Everyone has their staples for Halloween watching, like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But be forewarned, gentle reader, because your master of Scarimonies (God, I sound like the Crypt Keeper), Dukey Flyswatter, will suggest some gems and themes that may have flown drastically under your radar, like a schizophrenic Vampire Bat. Week three we focus on drive-in gems and Just plain weirdness.
October 18th Race With The Devil
Director: Jack Starrett. Stars: Peter Fonda,Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, R.G. Armstrong.
“Race With The Devil” is near-perfect drive-in gold for its day, and sort of an unlikely mash up of “Vanishing Point” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” Two couples en route to Colorado from Texas for some skiing and dirt biking put the Winnebago to rest for the night on a desert patch to grill up some steaks and knock back a few cold ones. A mile or so ahead of them is a bonfire, and what appears to be a hippie blowout with nude dancing. Closer examination through binoculars reveals this to be a ritual human sacrifice. When the Satanists realize that they are busted, a wild chase begins. Naturally, the Sheriff and the townsfolk find no evidence of foul play and dismiss it all as a prank, urging the out-of-place buddies to carry on with their vacation. Gradually, they become aware that the danger is far from over, and it could be that something is rotten in Denver, with all of the good old boys being part of the Satanic fraternity.
RWTD works largely because of its tight direction and editing, stunt work, and the chemistry of its talented cast. Oates is suitably grumpy, and gets the funniest asides, while Fonda plays up the hero role a bit and tones down his former hip persona. Loretta Swit and Lara Parker do fine jobs as the terrorized wives dealing with murderous rednecks and dozens of rattlers. But this film really belongs to the boys, and the things they like, such as the incredible and real stunt driving where a truck flips over what seems like twenty times. Talk has been bandied about over the years about remaking this. Let’s hope that never happens. “Race With The Devil” can be had on DVD co billed with another Peter Fonda movie “Dirty Mary And Crazy Larry” or rented on Amazon Prime.