Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Destructible Dog: RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975)

Over at Destructible Man, the Flying Maciste Brothers have put out a call to all bloggers to present their favorite Animal Dummy Deaths ever committed to film for the first-ever Destructible Blogathon. "We want everybody to bundle up," say Howard and Kevin Maciste, "dig deep into the recesses of their consciousness, fiddle about a bit and then go over to your laptops by the fireplace and post about the cinematic ANIMAL dummy death that you covet the most!"

Chris Poggiali & Robert Plante proudly present...

Ginger, The Destructible Dog

and other goodies from


Once upon a time there was a writer-director named Lee Frost...

...who wrote a screenplay with his co-writer/producer partner Wes Bishop entitled...

..."So Mote it Be."

A car chase/horror hybrid about two vacationing couples in an RV who witness a human sacrifice and must outrun what has to be an entire county of devil worshippers, the film was set up at 20th Century Fox with Alan Ladd, Jr. and went into production as RACE WITH THE DEVIL.

Not long after the cameras started rolling, however, Frost and Bishop were replaced by director Jack Starrett and producer Paul Maslansky.

Starrett had originally been cast as Sheriff Taylor, one of many law enforcement roles the Texas-born actor-director took over the years. Maybe you've seen him as Deputy Fred in THE BORN LOSERS (1967)... Sergeant Bingham in HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967)...

...and its sequel, ANGELS FROM HELL (1968)... the Sheriff in THE GIRLS FROM THUNDER STRIP (1966)...

...or as Deputy Sergeant Galt in FIRST BLOOD (1982), among others.

When Starrett took over as director, R.G. Armstrong stepped into the Sheriff Taylor part. So many substitutions so soon into production!

I've always thought this shot was a missed opportunity. Imagine the sweet foreshadowing substitution/deception we would've been blessed with if that sheriff's badge had only five points instead of six.

OK everyone, quiet on the set! I'm ready for my closeup!

Uhhhh, wait a sec -- why does that prop guy have a rope?

Roger (Peter Fonda), his wife Kelly (Lara Parker), Alice (Loretta Swit) and husband Frank (Warren Oates) return from dinner to find that the locals have given them...


...not exactly a warm reception.

What goes up, must come down.

Ginger belonged to Kelly, so former Dark Shadows femme fatale Parker gets to have an emotional moment with the fluffy doggy dum-dum.

Captain America and John Dillinger quickly take control.

Buckle yourselves in.

Comin' through.

Rigor mortis already?

Nah, this must be the one they got from the taxidermist.

Into the fridge you go.

One of the film's most memorable and effective moments has the two couples being attacked by deadly snakes that have been placed in their RV by the dastardly devil cultists. It's a beautifully edited sequence utilizing real snakes...

...dummy snakes...

...and the shadows of dummy snakes.

During the climactic chase there is a more traditional but just as satisfying dummy appearance.

Low bridge ahead.

Frank honks the horn...

...alerting Roger, who's climbed up on the roof to take care of a meddling cultist.

The fall guy.

Hey you! Dummy!

Who, me?

Hey, why are you doing that?


-- ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Stunt man or dummy?

Definitely a dummy.

Stunt man.


The film's most dazzling deception, however, is the "cannon roll" stunt at the end of the chase scene. The cannon roll was invented by Hal Needham and first performed by stunt man Gary McLarty for the John Wayne movie MCQ (1974).

RACE producer Maslansky explains the particulars of the cannon roll stunt: “You take a piece of telephone pole, and with a case on it made of iron, you stick it in the back of the car so it’s up on the rear seat area and flush with the floor, where there’s an opening, and you put the charge in the bottom of the cylinder, load the piece of telephone pole and attach a device that can ignite it from a signal the driver gives with a switch, and as he shunts the car over so it’s going at a 'T' to the road, he hits the switch, the powder charge knocks that piece of telephone pole into the mechanism and kicks the whole fuckin’ car up in the air. The effect is that it flips the car something like fifteen or sixteen times.”

Stunt man Duffy Hambleton performed the cannon roll in RACE. It was his first time doing the stunt. "In my career I did five or six maybe seven of them," he says. "Not a whole bunch, I guess, but enough to rattle my cage. It will get you thinkin' not too good."

According to the film's stunt coordinator, Paul Nuckles, Hambleton not only did the cannon roll but “he had a great saying for when people would ask, ‘How does it feel?’ He’d say, ‘It feels like you’re a pea in a policeman’s whistle.’”

Now, the deception is this: the cannon roll flips the car 8 times, but the stunt was filmed with two cameras and is shown in its entirety from two different angles.

It's seamless to the naked eye, but if you run the stunt in slow-motion on your DVD player, you'll see the moment when the two angles overlap.

The secret is to watch the car hood. It gets crunched twice.

Again, it's too fast to be seen in regular speed, but slow it down and you'll catch it.

And we...



End of the roll? Well, yes and no. See how there's no hood?

Now camera two takes over -- and the hood is getting crunched again.


We'd love to tell you about the school bus filled with dummy little kids that Nuckles wanted to trash, but we're saving that -- and a whole lot more -- for our book, Racing with the Devil: The Action Cinema of Jack Starrett.

That's all for now. Have a good night. Drive safely.

And try not to die like a dog.


Marty McKee said...

I will totally be reading that Starrett book. Thanks, guys!

Robert said...

Can't help but wonder the reaction of audiences to seeing that initial cannon roll in McQ. It is a spectacular stunt; more so as it takes place on a beach versus a road.

The Flying Maciste Brothers said...

First they have to type it up!

Arbogast said...

Ginger belonged to Kelly, so former Dark Shadows femme fatale Parker gets to have an emotional moment with the fluffy doggy dum-dum.

Probably more fulfilling than having an emotional moment with Jonathan Frid.