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June 28, 2007

Hot Rods to Hell

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John Brahm - 1967
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

Twenty-one years before they were reunited for Hot Rods to Hell, Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain starred in State Fair for Twentieth Century Fox. At another part of the Fox lot in 1945, John Brahm was filming Hongover Square. In 1966, the three were probably happy to be working, even if it was on behalf of schlockmeister Sam Katzman. That the veteran actors would be the stars of a film titled Hot Rods to Hell is but one indication of how hilariously out of touch Sam Katzman was in his waning years. If Katzman wasn't so cheap, the film might not have broken even.

The only reason to have seen Hot Rods to Hell then, as now, is to watch Mimsy Farmer and a bunch of fast cars. As Gloria, Farmer comes of like a combination of Marlon Brando in The Wild One and Natalie Wood in Rebel without a Cause, the small town bad girl always looking for kicks. Riding with bad boys Paul Bertoya and Gene Kirkwood, and sometimes playing them against each other, Farmer joyfully is unapologetic for her misbehavior. Farmer brings a feral energy that was never fully appreciated or taken advantage of until she moved to Europe to act, most notably for Barbet Schroeder and Dario Argento.

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This almost disasterously unhip tale is about Dana Andrews as the square from Squaresville, actually Boston, who seems to be a magnet for car accidents. Farmer and her gang of hot rodding kids try to drive Andrews, Crain and family off the road. The most wrong-headed error of Hot Rods to Hell was to make a film aimed for the teen market, with stars of their parents generation. The producer of up-to-the-minute films starring Bill Haley and Chubby Checkers could do no better this time around then to feature rock music performed by Mickey Rooney, Junior, and his combo.

There are times when John Brahm seems to really care about what he's doing, especially in the shots of Laurie Mock, who plays Andrews and Crain's daughter. Mock's acting career was short lived, while Farmer proved to be more than a low budget Tuesday Weld once she got out of Hollywood. Hot Rods to Hell is a reminder that stardom can come and go even faster than a souped up car.

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Posted by peter at June 28, 2007 11:28 AM


I love this movie and Mimsy Farmer is fabulous in it! I'm glad it's finally available on DVD.

Posted by: Kimberly at June 29, 2007 02:21 PM