Two couples hop in their RV and head for Aspen with the goal of hitting some well earned RN Bang A Lot. Unfortunately for them; they’re trek is stalled when they witness a Satanic sacrifice go down which results in an army of relentless Cult members wanting their tails for breakfast. The slopes will have to wait; there are all kinds of Satanists in dire need of being killed! YEAHHHHHH!
If you're going to race with the devil, you've got to be as fast as Hell!
Race with the Devil was such a product of its time. You see, Cults and Satanism were all the rage in the early to mid 70’s, prompted by the 1969 Manson “losers” Family carnage (Hey Manson, I’m looking forward to snapping your neck in hell…see ya then). Subsequently a little TV movie named DUEL collected the acclaim in 1971 followed by a bigger fish called JAWS which gobbled up the Box Office in early 1975. Now this is just “booze induced” speculation on my part; but I assume that Manson + DUEL + JAWS equaled the birth of “Race with the Devil”. Lets thank our lucky stars for threesomes!
As a general rule, I worship 70’s genre flicks! There’s just a magnetic and particular feel to them that can’t be reproduced today, no matter how much current horror efforts try. Feeling the hitch, I recently chased down Race with the Devil and I’m happy to report that I crashed and burned with it. This Hot Rod was a taut rollercoaster ride of suspense, thrills and car spills with the whole being coated in an omnipresent blanket of the macabre. Having said that; no cinematic bad boy can be complete solely on those levels and thankfully this one’s core was rock solid via its human elements. Middle finger up to all of the actors in this demolition derby, specially the two couples (Fonda and Oates, Swit and Parker). They conveyed a genuineness and likeability in their performances that swayed me on their side hardcore. I mucho liked these people and in consequence my anticipation level as to what was going to happen to these poor saps was jacked up 666 fold.
With that poon firmly tapped; Race with the Devil had “carte blanche” to wet-rag whip some serious ass. And wet-rag whip some serious ass it did due to two key devices. The first was its potent fuel-injection of tension. The “are they or aren’t they Cult members” game the flick played worked on me half the time and the bits having to do with the chilling townsfolk’s gave me the "willies". The “coup de grace” though were the “ahead of their time” car stunt set pieces, with the last half hour of the film delivering full throttle in that department. The final, extensive chase/battle sequence literally mashed my potatoes with exhilaration and ambitious motor vehicle fiascos! While bogeeying to the physical get downs, I couldn’t help but think that the car madness in The Hitcher and even Stallone’s Cobra owed a high five and a beer to this hellish drag race. This one did it first and did it damn well at that! Toe-tag to all that; a tighter than an anal retentive snob pace, some truly inspired directing choices from visual champ Jack Starrett and a haunting last “70’s slow motion” frame and you get a quick-fix action/horror lollipop worth sucking on.
On the dull side of the sacrificial dagger, this was a perfect case of the audience (in this instance…me) being two steps ahead of the characters most of the way as to what the heck was going on. So I kept waiting for them to catch up. What was for them a surprise, was for me a “duh, how can you not see this coming” moment! The “dumb in order to serve the plot” moves the players made annoyed me as well. For some reason, after all they’ve seen, they still stuck around or kept falling in the Cult’s obvious traps. WISE UP GUYS AND GET THE FUDGE OUT OF DODGE ALREADY!! Lastly, although the ending packed a wallop, it was for me too sudden and somewhat un-satisfying where as the end credits rolled, I craved more!
But even with its flaws in its trunk, I can still claim that I truly enjoyed Race with the Devil. Its inimitable 70’s charm, its excellent actors, its crawl under skin eeriness and its out there car/stunt bonanzas made sure to keep my buttocks in the passenger seat. You going to shout at the devil? Race the bitch down? Or run him over? IT'S YOUR CALL!
We get an off screen stabbing and light blood here and there. This baby was more about demolished cars than demolished bodies.
Peter Fonda (Roger) was and is the man! The guy owned in Easy Rider and ironically enough he played a different type of biker (motocross) here. The dude had charm to spare and handled the action bits like a Stallone in training. Great show! Warren Oates (Frank) was highly credible and likeable in his “I have something to prove” role. Loretta Swit (Alice) did well with what she was given while Lara Parker (Kelly) was appealing in her more “in tune” part. Great cast for a great film!
We get some don’t sneeze or you’ll miss it female candy (tits an ass) during a sacrifice scene.
Jack Starrett tuned up his picture with high octane energy, slick style (loved the titled angles), oppressive tension and a tight knit pace. Grade A for Ass-kicking!
Leonard Rosenman (Robocop 2) delivered an exciting and gloomy enough score that was by today’s standards deliciously 70’s kitsch.
Race with the Devil was a tight, swift, frightening and explosive little genre “speed pill” that provided me with a buck and a half of easy tripping. Granted, the lead players did stupid moves in places and my 2004 horror sensibility saw through most the “twists” the flick served up, but that didn’t hinder my overall enjoyment of the piece. In the mood for a straightforward Mc Horror Sandwich, a side order of Mc Action Fries and a Coca Fonda? Order this combo and burp out in joy!
Anchor Bay has announced a DVD release of "Race With The Devil" for summer 2005 (Region 1).
Rumor has it that real Satanists were hired to play Cult members
Lara Parker played 'Angelique DuPr'es in the popular TV Show Dark Shadows (1966 – 1970)
Right after Race with the Devil; Warren Oates and Peter Fonda teamed up on another film called 92 in the Shades.