Turner Classic Movies likes to release a number of movies from their collection in batches to form a theme. War movies, Clint Eastwood movies, Dracula movies, etc. I just so happened to find out that they were gonna give car movies, so I recorded those whose reviews garnered my attention. Warning: spoilers ahead!
Red Hot Tires is a 1935 movie taking place in the racing world of the mid-‘30s. We see dirt track action in the beginning, where Johnny (Frankie Darro) wins first place but finishes last in grace. You’d be convinced that everything in the racing circuits was resolved using fists. The chief mechanic of the dirt-tracker is the main protagonist Wallace “Wally” Storm (Lyle Talbot), who knows how to defend himself behind the wheel.
While having clearly won the heart of the female protagonist Patricia “Pat” Sanford (Mary Astor), he ends up being fired from the racecar-building company he worked for –run by Martin Sanford (Henry Kolker), father of Patricia – mostly for suspected drinking at work and fighting the head driver and main villain, Bob Griffin (Gavin Gordon).
Wally had a chance to race when he filled in for a missing driver. This is where things get real in the movie: with the help of his head mechanic, Bob cheats, using a sharpened bolt/shank to take out any racer’s tires that get too close to him. The unexpected twist here is how this comes to bite him: he dies in the crash. But while it’s all over for Bob, trouble is only beginning for Wally, the one who was framed for the crash. Things go from bad to worse when all (lack of) evidence, as well as his statements before the race are used against him in a court of law. Wally is sent to prison.
With the help of Johnny, Pat and her father discover the sharpened bolt/shank that had been concealed. Suspicious of further tampering of the scene of the accident, Pat and Johnny break in into Bob’s head mechanic Curley Taylor’s (Bradley Page) place to retrieve the tire from Wally’s car, which had clear indications of laceration.
While Pat was making unbelievable headway clearing Wally’s name, best pal Bud Keene (Roscoe Karns) breaks him out just when the pardon was about to reach the prison’s warden! Thus began Wally’s and Bud’s lives as South American racecar drivers. After a couple of years, Pat invites the now-famous Bulldog Banks to drive her latest racecar. Pat was well-aware that she knew he was Wally. Rumors of Wally sneaking back into the country spread.
Bud arrives first, but had to drive the car with Pat as copilot/mechanic until Wally—err, Bulldog arrived. Wally had to improvise to get into the country: by biplane. After landing (guess where), Wally takes the wheel and wins not only the trophy but his freedom as well, as the charges were dropped and co-conspirator Curley was arrested.
There’s not much of anything about this movie out there (proper reviews, pictures, videos, etc.). That’s part of the reason why I decided to write about this flick.
The movie wasn’t bad, but if you’re looking for something that will leave you on the edge of your seat, this isn’t it. The movie is a little over an hour long, so it’s a little on the fast-paced side when the characters try to resolve their difficulties, not only making things predictable, but also making scenes like the ones involving the judiciary system appear conveniently quick and resolved, in other words improbable. The movie also feels comedic in nature. Only the death of the villain shakes up that notion. Those are my negative points.
On the plus side, it’s quite original. A lot of these movies focus on the driver that becomes famous and falls from grace one way or another, having to deal with people and situations on and off the track, and finally redeeming himself.
I also found the use of actual racing footage and actual racing locations to be quite good. While we can tell that the stars were just sitting in a prop in a studio with footage being projected, at least the movie-makers put some effort in it (the wheels spin on the prop cars, making it seem they’re actually running on a track).
If you want to watch a short movie that’s mostly light-hearted and has an ’all’s well that ends well’ feel to it, this is one.
Opening pic: http://www.listal.com