Saturday, May 07, 2005

Hollywood is in the process of remaking the 1975 cult (in both senses of the world) film Race with the Devil, so I thought I'd check out the original once again (I last saw it in the early 1980s) to remind myself of how great it was. It's supposed to be having a DVD release later this year too.

This is one of those '70s films with unhappy endings. Two very straight couples go on vacation in Texas in their brand-new absolutely massive motorhome - it's got the latest mod cons - stereo, colour tv, minibar, even a microwave! However, while parked up in the countryside they witness a group of Satanists murder a woman (at first they think it's a sex party).

. From that point on, they're racing for their lives across the backwoods of America, with a mounting sense of paranoia as gradually they realise that EVERYONE who they meet is an evil Satanist, out to get them.

The stakes are gradually upped as the Satanists first leave them a threatening note and then kill their dog. To be fair, they do try to offer them an alternative pet by planting rattle-snakes in the motorhome.

Satanists were quite the thing in American cinema during that period - after the success of Rosemary's Baby (1968), this film is part of the Cult Canon (see also The Devil's Rain and The Omen). Looking at it now, I'd like to think that it's making a commentary on American consumer culture - there's even a song halfway through about getting deep in debt to live the high life (but it probably isn't). It also plays heavily on the paranoia that urban(e) city folk feel about rural parts of the country - films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance and more recently The Blair Witch Project and Wrong Turn have continued to capitalise on this fear - that people who don't live in the City are essentially evil, backwardly religious and stupid (although they do have low "peasant" cunning). And guns are definitely "the answer" in this film, as the poster so tellingly suggests. Interestingly, over at the IMDB bulletin board for the film, talk drifts into a rather heated debate over whether America was right to elect Bush (accusations of "limp-ass liberals" abound).

On a lighter note, it also features Peter Fonda (the male lead) in various kitsch shirts and sunglasses combinations - clothing that has actually come back into fashion several times since.