Final warning: if you’re looking for a review on any of the Fast & Furious movies, leave now. We’re gonna review the cult classic who lent its name to that over-the-top franchise.
Frank Webster (John Ireland) is a wanted man. He’s being accused of running a trucker off the road. At a roadside diner, a trucker asks one too many questions and quickly deduces who Frank is. Frank knocks him out and takes Connie (Dorothy Malone) hostage as well as her sports car. Naturally, Connie puts up a fight and attempts at running away every moment she can. Frank’s goal: reach Mexico. With cops patrolling the area, and with them waiting for the truck driver to come around for a full description, Frank opts to do what Connie was planning on doing with her Jaguar sports car: enter a race that crosses into Mexico.
Things get complicated when Connie can’t drive due to a pre-race agreement that didn’t allow women to drive, for safety’s sake. Frank registers under the name Bill Myers, and with Connie’s help as copilot, not only does he qualify, but also end up bonding.
While eating at a secluded spot, Frank tells his story: he was an independent truck driver whose presence bothered a major company’s boss. Frank stuck to his guns despite the company’s underhanded methods. One of the company’s drivers even tried to run him off the road, only to end up dead himself. With only a witness from a rival company to point the blame at him, Frank is thrown in jail, fearful that a jail cell won’t be enough to keep an angry mob at bay. The mood turned sour afterwards.
After watching an antique car race, and leaving the car for a check-over, they both find a place to spend the night after searching on foot while avoiding cops, who were doubling down on the manhunt around the area. Connie begs him to give himself up and give justice a chance. They pick up the conversation the next day, with Frank refusing, still set on going to Mexico, now inviting Connie to come with him. Given that she refuses to go along with this, Frank locks Connie up with the intent of later on tipping off the authorities of her location and he goes to pick the Jag up. She later escapes by drawing attention to herself… by setting the place on fire. At a phone, she calls the police to let them know where Frank is and that he’s innocent.
It’s a heated race, particularly between Frank and Faber (Bruce Carlisle), who has a thing for Connie and has been asking too many questions about Frank. During the race, the police were finally notified that Frank Webster was seen driving a Jaguar, and not a jalopy like the diner waitress had erroneously described. After running through a roadblock, Faber’s suspicions about Frank were confirmed by the cops, and goes after him. Things get hairier, until Faber crashes. Frank stops and helps him out. Connie arrives at the scene in a borrowed sports car. Faber, still conscious, recognizes that he was saved by Frank. Frank decides to give himself in and hugs Connie.
When The Fast and the Furious (1955) was gonna be shown on Turner Classic Movies, its brief overview grabbed my attention; it wasn’t the case the first time around when I first came to know about the film when I saw the DVD for sale in Borders years ago.
For something that’s labeled ‘B-movie’, it’s actually pretty good. The use of grassroots sports car racing instead of formula racing, dirt track racing or even hot rod racing (illegal or not) is truly something worth mentioning because you seldom see it. Even the romance angle is believable if you go for the Stockholm syndrome side of things.
What I liked more of this film is that nothing seems to have been wasted, meaning that there wasn’t any fluff to speak of that could’ve been cut out: the only “flashback” was shown at the beginning, with the truck crash; I didn’t even expect that scene to be of relevance! The ending doesn’t show what happens to Frank after rescuing Faber and deciding to turn himself in; it just ends on an open-ended yet somewhat optimistic tone.
There are some continuity mistakes, which even big-budget films suffer from, but it’s surprisingly little. Those that are too sucked in the movie might not notice that in the race scenes, film stock of other racing scenes being played at different speeds was used.
The biggest surprise for me was finding out that Roger Corman was behind this flick, the same man responsible for Death Race 2000 and its sequel reboot Death Race 2050. Part of me wanted to compare all these movies, but I had to remind myself that they were made in different times and were different genres. Anyways, just knowing that Corman was behind these three films of the many he was involved with was enough for me to believe his title as B-Movie King.
Something that’s less of a surprise was just how attractive Dorothy Malone was in this film.
Opening DVD cover pic: amazon.com