By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: An unofficial car race.
Every year a diverse group of individuals from all over the country converge onto New York to take part in a secret cross country race where drivers compete to see who can get from the east coast to the west coast first. There is no monetary prize or fame just a trophy filled with gumballs and one’s own ego as the reward. This year a cop named Roscoe (Norman Burton) is determined to stop the race and arrest those who are participating in it, but the drivers have some tricks up their sleeves to avoid his detection.
The film is based on the real-life race called The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash that was run four times between the years of 1971 and 1979. It was named after Erwin George Baker, whose nickname was Cannonball, and who in 1933 drove from coast-to-coast in a record time that stood for over 40 years.
Like in the movie the drivers were from all walks of life and the race was not officially sanctioned and had no rules other than getting to California at a preset location first. However, unlike the movie there were few accidents while the film jazzes it up with an excessive amount of crashes until comes off like a live action cartoon, which is the main problem as everything gets dragged down to a kiddie level and comes complete with a music score that sounds like it was pulled straight out of a 1930’s nickelodeon.
The characters are nothing more than caricatures with Tim McIntire’s being the only one that is believable. Raul Julia’s is particularly annoying playing a man who is supposedly obsessed with winning, but then still stops off to have sex with women along the way, which seems like a contradiction. Burton, who ironically ended up dying in a real-life car crash, gets stuck in a one-dimensional role of a relentless, but ineffective cop whose exasperated mannerisms and reactions quickly becomes tiring.
There are a few good stunts, which can be credited to the film’s director Chuck Bail, who worked as a stuntman and coordinator for the greater part of his career. Watching the cars speed down the closed off streets of Park Avenue and Broadway in New York City during the early morning hours is impressive especially as its captured from the passenger’s point-of-view. The race between two cars along the Los Angeles River is equally exciting as is the scene involving a car managing to drive on its side for about a full minute down a packed highway.
The various comical scenarios that befall the characters during the race though are inane and hardly worth even a chuckle. The only ones of a minor interest is when a couple (Tricia O’ Neil, Lazaro Perez) tries to get away from a motorcycle gang as well as two drivers (Steven Keats, Wally Taylor) who are disguised as cops and driving inside a phony police vehicle who come to the aid of man and his pregnant wife on the side of a road. However, the whole thing would’ve been much better had the script kept things on a real level that was more focused on the people involved and their backgrounds instead of the silly stunts.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: July 28, 1976
Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes
Director: Chuck Bail
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube
Posted in 70's Movies, Campy Comedy, Fast Cars/Car Chase, Movies Based on Actual Events, Movies that take place in the Big Apple, Road Movies, Sports Movies
Tagged Chuck Bail, Entertainment, Erwin George Baker, Movies, Norman Burton, Raul Julia, Review, TIm McIntire
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Convict becomes a stuntman.
Cameron (Steve Railsback) is on the run from the cops who unknowingly comes onto a movie set and inadvertently causes the death of one of the stuntmen. Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole) the film’s God-like director takes a liking to Cameron and decides to hire him on as the replacement stuntman. Cameron is initially reluctant as he has no experience, but decides it would make a good cover from the police who are still after him. He starts an affair with the film’s leading lady Nina (Barbara Hershey), but finds that it may be Cross that he should be the most afraid of and who may be planning to film Cameron’s death during a difficult underwater stunt in order to add realism.
This is another one of those film-within-a-film type movies with this one faring a bit better than the others. One of the best ingredients it has is showing the behind-the-scenes politics that go on during any film production as well as hitting-the-nail-on-the-head with its caricatures.
Railsback is fun in a rare leading role. The way he can get intense as well as convey the rugged, ragged personality of a war-weary veteran on the run and just trying to survive is completely on-target. His best moments are simply his frightened and confused facial expressions that he has while going through many of Eli’s elaborate stunt routines and not sure if he will be coming out of it alive or not.
O’Toole is in peak form and was nominated for the Academy Award playing an egotistical director, which he modeled after David Lean. Having a director make a film advocating the horrors of war and violence, but then beat-up or threaten numerous crew members any time they make a mistake is perfect irony. My favorite moment of his is when they are showing rushes of Nina’s scenes from that day to her parents and then to their shock he throws in a few scenes showing Nina naked and in bed with another man. Then the next day he informs Nina about it simply to upset her and get the needed reaction that he wanted for the scene.
Hershey is splendid as a Hollywood actress who at times is quite jaded while at other moments is very naïve, child-like and emotionally fragile. Allen Garfield as the film’s exasperated and beleaguered screenwriter is also quite good. I also liked Chuck Bail who essentially plays himself as a stunt coordinator who tries to teach Cameron the fundamentals of the business.
Dominic Frontiere’s booming orchestral score is quite distinctive and at times even stirring particularly during the chase sequence. There is an abundance of ironies and twists that keep things interesting throughout and at points a bit surreal, but it’s missing that one final delicious twist or payoff and has an ending that seems a bit like a copout.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: June 27, 1980
Runtime: 2Hours 11Minutes
Director: Richard Rush
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video
Posted in 80's Movies, Action/Adventure, Drama, Dry Humor, Movies Based on Novels, Movies with Nudity
Tagged Allen Garfield, Barbara Hershey, Chuck Bail, Entertainmnet, Movies, Peter O'Toole, Review, Steve Railsback