked on the road as they try to flee to Amarillo and freedom. It sure as hell looks as if everyone in rural Texas is in on the Satanist conspiracy, as the foursome take extreme measures to defend themselves.
It’s the kind of film that is best viewed in a drive-in or late at night at home when one’s guard is down. There are few surprises, as it’s on familiar occult thriller turf that has been done often enough before. But I had no trouble sitting through such silliness and found it entertaining in spots, as there were actually a few jolting creepy scenes that came out of the atmospheric paranoia created. Overall it was just goofy fun–probably the reason it caught on as a cult classic favorite.
REVIEWED ON 4/9/2008 GRADE: B