Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hot Rod Girl

Hot Rod Girl (1956) is one of two films on a $1 double feature DVD that Boz sent to me -

Hot Rod Girl / T-Bird Gang.

While the other film, T-Bird Gang, had its moments; it was a lot less entertaining than Hot Rod Girl. In fact, I fell asleep during T-Bird Gang, so I won't be reviewing that film.

Hot Rod Girl opens with footage of a dragstrip. While the opening credits are still rolling, we see Miss Lisa Vernon cross the finish line in her T-Bird. The announcer says she has won yet another race.

"Hot Rod Girl" - Miss Lisa Vernon.

[ Note RE "Nacirema Productiona": "Nacirema" is "American" spelled backwards (Sandra pointed this out to me some time ago). ]

Far from being a wild street-racer, Lisa Vernon is a very proper and wholesome All-American girl. And it soon becomes apparent all the good kids race at the dragstrip rather than hot-rodding in the streets.

The public doesn't realize this, however, and is pressuring the city council to close down the strip.

After the race, we meet Lisa's circle of friends, Steve, Flat-Top, and Lisa's responsible boyfriend Jeff -

The Hot Rod Gang.

In the background for just a few second, a car rolls by with 666 painted on the door:

Screen-shot detail.

They're all discussing dropping by their local teen hangout, Yo-Yo's; but Steve, the youngest, is unable to attend.

Jeff: "How about you, Steve?"

Steve: "Gee, I'd love to....but every time I come to the strip, Aunt Sarah puts a stopwatch on me...I'll be glad when I'm old enough to move in with you. She's strictly horse & buggy. She doesn't dig hot rods at all!"

The older hot rodders all chuckle affectionately. Then Jeff agrees to ride with Steve to diagnose a troublesome engine noise.

The scene shifts to the hot-rodders' friend, Ben. Ben is a little older, wears a suit and a hat, and is in a position of some authority with the local police force. Ben is out at his city councilman's office discussing the drag-strip. Teen hot-rodding is apparently a huge concern in the small town, because the city councilman has a huge poster of a horrible car accident on his office wall -

Councilman: "I've seen too much!"

Ben: "If you come out to the strip & get to know the kids..."

Councilman: "No thanks! That's your headache!!"

The Councilman continues, "All the calls I get...'Close the [drag] strip!', 'Confiscate all Hot Rods!'...Like a broken record!"

Ben is somehow involved with the drag strip (I think he might own it) and argues more kids on the strip means fewer racing in the streets. He finally persuades the Councilman to give it a chance.

Scene shifts to Jeff & Steve driving around. Jeff doesn't hear the engine sound Steve was complaining about.

Steve: "If I could really open it up..."

Then Jeff gets VERY serious and interjects, "At the racetrack!" Throughout the movie, Jeff is discussed as a good influence on the local youth. This is an example of his level-headedness and another example is right around the corner.

Steve starts in about his Aunt Sarah again - "Living with her is like driving with your breaks on!...Slow down!...Stop!...That's the story of my life!"

Jeff advises Steve to just cool it until he's old enough to move out, then a blond crew-cutted Eddie Haskel look-alike pulls up next to them at a stop sign and starts reving his engine.

Steve asks, "Who's this squirrel?"

The stranger is a real jackass. He's gawking at them, revving his engine and laughing. It's a pretty funny scene.

As they continue to drive, the squirrely driver is weaving in and out in front of them and laughing at them.

Who's this squirrel?

Jeff stays cool, but Steve begins to lose his.

Steve: "What's this guy trying to prove??"
Jeff: "Ignore him, Steve...Play it smart! He's looking for trouble - disappoint him."

The clincher comes at the next stop sign. They are behind the squirrely driver, who then BACKS INTO their car! TWICE! And laughs at them while he's doing so!

This is the last straw and Steve goes into a serious road rage -

Well, to make a long story short, they crash and Steve is dead. Jeff is crying like a baby -

Ben, Jeff, & Lisa - Distraught over Steve's death.

Jeff briefly gathers his wits until he looks at the overturned car, then he starts crying again.

The City Councilman is there too and opines, "That's a real hopped-up death trap".

Jeff, thinking he is responsible for Steve's death, withdraws into work. He has no more interest in drag strip activities and without his responsible guidance, the local youth are starting to all get squirly.

Scene shifts to Yo-Yo's some time later. Everyone is there except Jeff -

This opening segment of this scene is pretty hilareous and can not be captured in still screen captures. I may have to post a short video.
It's showing close-ups of the kids' ecstatic faces as they listen to crappy jazz records. It's the funniest part of the movie, in my opinion.

Lisa is the only one still talking about the drag strip since Jim has withdrawn into work.

Lisa: "You know, if they close the strip, the next step will be to outlaw all hot rods."

Flat-Top: " let 'em, if it'll make the squares happy."

Now we meet LP, which is short for Long-Playing Record. Because she talks a lot -

LP and her man.

LP: "They wouldn't dare! My whole wardrobe is designed around the drag strip!"

Nobody takes LP seriously at all. Whenever she talks too much, they're all like, "Oh, LP! Flip the record!"

They discuss Jeff's absence. LP, who is apparently pretty promiscuous, suggests she could probably get him back.

LP: "People respond to me in a different way thatn they do to normal girls"

The discussion turns to illegal non-strip racing and Lisa walks out on them.

As further evidence the kids are getting out of control without Jeff's sober presence, Flat-Top pays Yo-Yo with a Canadian dime!

Yo-Yo: "Hey! This is a Canadian dime!"

Flat-Top: "So? Take a trip!"

Scene shifts to the garage where Jeff is working 12 to 18 hour days as a mechanic.

Jeff's boss:
"You're looking tired, Jeff."

Jeff: "I like being tired."

Jeff's boss: "Yeah, I know."

Thankfully, this lame dialogue is interrupted by the appearance of Lisa who is trying to figure out why Jeff is shutting everyone out.

She asks Jeff, "Don't you think I have my pride? Do you think it's easy for me to come here?"

"Do you think it's easy for me to come here?"

Jeff finally explains he feels responsible for Steve's death because he's the one who souped up Steve's car for him.

Jeff: "Everytime I open the hood of a car and see the engine, I think of the engine I built for him!"

Lisa: "Trying to kill yourself with work isn't going to bring him back!"

Lisa warns Jeff that Flat-Top and the other kids "are starting to act up" without his guidance, but Jeff just can't deal with it right now.

Next we meet Talbot who pulls into Yo-Yo's parking lot revving his loud-ass engine -


Talbot is a little older than the other kids and is new to town. He is all over Lisa, who ignores him.

Talbot: "They told me this was a friendly town."
Lisa: "I'm the exception."

As Talbot leaves Yo-Yo's, he announces to anyone within earshot - "When I get my coffee pot perkin', maybe I can teach some of you cats a lesson!"

Talbot fancies himself a great driver, but he doesn't take good care of his car at all. When he talks to Jeff at the garage, he affirms, "I'm here for service, not a sermon! It's my heap and I'll do with it as I please!"

Back to Yo-Yo's -

Lisa, Judy, and Flat-Top talking shit.

Talbot unplugs the jukebox, losing everyone's credits, just so everybody can here what he has to say!

Then Jeff shows up! And reassures Yo-Yo, "I don't want trouble Yo-Yo, just music."

"I don't want trouble, just music".

So feeling a little pressured, Talbot just flat-out challenges everybody to a game of chicken.

Seeing the Jeff isn't taking the bait, Flat-Top stands up to the challenge.

Then Yo-Yo asks the gods, "Why do I have to run a hangout for lunatics?"

The "Chicken" scene is excellent! All the onlookers are tense as hell as Talbot and Flat-Top take their positions -

They barrel straight at each other down the road's center line and the first to swerve away is a "Chicken".

Flat-Top chickens out and Talbot mocks them all, telling them they are ALL "Chickens"!

Everyone is a chicken except for Talbot.

After Talbot leaves, Flat-Top's girlfriend makes him promise to never play chicken again.

Then LP adds - "Exciting! To exciting for me!! IMAGINE!! TOO EXCITING FOR ME??!!!"

Ben finds out about it a chews them all out - "One more hot rod accident and you ALL lose your licenses!"

Make-Up Scene -

Lisa is visiting Jeff in his apartment where they start some coffee and start to talk.

Lisa & Jeff's make-up scene.

As they start kissing on each other; Jeff, again the model of moral responsibility, smiles and states, "I think you'd better go."

They both smile, suggesting that if Lisa stays one more minute, Jeff is going to screw her.

Lisa: "Can I get my coffee first?"
Jeff: "I'll buy you a cup tomorrow."

He is going to lose control if she doesn't leave right now, so he makes her leave.

Jeff & Lisa embody the ideal of American 1950s virtue.

Now that Jeff is no longer working himself to death, he is able to get all the kids back out to the drag strip where they belong.

Ben finds Talbot sitting around in Yo-Yo's by himself trying to figure out where Lisa is. Upon learning she is at the racetrack with everyone else, Talbot flies off like a bat out of hell.

Ben follows him and arrests him for speeding -

Ben gives Talbot an ultimatum - "Folow me out to the drag strip and see how real hot rodders handle their cars, or I'll take you in on reckless driving charges...When we get there, we'll see how good this car of yours really is".

Once at the track, however, Jeff can't pass Talbot's car as safe. It has a list of things wrong with it and Jeff says it's unsafe to drive on the track.

Talbot loses it - "You dragged me out here so this chicken could make me look like a jerk!! I'd hate to see a REAL driver on this kiddie strip!!"

He ends with a direct threat to Jeff - "I'll get you yet!!"

Later, as Jeff and Lisa are driving around, Talbot approaches from the rear and keeps veering in front of them, trying to piss them off -

During this nonsense, a bicycle rider is hit and killed. Jeff and Lisa aren't sure who hit him, but Talbot is sure it was Jeff. The City Coucilman is so pissed, he fires Ben and closes the drag strip. Soon all hot rods will be outlawed.

Not one to wallow in self pity (unlike Jeff after Steve's death), Ben is hard at work collecting a paint sample from Talbot's car.

He then approaches Talbot, who is sitting alone drinking a soda at Yo-Yo's -

Ben informs Talbot his inspection of the accident site reveals Jeff's skid marks ending 50 feet before the kid while Talbot's go right through the impact point. He also thinks Talbot's car finish matches marks found on the boy.

Talbot responds by standing up and smashing Ben over the head with a bottle!

The Jeff runs in and beats the shit out of Talbot -

Brawlin' at Yo-Yo's.

Everyone agrees Talbot's actions suggest he is guilty. Then Ben says, "I have to go see a man about a badge", implying he will get his job back since he was able to determine the accident was Talbot's fault.

Then Jeff & Lisa make-out and everything is fine -

Commentary - The title is a little mis-leading, as the "hot rod girl" is really just a supporting character. It's not terrible, but could use a little more action. The "chicken" scene is badass as is the scene leading up to Steve's death, but highlights like that are few and far between. As part of a 2-for-$1 DVD though, especially one that was given to me for free, I can't complain at all about Hot Rod Girl.

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At 7:18 AM, Blogger Boz said...

Flat Top played by Frank Gorshin went on to greater fame as the Riddler in the Batman TV series.

Ben the cop was played by Chuck Conners who at one time was a professional baseball player who went on to play Lucas McCain in the TV series Rifleman.

The were both in a shitload of other stuff too.

All the other actors and actresses were killed in a BIG drag race, organized by the actor who played Talbot, after the wrap party on the final day of filming of Hot Rod Girl ... those crazy kids!!!

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At 6:49 PM, Blogger Jonnie 7-11 said...

Flat-Top played the Riddler??

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Boz said...

Yes, indeed he did!

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