Hot Rods to Hell tvln062809

The retrospective strand of this year’s LA Film Festival focuses on hot rod movies, one each from the fifties, sixties and seventies. I caught cult favourite Hot Rods From Hell (1967), a fairly standard representation of the genre, with cross-generational conflict – “these kids have nowhere to go and they want to get there at 150 miles an hour” – and bargain basement exploitation production values.

It was the final film of occasionally interesting director John Brahm (The Locket, Hangover Square) and stars veteran Dana Andrews (Laura, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Night of The Demon) as a father laid up after a Christmas-time car smash. This means he spends the rest of the film pathetically clutching his back and stiff-lipped in self-loathing at his loss of manhood as he moves his family from Boston to the desert to take over running a remote motel.

But on the way they’re buzzed by punk kid hot-rodders out for kicks, and it turns out that the motel coffee shop is a hopping roadhouse for underage drinking and sex. The kids aren’t going to let the old square spoil their fun and besides, their leader sure likes the look of Andrews’s ripe and wide-eyed daughter, much to the annoyance of his trampy girlfriend Mimsy Farmer (More, Four Flies On Grey Velvet), all twitching mouth and crazy eyes, seemingly on the perpetual verge of climax.

The once poised and lovely Jeanne Crain (Leave Her To Heaven, Pinky) defaults to overwrought at every opportunity as the wife, there’s a dour traffic cop who spouts road safety homilies and Andrews sports a weird accent and too much eye make-up. Apart from a sad lack of lingering shots for the hot rod fetishists all the predictable notes are hit, the film-making is perfunctory and it’s at least a half hour too long, but there’s enough kitsch, hysteria and ridiculous lines to ensure a highly enjoyable time.

Rating: 5/10

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image: LA Film Fest