Often in the horror genre, a viewer will discover an unseen rough gem, something that became hidden away for one reason or another, and hence here is this flick that starred the talented Peter Fonda, who had made a handful of horror movies among them the fan cherished Spirits of the Dead (1968), but alas more well-known for Easy Rider  and Ghost Rider . I have seen this movie a few times, it’s extremely rare if it’s ever shown on the small screen but it’s no reason to omit from your viewing pleasure, even though it combines both the action genre to that of horror, with doses of thriller to try smooth-out the bumps in the storyline. The story created by two exploitation filmmakers who often worked together Wes Bishop (House on Bare Mountain ) and Lee Frost (Witchcraft ’70 ) as well as the sci-fi flick The Thing with Two Heads ; Lee was temporarily hired as director of the production until Twentieth Century Fox well-respected president Alan Ladd Jr. became unsatisfied with his progress and hired Jack Starrett to reshoot the entire project, his only horror film in his career. However, when the disjointed project came to theaters on an ultra- low budget of $1.7 million it made a modest gain of 5.1 million in domestic markets and overseas grossing at least $12.5 million, noted success for Starrett. This film was popular in the heyday of drive-in theaters a b-movie with violent action-horror sequences with chase scenes which dominated many films of the 70s, after all Americans do have obsession with vehicles and adventure.
Ah, the 70s, if one overlooked the clothes and some dreadful music, you likely notice the decade had a lot to offer a horror fan, especially under the topics of Witchcraft, the Occult and Satanism, note that these don’t necessarily go together although Hollywood loves to mix material regardless of factual details. Most fans can name two, The Exorcist  and The Omen  however, to expand on that briefly this includes Twins of Evil , Daughters of Satan , The Devil’s Rain , and Satan’s Blood .
The opening is a slow 20-minutes and centers primarily on the men of this decade, the discussion of racing motorcycles and showing it, then we introduce to our two couples more directly first Frank (Warren Oates) and his wife Alice (Loretta Swit (best known for her role on tv-show M*A*S*H)) and secondly Roger (Peter Fonda) and his wife and Kelly (Lara Parker (Night of Dark Shadows )); these two guys are more than just good ‘ole buddies they are owners of a successful Texas motorcycle dealership who are taking their wives on a ski vacation to Colorado. As they hit the road, the men salivate over the elaborate 1975 Vogue Villa Grande, with all the dazzling of then features. It’s with that opening act, the chemistry and trust are solid with the characters, translate incredibly well to the audience, they fully understand these couples are thoroughly relatable. In the late afternoon, the group wants to pull over suggesting a motel, but Frank disagrees stating “we’re self-contained’ head off-road for private fun, namely racing motorcycles, and the ladies relaxing while their doggy panic barks, its merely dismissed (but horror fans know the warning signs). As night falls, Frank and Roger enjoy their drinks noting their successes and friendship on a chilling night, parked on an off-beaten path notice a sudden campfire a tad off using binoculars they sneak up to spy on the commotion. They witness a Satanic ritual that has the worshippers dancing naked around the blaze, and the high priest wearing a goat mask, this is not The Wicker Man , but rather a private ceremony and sacrifice. Unfortunately, loud shouting from Alice assists in bringing unwanted attention to them, and the chase (or race) is on for practically the rest of the movie. Later that same night, escaping through a harrowing and suspense sequence they arrive at a local Sheriff Taylor (R.G. Armstrong (The Car )) conveying witnessing a human sacrifice, though the law enforcement thinks it was hippies with willful passion for destruction. While the men return to the scene of incident by dawn (it raises some questions – listen/ carefully watch no goofs, something else), blood and smoldering ashes are found, meanwhile the wives head to a library to research books on occultism. Starrett starts layering the foundation for paranoia and growing creepy suspicions to suspense for their safety, especially at a trailer park, the terrorizing ratcheting up the scale. The Devil is in the details of how sinister his followers’ cult will be when pursuing our heroes, just acknowledge that evil never dies.
Face it when a horror film incorporates Satanists and chase scenes, as well as a straightforward script, the cheesy charm melts over the viewer, a huge motorhome – 32-feet long, motorbikes, and a creepy air of paranoia that makes the character unnerve to even speak aloud to each other in public adds to the film’s charm. Often, reviews never mention stunt coordinators unless their name is Kane Hodder, however this flick had one of the best in the business Paul Knuckles (Devil Times Five ) who dialed up countless action scenarios and wicked vehicle chases, barrel-rolls, the best, no but perhaps a fine version for a horror cross over. There’s a complex car chase scene, a little similar to Duel  regarding tension and panic driven (pun-intended) situations, but this violence and demolition derby occurring at a high-rate of speed, found in a low-budget flick, very refreshing.
As it’s known the film is a cult-classic, aided that Peter Fonda starred in it, but that fun chemistry between him & Warren as if old friends, the movie, is definitely for car-enthusiasts and it contains the proper amount of suspense, occultism, and fits into the wheelhouse of drive-ins of the 70s. While a remake was planned for 2005, it eventually became a panned project, however this cult film was adapted into Kazhugu (2011) a Tamil language production and inspired Drive Angry (2011). Needless to say, it might not be everyone’s interest, dated in some areas, nothing for the gorehounds, but sometimes discovery is a wonderful treat.
- Peter Fonda and Warren Oates are burning their bridges and a lot of rubber… on the deadliest stretch of road in the country!
- They witnessed an unspeakable act! It may cost them their lives!
- Witness an unspeakable act!
- God Help You When The Devil Wants You!
- If you’re going to race with the devil, you’ve got to be as fast as Hell!
IMDb Rating: 6.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10