DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Race With The Devil

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Jul 8, 2005.

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  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    [​IMG]

    Race With The Devil[​IMG]

    US Theatrical Release: June 1975 (20th Century Fox)
    US DVD Release: June 28, 2005 (Anchor Bay)
    Running Time: 1:28:23 (17 chapter stops)
    Rating: PG (Has a bit of cussin', some mild action violence, and some creepy satanic rites involving partially fuzzed-out nudity)
    Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    Audio: English DD2.0 Mono (Extra Features: DD2.0 Mono)
    Subtitles: None (Extra Features: None)
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None)
    Menus: Light background animation
    Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert has a reproduction movie poster on one side and a chapter list on the other.
    MSRP: $14.98

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 2/5

    I've always wanted to see Peter Fonda beat a Satan-Worshipper with a squeegee. Well, not really, but pretending that I have makes me feel better about the wasted opportunity that is Race With The Devil. This 1975 drive-in special takes a creepy premise and a top-notch cast and, unfortunately, just doesn't do much with them.

    Our heroes, Frank (Warren Oates) and Roger (Peter Fonda), are introduced as motocross experts -- Frank a shop owner and Roger a racer. They and their wives, Alice (Loretta Swit) and Kelly (Lara Parker), climb aboard an enormous, state-of-the-art Vogue RV (equipped with color TV, stereo system, and -- holy cow! -- a microwave oven), which they plan to drive from San Antonio to Colorado for a ski vacation. Little do they know, they'd have been much better off with the armored, rocket-armed RV from Stripes!

    While parked off-road for the night, Frank and Roger observe what at first appears to be some kind of weird hippie orgy, but which soon devolves into a horrific occult ceremony involving human sacrifice. In a foreshadowing of most of the females' lines later in the script, Alice shouts at the boys to turn in for the night, and their presence is revealed to the cultists. The terrified vacationers barely manage to escape the angered freaks.

    By morning, the couples find a nearby town and return to the scene with the local cops. The cops seem only mildly interested, but to be fair, the out-of-towners' story is rather nutty and the witnesses were less than sober at the time of the event. So the gang eventually continues on their way, but not before receiving a threatening note from the cultists ¡V they are being watched!

    As they travel along, the group encounters a number of creepy characters and a series of disconnected payphones. Are the townspeople involved in a conspiracy? Just how widespread is this cult? Everything seems a little off, and Kelly Has A Very Bad Feeling About This, but Frank'll be damned if he lets a band of murderous lunatics get in the way of his long-awaited ski trip! On they go. And on. And on.

    The trouble is that, aside from a lot of strange locals giving the vacationers funny looks, not very much happens. The only real action that occurs between the initial encounter with the cultists and a climactic car chase that kicks in with about 15 minutes to go in the film is a battle with two rattlesnakes hidden in the RV that's a lot more funny than it is scary. It plays out a little something like this:
    • Offscreen production assistant throws rubber snake #1 at Kelly, who screams.
    • Snake falls to the floor.
    • Roger falls to the floor.
    • Close-up of real snake on the floor.
    • Close-up of Roger on the floor.
    • Close-up of Kelly screaming.
    • Medium shot of Frank poking at snake #2 with a ski pole.
    • Close-up of Alice screaming.
    • Repeat the last 5 shots 17 times.
    And what about that cool motocross setup? When Frank and Roger strap their bikes to a rack on the back of the RV, it's clear that there'll be some neat motorcycle action later on, right? Right? Well, after a short dirt race prior to the encounter with the cultists, the bikes spend pretty much the rest of the film on the rack. Why introduce them at all?

    Then there is the matter of Alice and Kelly. Aside from one scene where they visit a library to try and learn something about human sacrifice, their lines consist mainly of bloodcurdling shrieks or (understandable) whining. Granted, this is a drive-in B-horror flick, but if they were going to spend the money to hire the popular stars of "M.A.S.H." and "Dark Shadows," why not give them something interesting to do? For the most part, only Warren Oates really has any good lines, and those are few and far between. He has his share of clunkers, too.

    Finally, a look at the ending. True, it is fairly shocking and certainly creepy, but it is set up with such an incredible "what the heck are they thinking" act that its power is somewhat diminished. On top of that, without giving away too much, the viewer is left with the question of why the film didn't end much sooner. It's really too bad that the talented cast and crew did not take the promising idea of Race With The Devil to a higher level.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3.5/5

    The transfer isn't bad at all for a 30-year-old low-budget flick. The source print was either in very good shape to begin with or got the restoration treatment -- it shows almost no damage. Colors are rich and lifelike, and detail is good. There is some edge enhancement, but with a handful of glaring exceptions, it's not too bad. A bit of flicker pops up here and there. A few scenes do display some digital artifacting, but many do not. Black levels are OK, but leave some room for improvement.


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 2.5/5

    The mono soundtrack suffers from some distortion. There are a number of places where dialogue is tough to make out. Also, the dynamic range is not especially wide. Overall, the audio is only OK.


    THE SWAG: 3/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Hell On Wheels (17:51)

    A new interview with star Peter Fonda, in anamorphic widescreen. He's quite an entertaining character, and enthusiastic about discussing the film. He covers the same sorts of topics that would normally appear in a commentary. He talks about his relationship with Warren Oates and his other castmates, as well as his memories of and feelings about the production. Various film clips and behind-the-scenes photos are shown as backdrops for Fonda's comments. This featurette is worth checking out.

    Commentary With Executive Producer Paul Maslansky and actress Lara Parker, Moderated by DVD Producer Perry Martin

    A very solid track. It's mainly not scene-specific, but Maslansky and Parker have a lot to say about their experience making the film. They remember a lot of details, and there is almost no dead air. To top it off, Lara Parker suggests an interesting idea for an alternate ending.

    Radio Spots

    Three original radio ads are included, running 0:55, 0:30, and 0:30.

    Poster & Still Gallery

    35 color and black & white images from posters and press kits for the film, including several different international versions.

    Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery

    44 black & white production photos.

    Previews:

    Four trailers are included. The trailers for The Entity, Quicksilver Highway, and Ghost In The Machine play automatically when the disc is first inserted. They may be skipped.
    • Race With The Devil (2:09) (DD2.0; 1.78 anamorphic)
    • The Entity
    • (1:23) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Quicksilver Highway (2:08) (DD2.0; 1.66:1 pillarboxed anamorphic)
    • Ghost In The Machine (2:10) (DD2.0; 1.66:1 pillarboxed anamorphic)
    SUMMING IT ALL UP

    The Way I Feel About It: 2/5
    The Way I See It: 3.5/5
    The Way I Hear It: 2.5/5
    The Swag: 3/5


    Race With The Devil has its fans, but to be honest, it's a major missed opportunity. Considering the stars and the solid premise, it could have turned out a lot better. (Interestingly, it is currently being remade by Chris Moore of "Project Greenlight" fame, with a cast of relative unknowns. It remains to be seen what they do with a story that would essentially be rendered ridiculous by the presence of mobile phones!) As for the presentation, while the audio is a little disappointing, the picture quality is nice and the extra features are certainly worth a look. With its impulse-friendly price, genre fans may want to pick up a copy, but anyone not particularly interested in mid-'70s drive-in fare won't find much to their liking here.
     
  2. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    Count me as one of the people who absolutely love this movie![​IMG] It probably has a lot to do with having seen it as a kid at the movie theater, but even now I still get a kick out of it. [​IMG]
     
  3. Steve K.H.

    Steve K.H. Supporting Actor

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    This is a cult form of movie - I too remember the goosebumps everytime the trailer was on the tube - when I finally saw it I found it was actually a very good thriller (in its day).

    Rewatchability is probably an issue as once you've seen it, your mind is not racing in circles in subsequent viewings.

    Very similar vein as "Duel" - the film holds historical merit in the timeline of finding differing genres to captivate the ghoulish curiousity that exists in all of us to varying degrees.

    (If you think that's over the top, tell me you never peek at motor vehicle collisions as you drive by)
     
  4. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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    Everything outside the RV is Beautiful Texas...so, it's got that going for it. [​IMG]
     
  5. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    It was a sort of Easy Rider meets Rosemary's Baby....you know....another one of those films....I liked it as a kid and when fox movies aired it last Halloween it was a good nostalgia trip. I don't know if I'll be buying the DVD but it was fun to go back in time for 90 min.
     
  6. Bill Parisho

    Bill Parisho Stunt Coordinator

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    Aaron: I agree with your review completely.This movie does not have rewatchabilty(what kind of word is that??).
    Having said that.....
    I'll probably still buy it because of my younger(much younger) days watching it when it came out. Also because I'll probably be able to pick it up for about $10! You can't beat that deal with a wet stick!
    Bill Parisho
     
  7. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    [​IMG] I'll never understand that.....if you don't like the film....why buy the DVD?
     
  8. Bill Parisho

    Bill Parisho Stunt Coordinator

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    Kevin:
    I didn't say I didn't like it. I said that I didn't think It would be re watchable. Of course I could be wrong. Some movies I enjoyed thirty years ago still hold up up very well. Films such as "Three Days of the Condor" and "The Wind and the Lion" are still enjoyable. "The Master Gunfighter" is another story altogether. I watched that one a few months ago. Terrible!
    If I'm able to pick up "Race With The Devil" for $10, it's not much of a risk. I'll take the chance to relive my 1975 movie going days.
    Your point about buying a movie I may not like is still a valid point. However, this is one DVD buyer who isn't always logical.
    Bill Parisho
     
  9. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    But you...see....basically....th..that's..the...the same....I....

    Never mind.[​IMG]
     
  10. Dave Simpson

    Dave Simpson Second Unit

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    My small opinion on the above debate...whatever! I suspect that Bill enjoys the trip in the way-back machine that DVD affords us; I enjoy it immensely as well, despite the tricky business of revisiting the pictures of our youth.
    Now, where's a disc of Aloha, Bobby And Rose?
    Cheers.

    DS.
     
  11. Scott Hamilton

    Scott Hamilton Stunt Coordinator

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    Aaron for whatever reason you hate this movie that's fine and it shows but when you say "(Interestingly, it is currently being remade by Chris Moore of "Project Greenlight" fame, with cast of relative unknowns. It remains to be seen what they do with a story that would essentially be rendered ridiculous by the presence of mobile phones!"

    You must hate every movie then because Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Star trek, Superman , Spiderman, etc that would essentially be rendered ridiculous by the presence of Super heros that we know don't exist. Also, not everyone have cell phones and they do not work in all areas, you know it's called roaming?

    If you that picky about movies then why do you watch and review them?
     
  12. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Dave,
    I wasn't "debating" Bill Parisho, I was just slightly confused by his wording & meaning*, as far as the nostalgia factor goes I mentioned that aspect in my first post.

    Personally I blind buy all of the time based on childhood/teen memories of films and shows that I loved and hopefully will still enjoy.....it doesn't always work out of course, tastes do change as you get older, but not always. I would blind buy any set of original 1960's Ultraman or Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot shows in a heartbeat even though I have not seen a single episode since I was about 6 years old![​IMG]


    *Basically stating that "This movie does not have rewatchabilty" but then saying that he will buy the DVD.....which inherently means re-watching the film over & over.....the two statements seem ironic or at odds with each other when you read them together, that's all I was saying.
     
  13. eric tengren

    eric tengren Stunt Coordinator

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    good review man. but I like this flick for nostalgia reasons. as a kid I saw this at the drive in and it scared the shit out of me. Also, Warren Oates is my favorite actor of all time.it is a great B movie.I picked this up along with a Monte Hellman movie called Cockfighter. it comes with a cool documentary on Oates called Across the Border check it out.
     
  14. FrancisP

    FrancisP Screenwriter

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    It has a lot of rewatchability for me. If you like graphic horror films then you won't like it. Like Rosemary's Baby, this is a very subtle film. The film uses the various locals to create a feeling of unease throughout the picture. Lara Parker does a very good job of this as well. I would consider this film to be more of a suspense film as we try to figure out who's on who's side with elements of horror thrown in. I would compare this to Duel more than I would other horror films. In that respect, I think it is well above average.
     
  15. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    What value do reviews have if the reviewer isn't picky? [​IMG] I work with studio publicity departments, not for them.
     
  16. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    I didn't mind Aaron's review. Hell, there are quite a few movies that I like that people I know think are a total waste of film,The Legend of Boggy Creek for example, but I just shrug my shoulders. Our fondness for Race with the Devil has been rewarded with a very decent DVD release, so enjoy!
     
  17. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    I personally don't think a DVD reviewer must like a film in order to review the DVD, a restaurant critic doesn't exclusively review only the eateries he personally likes.
     
  18. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    On the other hand, at the rate at which a lot of people around here buy discs, a purchase does not always mean a disc will get watched over and over! [​IMG]

    With street price points in the single digits, a lot of people will just buy a disc to watch once or twice instead of paying $4+ to rent it at a local store.
     
  19. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    True, I guess it's a personal thing as I practically never buy a DVD of a film that I don't like, the only time I have ever done so was with Criterion's Armageddon and that was for $7.00 and I only got it for the commentary which I had heard was hilarious...it was. Plus Bill basically said that he might buy it in the hopes that it might retain the charm it had for him as a kid....hell I've done that!

    However with Netflix I don't have to worry about $4.00 rental charges.

    (the following isn't about anyone in this thread BTW) There is a particular habit that I have noticed in the DVD community (and the HT community in general) for some time now, some guys admit to buying a disc just to fill out their collection.......that is something that is so incredibly egotistical and shallow IMO, I can't understand (or at least relate to) this mentality.
    I don't know about you guys but I purchase DVD's for the films and shows ON the DVD's, not the DVD's in and for themselves.....but that's me.
     
  20. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    You know, if our local lame-ass corporate video chain (you know who) would actually get some of these titles (other than the weekly giant shark movie they NEVER seem to miss!) I wouldn't necessarily have to buy them. And forget about a SE of a DVD already released!

    *takes a deep breath*
     

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