Race with the Devil (1975) – By Duane L. Martin

Roger (Peter Fonda) and Frank (Warren Oates) and their wives Alice (Loretta Swit) and Kelly (Lara Parker) load up into Frank’s brand new RV and head out on the road to Colorado for a much needed vacation that’s been a long time coming. Along the way however, they stop in a secluded area for some motorcycle riding, hiking and general relaxation. Everything’s going along beautifully, until that night. While sitting outside having a drink together, Roger and Frank notice that way off in the distance, someone’s started a bonfire. Grabbing some binoculars, they investigate. What they see is shocking. It’s some kind of a satanic ritual in which a girl is sacrificed. You can imagine they pretty much freaked. They wanted to slip away quietly, but it was at this point that Alice decided to open the RV door and start flapping her yap at them. They tried to tell her to shut her hole and get back inside, but it was too late. The cultists saw them and from there, the chase was on. They managed to escape and get away to the nearest town, but after they report the incident to the local sheriff, they find that he’s more polite than he is helpful. In fact, he tries to blow it off as a bunch of stoned hippies having a party. Determined to find the truth, Roger and Frank decide they’re going to try to get to the next big city, Austin, so they can turn in some blood they found to find out if it’s human or not. Unfortunately, the cultists have other ideas, and they terrorize and attack them at every turn. Will they make it to the authorities in Austin, or will the cultists end their vacation early? You’ll have to watch to find out.

 

From the description on the box, I thought this film sounded rather lame. However, once I got into it, I found that it was actually a rather enthralling film. Yes, I just used the word enthralling. I know words n’ stuff! Anyway, suffice it to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Hands down, the very best part of this film is how psychological it is. You never know who’s a cultist and who’s just a random person. That leads to a suspense and tension that you don’t find in most films, and even the ones that do have it, don’t manage to pull it off anywhere near as well as they did in this one. It was just flat out creepy. Combine that with the random attacks and never knowing where the next attack was going to come from, and you have a highly successful thriller that will keep you glued to the screen.

There is one annoying thing with this film however. The wives. My god, if you could write two characters that were more worthless than these two women were, then you’d deserve some kind of an award. The only thing they did to help in the entire film was to steal a book from the local library that talked about runes and rituals and stuff so they could identify what the inscription was on a threatening note they got. Other than that all they did was scream and fall apart every time something happened, and if it wasn’t for Alice, they wouldn’t have been discovered at all and could have been on their merry way in the morning with no one the wiser.

The action in the film was also quite well done. The chase scenes and other attacks were full of great driving and great stunts. Peter Fonda and Warren Oates were both very credible in how they reacted to the situation, and both presented us with believable characters that we could really pull for.

This film is paired with Dirty Mary Crazy Larry on the new double feature disc from Shout Factory. It’s a pair of films you’ll definitely want to add to your collection. The two-disc DVD release will be coming out on 4/12/2011. You can pre-order it from Shout Factory here for a very reasonable price. If you love action and suspense, then picking up this release should be a no brainer. The great interview featurettes that are included as special features with both films make it an even better deal.