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Race With the Devil(1975)
Two couples vacationing together in an R.V. from Texas to Colorado are terrorized after they witness a murder during a Satanic ritual.
For more about Race With the Devil and the Race With the Devil Blu-ray release, see Race With the Devil Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker, R.G. Armstrong
Director: Jack Starrett
» See full cast & crew
Race With the Devil Blu-ray Review
Don't mess with Texas.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 10, 2013
Note: This film is currently only available in this bundle: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry / Race with the Devil.
By the 1970s, both Jane and Peter Fonda had emerged from the rather formidable shadow cast by their father Henry, and both had achieved a certain iconic status as leading members of the counterculture. Peter of course had become an instant exemplar of the so-called "youth movement" when he co-wrote, produced and starred in 1969's Easy Rider, a film which many attribute as jump starting the Independent Era which would soon flourish in Hollywood and help put yet another nail in the coffin of the big studios. Jane had already started making waves with various activist causes in a number of social issues, including Civil Rights and, a bit later, the brief Native American occupation of Alcatraz. But shortly after Easy Rider stormed the beaches of American cinema, Jane became probably the most notable celebrity to regularly voice anti-Vietnam sentiment, including her infamous trip to North Vietnam that resulted in the "Hanoi Jane" soubriquet which still follows her around in certain right leaning circles. What's kind of ironic about all of this is that both of the Fonda children actually started their screen careers rather traditionally. Both Fondas got some training on the stage before matriculating to the silver screen, but in the early 1960s at least, both of them essayed roles that probably any young actor or actress would have played. Jane, while showing her range in such early pieces as Walk on the Wild Side, was just as often a glamour girl or "nice" girlfriend type, while Peter was a surprisingly bland leading man in such fare as Tammy and the Doctor. But there must be an almost genetic political streak in the Fonda bloodline; many people either don't know or don't remember that Henry himself was a vocal supporter of Democratic candidates and office holders through the years. And with success (and in Jane's case at least, an Oscar for 1971's Klute) at hand, both Fondas could pretty much set their own course in the 1970s. Which brings us to the rather odd pairing of two Peter Fonda films in this Shout! Factory release.
Perhaps the unexpected success of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry the year previously helped pave the way (no pun intended) for at least the title if not the overriding concept of 1975's Race With the Devil, for the 1974 Peter Fonda-Susan George film was really little more than one extended car chase. Those who had seen the 1974 film and were drawn to Race With the Devil due to Fonda's participation and perhaps also thinking they were going to get another extended chase film probably were at least a little surprised at some other elements that are front and center in this film. There certainly is a chase element running rampant through Race With the Devil, but there's also a spooky horror element that draws from a number of other popular entertainments of that era that hinted at either paganism or outright Satanism flourishing in unexpected places (think of everything from Rosemary's Baby to Thomas Tryon's novel Harvest Home, which was a huge bestseller in 1973 and 1974).
Race With the Devil probably confused some viewers in 1975 who came to this expecting some kind of chase scenario and getting that scenario only courtesy of some Satanism, an occult phenomenon that became increasingly part of the cinematic mainstream after Rosemary's Baby and the then relatively recent The Exorcist (even if that latter film was more about Satan than a religion honoring him). In Race With the Devil we meet two buddies and business partners played by Peter Fonda and Warren Oates who set out on a cross country trip in their RV along with their wives, played by Loretta Swit and Lara Parker. Their sylvan interlude is brought to a crashing halt one night when the guys witness what they believe is a Satanic ritual murder. They try to get the hell (no pun intended) out of Dodge, and/or Texas in this case, but find that Texas has more than Baptists at every corner.
Race With the Devil plays on the same sort of paranoia and indeed claustrophobia that made Rosemary's Baby so memorable. Is everyone in on this conspiracy? The more the two couples try to escape, the more they begin to believe that that's the case. And much as Rosemary Woodhouse found herself confined to the gothic glamour of her Manhattan apartment, this quartet finds themselves locked in the stifling confines of their RV as a series of increasingly disturbing events accrues (animal lovers are forewarned—there's a pretty grisly murder of a dog).
This is a fascinating "little" film that rather brilliantly blends action and horror elements in to a relatively seamless whole. The increasing desperation of the focal couples plays out to a number of well staged set pieces, and the finale is a fantastic minor masterpiece of helplessness. The film did fairly well in its theatrical exhibition, but it never seemed to really gain the cult steam that lesser fare like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry did. Hopefully this new Blu-ray can help to rectify that fact.
Race With the Devil Blu-ray, Video Quality
Race With the Devil is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Like its sibling on the two-fer release it's included on, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, this is a very nice looking high definition presentation that only has a few very minor issues to report. For the most part, clarity and precision are excellent throughout the transfer, and the elements are in quite good condition. Occasionally, some of the darkest nighttime scenes suffer from moderate crush, both out of doors and within the confines of the RV, but otherwise, things are rather nice looking, with good contrast and accurate looking color.
Race With the Devil Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Race With the Devil's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track (presented via a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix) ably supports the films nice sound design, which features some spooky Satanic chanting and some nicely rendered foley effects in some of the chase scenes. Gunfire pops with appropriate punch and dialogue is very cleanly presented. Leonard Rosenman's evocative score also sounds great. Fidelity is very good and dynamic range is fairly wide.
Race With the Devil Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Race With the Devil Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Race With the Devil takes just a few minutes to set up its focal quartet of characters, and then the game is on. This is an unusually riveting, and often quite spooky, film that deserves to be better known than it is. Nicely blending horror and action sequences, it's unsettling without ever tipping over into complete ridiculousness. This new Shout! release offers nice looking video and great sounding audio and comes with some appealing supplements. Recommended.
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