I see a lot of movies every year. A
ton. But this year I’ve decided I don’t see enough movies, so one of my
New Year Resolutions was to simply see more. And to write about them.
See, that’s the other half of the equation: I see a ton of movies, but
I write about comparatively few of them. There are a lot of reasons,
but they mainly boil down to the fact that I feel the  need to do long
form reviews, and sometimes – like in the midst of Sundance – I just
don’t have the time.


And
so was born this new blog! I aim to make an entry for every single
movie I see in 2010. Some entries may be very short, some may be
lengthy. Entries may take a couple of days to be posted. Let’s see how
long this lasts.


One
last  thing: one of my main objectives this year is to rewatch more
movies. I know this sounds like a strange goal, but there are films I
haven’t seen since high school, which means it’s been almost a lifetime
since I saw them. Recently I rewatched Black Christmas for the first
time since the 1980s, and I might as well have been seeing the movie
for the first time. I’m interested in getting a look at some movies I
loved or hated twenty or even ten years ago and seeing how I feel about
them now.


Let’s begin…

#40 Race With the Devil
1975
d. Jack Starrett

I don’t know how this one slipped by me, but it did – for years. The first time I ever saw Race With the Devil, which has Warren Oates and Peter Fonda in an RV battling Satanists across Texas, was just two Sundays ago when my friends Lars and Zack from the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin brought a print to AFI.

I loved the movie, of course. I mean: Warren Oates! And he’s liquored up the entire movie. Most of his line readings are weird and off and boozy. And he’s married to Loretta Swit (so maybe being drunk was just a character choice for Oates). He’s best friends with Peter Fonda, and they both race dirt bikes*. They’ve decided to go from San Antonia to Aspen for vacation, and they’re RVing it.

But things start off poorly – when they pull off the side of the road to sleep and get boozed, Fonda and Oates witness a Satanic rite that ends in the ritual murder of a young woman. They go to tell the cops, but nobody seems to be able to help them, so they continue on their way, their every step dogged by Satanists.

The plot of Race With the Devil doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s filled with hilarious and weird moments culminating in a really awesome chase scene where the RV is being attacked by about 20 cars. The climactic car stunt scenes are totally fucking awesome, and if the film can drag a bit in spots (although that’s rare, as Fonda and Oates keep things cooking with their own lubricated weirdness), it’s all worth sitting through to get to these scenes.

Race With the Devil was obviously made to tie into the 70s Satanism fad, coming not long after The Exorcist and a few years after Rosemary’s Baby. The film’s vision of Satanism is vague, unfocused and incredibly unrealistic, while also being completely cool. Don’t expect something very hard edged, though – Race With the Devil is PG (from the pre-PG-13 days), and could probably play on TV without many edits, except for cutting out the close-ups of Swit’s face.

* this film was written and supposed to be directed by the great, genius, amazing Lee Frost. Lee Frost has a couple of themes that run through his movies, but none so prevalent as dirt bikes. Check out Dixie Dynamite, another drunk Oates movie that is directed by Frost, to see an uncredited Steve McQueen race dirt bikes. And look at the poster for The Thing With Two Heads - the Thing With Two Heads is on a fucking dirt bike!