What ever happened to the good old days when it seemed every time you turned around there was a guy wearing a goat's head sacrificing a nude virgin? Well maybe it never got that bad (in most areas), but it's comforting to know that there was a time when the threat of Satanic cults was a great distress to this nation. Case in point the Satanic cult craze in Hollywood and television through the 70s and early 80s. Rosemary's Baby probably jump started the film industry's fascination, and The Exorcist did nothing to slow it down.
So the Satanic cult/Satan genre had a few good movies, but we also got a bunch of low-grade/high-fun crazy crap such as Necromancy (also known as A Life for a Life, Rosemary's Disciples, The Toy Factory and The Witching), starring a brow-furrowed Orson Welles as the devilish owner of a bad toy factory (never seen) and the leader of a Satanic cult (very much seen). But as far as Satanic cults go, it doesn't get much more fun than 1975's Race With the Devil.
Starring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates (strangely looking much older and fatter than he did in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, made only a year earlier), Race With the Devil combines the familiar Satanic cult paranoia of Rosemary's Baby with the sensibilities of a Winnebago road trip. What starts off as a pleasant Texas to Colorado ski vacation via a new RV turns bad when Roger (Fonda) and Frank (Oates) find a secluded camping area for the men and their girlfriends, and accidentally spy an apparent Satanic sacrifice across the river. Somehow the men are spotted, and eventually high-tail their asses out of there, but not before a suspenseful river crossing (this is before people knew RVs were not off-road vehicles) and fighting off a few stowaway cult members.
Of course, the local law is little to no help (despite the usually God-fearing R.G. Armstrong playing the sheriff), but our foursome is able to steal a book on Satanism from the library. So they're in the clear, right? Unfortunately, this is not your everyday Satanic cult. The brand of cult in Race With the Devil is the kind that will fill your RV with snakes, the kind that will stare at you while you're in a swimming pool, and the kind that will take you out to dinner at a country western bar with one hand and sacrifice your little dog with the other.
Our gang soon finds out what most of us had already suspected: the entire state of Texas is one giant Satanic cult. This leads to a Winnebago death chase that may have inspired some of the delicious madness that ends The Road Warrior. There are some absolutely smashing stunts to be had in the climactic chase scene, and if you're hoping for the gang to outrun the Satanists, well -- you just don't know how Texas cults work, do ya? They always get their man.
Race With the Devil is all kinds of fun, and it's helped by the fact that the nameless Satanic cult is played as an outright MacGuffin. We never learn what their intentions are, what they plan to do with our gang, or even who it was they were sacrificing that one night. And who cares? As long as it results in a cross country chase with a Winnebago, I'm satisfied.
Note: While googling Race With the Devil, I ran into this Black Oak Arkansas album of the same name. Niiiiiice.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Filed Under Classic reviews