Speed (1936), a review:

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!


This movie is about Terry Martin (James Stewart), a former racecar driver-turned company crash test dummy test driver that wishes to perfect and produce his invention: a carburetor of his own design. Much to his chagrin, he’s assigned engineer and love rival Frank Lawson (Weldon Heyburn) to further perfect his carburetor and have it signed off for testing at the racetrack. With a grim reminder of mortality happening before his racing bout, Terry and mechanic friend “Gadget” Haggerty (Ted Healy) set off. Unfortunately, they both crash at the last lap, with Gadget being far worse for wear. Terry’s contempt for Frank turns into all-out hate.

While also ending up in Terry’s bad side, leading female protagonist Jane Mitchell (Wendy Barrie) uses her influence to convince the company to give Terry and his carburetor another chance, this time in Muroc, for salt flats high speed runs. Terry also suffers complications in the run; if it wasn’t for Frank, Terry would’ve died. They both make their peace. Given that Frank used the streamliner to carry Terry, he also managed to set a new record along the way, proving that Terry’s carburetor works.

One of the highlights that makes this movie stand out from your average racing movie is that this one has some great footage of automotive torture tests, automotive component stress tests, vintage tool and die and assembly line footage. Even though the movie used as a fictitious name for the car company (Emery Motors), the footage and most vehicles came courtesy of Chrysler. Just take a look at their IMCDb.com page. Just as good are some of the lines used to wax lyrical that describes the process of automobile production and the human effort to make ‘em. It’s as close to romantic dialogue as this movie gets. Another thing that grabbed my attention was how the movie showcased women in prominent positions within the company.


As if the fact that this is one of the few movies that show a racing venue that isn’t just open wheel formula racing was enough, there’s ‘The Falcon’, the streamliner used in the movie. It should have its own write-up, but automobile magazine Hemmings has been covering this car every time something comes up. So check the link. I’ll wait.

There is some politically incorrect dialogue, but nothing worth writing home about, but it’s up to the viewer to decide if the title of ‘Speed’ fits this movie better than when used on a movie about a bus that can’t slow down or else.





DVD box cover: eBay

The Falcon: IMCDb.com

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