Saturday, March 27, 2010

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Nine

Race With The Devil

I just finished watching Race With The Devil, a movie that seriously freaked me thirty five years ago when I saw it as part of a double feature with my friends Steve Gutin and Johnny Paucilo (sp? - sorry John). I suppose I was wrong when I wrote about penis surgery footage being the one thing I couldn't watch, because when I saw Race With The Devil, I was so unnerved I kept leaving the theater to sit in the lobby until the scary parts were over. It's the only film I saw as a child that had that effect.

It's not a bad little thriller. Two couples, Warren Oates and Loretta Swit and Peter Fonda and Lara Parker, set out on vacation in a Winnebago, intending to drive from San Antonio to Colorado. The first night out, the men spy on what they think is an orgy, but is in fact a Satanic ritual complete with human sacrifice. They report it to the police, but sense with growing paranoia that everyone they meet on the road is in league with the Satanists and end up on the run for their lives. Watching it now, I can see it's completely of its time. It mixes the paranoia of the early 70's with its interest in the occult and the popularity of chase movies. At the time I liked movies with chases and lots of stunts. Main characters who were doomed never bothered me. So why couldn't I be in the room with Race With The Devil?

Because they were being chased by Satanists, of course. Had it been a biker gang, bad townspeople, even aliens, it wouldn't have affected me the same way. But making them Satanists just made the threat that much worse. Not only could they kill you, they could also send your soul to hell, so reasoned my young Catholic mind. I couldn't even watch a chase scene that consisted of pick up trucks ramming into the Winnebago because the pickups were driven by those in service to Satan. I went out to sit in the lobby for what had to be the third or forth time, only to return a few minutes later and see the credits had started. Despite my embarrassment, I asked my friends how it ended. I don't think we ever talked about my inability to watch the movie. There wasn't much to discuss. I was simply scared beyond rational control.


Carol said...

This is interesting, because I felt the same way about "The Omen" and "The Exorcist."

Although perhaps it was the Winnebagos? I find them kind of terrifying, too.

wpbooks said...

I always thought of it as a kind of Easy Rider meets Rosemary's Baby! Finally saw a 'satanic group' film I'd always been curious about a couple of nights ago....The Pyx starring Karen Black and Christopher Plummer...Sadly it doesn't quite measure up to the 3.5 stars Leonard Maltin gives it in his guide. Very lightweight entry in the Satanic Cult/Murder genre....

the hanged man said...

Wow. I've never even heard of The Pyx. But Easy Rider meets Rosemary's Baby, with a dash of Duel, definitely describes Race With The Devil.

To a lesser degree, I felt the same way about The Exorcist when I first saw it. I felt that just watching the movie was wrong and I'd be punished for it, either by God or Satan.

Anonymous said...

You only missed one "u". Excellent attempt!

I have no recollection of this movie. I guess I've repressed the penis surgery bit? We saw so many things that now seem inappropriate for kids. Guess we're none the worse for it.

I'll put this the netflicks queue.

John Pauciulo

the hanged man said...

John -
Great to hear from you and apologies for misspelling your name.

Just to be clear: the penis surgery bit was from a film shown at a Butthole Surfers show, not Race With The Devil. Rent Race With The Devil if you want to see Satanists that freaked me out as a child. If you want to see penis surgery...well, you shouldn't want to see penis surgery.

Hope you're doing well!