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Sunday, November 22, 2009

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS -- movie review by porfle

I saw the 2001 Vin Diesel remake of this when it first hit home video, and now I can't remember a friggin' thing about it. Except it had some hinky CGI car-driving shots in it. They gotta use CGI just to show people driving cars now? They can't get actual stunt drivers to do actual cool car stunts? Anyway, I do remember one single zoopy-doopy CGI shot of Vin Diesel driving a car. Real memorable flick there.

Of course, it wasn't really a remake--it just used the same cool title. The original THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (1955) was the historic first film released by American International Pictures, the undisputed kings of the low-budget exploitation flick during the 50s and 60s, and one of the first films produced (and co-written) by the legendary Roger Corman. It was co-directed by Edwards Sampson (MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR) and the film's star, John Ireland (RED RIVER), and probably didn't cost very much to make, since most of the running time consists of people driving around, walking around, having picnics, and reacting to some ragged stock footage of auto races.

Ireland plays Frank Webster, an independent trucker falsely accused of running another trucker off the road and killing him, when this was actually the other trucker's intention--(hmm, "other trucker" sounds kinda dirty somehow)--since lone wolf Frank was cutting in on a big trucking company's business. Well, Frank breaks out of jail and takes it on the lam with half the cops in the state hot on his trail.

When he meets free-spirited racing enthusiast Connie Adair (Dorothy Malone) on her way to participate in a big race, he kidnaps her and heads for the border in her souped-up Jaguar with her as his beard. It turns out that the cross-country race will end in Mexico, so he enters it. Along the way, he and Connie fall in love (awwww) when she realizes he's really a nice guy who only acts mean and tough when he's kidnapping people and threatening to kill them.

Bruno VeSota, who played living-doll Yvette Vickers' cuckolded husband in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES and popped up in about half a million other things later on, turns up in an early diner scene in which innocent fugitive Frank practically puts him into a coma. Another familiar face, Iris Adrian (BLUE HAWAII, THAT DARN CAT!), plays Wilma the gabby waitress. And during Frank and Connie's picnic interlude, who should turn up as the park caretaker but silent-film star Snub Pollard, whose movie career began in 1915. Pretty interesting cast, if you're warped like me.

The first half of the movie consists of Frank and Connie driving around and arguing a lot while evading the police, often while sitting in front of a screen with highway footage projected on it. The best thing about this is getting to look at the gorgeous Dorothy Malone. Holy schnikes, was she ever hot. You may remember her as Bob Cummings' girlfriend in the original beach party movie, BEACH PARTY. Or not. Anyway, she was definitely easy on the eyes, and she gives a lively performance as Connie, constantly griping about being hungry and tired, and throwing the keys out of the moving car and trying to get away every time Frank turns around, and generally getting on his nerves as much as possible. Which he deserves, since he's pretty much of a horse's ass, actually.

When they get to the place where the big race is being held, Connie runs into an old acquaintance, Faber (Bruce Carlisle, who was only ever in one other movie, FEMALE JUNGLE, thank god), who has the hots for her and starts trying to squeeze ol' Frank out of the driver's seat. Faber is a huge, irritating turdhead who is so creepy that he even makes Frank look like a barrel of laughs in comparison. When the race starts, Faber and Frank go at each other like characters out of the old "Wacky Races" cartoon all the way to Mexico.

And just as you're thinking "Die, Faber, die!" he crashes, setting up the startling ending that is dripping with irony. Well, maybe not dripping. More like a faint irony condensation around the rim. So when this happened I checked the running time to see how much time was left for the wrap-up, and it said forty seconds. Forty seconds? Yikes--when this movie decides to end, it doesn't let the screen door bang its sprockety ass on the way out.

One more thing I feel compelled to mention: right before the race, Frank decides to lock Connie in a secluded shack so she can't call the police and turn him in for his own good (she's convinced he'll get a square deal since he's really innocent, ha ha). So what's the first thing she does? She sets it on fire. I don't know about you, but setting the old wooden shack that I'm locked up in on fire wouldn't be my first idea. It would be around #11 or #12 on the list, tops.

Fortunately, a passing motorist sees the smoke and gets her out, and he's played by none other than an unbilled Jonathan Haze of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Heck, Roger Corman himself even turns up early on as a state trooper. But, please--if you ever find yourself locked in a wooden shack, don't set it on fire right off the bat just because Dorothy Malone does it in this movie, because chances are that in real life, the guy who played Seymour Krelboin isn't going to toodle by and let you out.

So, while THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS isn't exactly an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter, it's fun to watch if you're into low-budget exploitation flicks from the 50s, and especially if you're a Roger Corman fan. And it actually has real people driving real cars. You even get to see Dorothy Malone tearing ass down the highway in one scene, which is cool in some weird sexual way that I can't even begin to explain. Plus, it was made twelve years before Vin Diesel was even born, so there's absolutely no danger of him being in it.

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