Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


My selection this week for Todd Mason's Overlooked Films is the 1967 groaner Hotrods to Hell, a by-the-books made-for-TV movie featuring Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain.  But with best-laid plans, etc., etc., the movie was instead given a theatrical release.

     Jim Anderson Ward Cleaver Tom Phillips (Andrews) is a devoted family man with wife (Crain), an obnoxious (IMHO) young son (12-year old Tim Stafford, now acting as Jeffrey Bryon), and a shallow (again, IMHO) teenage daughter (Laurie Mock, whose last credit om IMDB was a the Third Nude in 1971's Dirty Harry) with big breasts and some junk in the trunk and poofed-up hair.  A salesman with a New England route, Tom is driving home for Christmas when his car is hit by a drunk driver.  Tom survives, but his job is gone and medical bills have wiped out his savings.  After several months of recuperation, Tom's wife and his brother convince him to move to the California desert where Tom's brother has arranged for Tom to buy a motel.  There's a new highway coming through (ka-ching!) and Tom needs a quiet place to complete his recuperation, so this appears to be a good deal.

     What comes next is a cinematic sermon on the virtues of safe driving.  Tom is emotionally shattered by the accident, afraid to get behind the wheel.  With his wife driving, the family heads out to California.  Some fifty miles from their destination, they are run off the road by hotrodding teenagers.  The teens, all from good families ('natch), care only for kicks, speed, booze, and danger.  The hotrodding gang continues to terrorize Tom and his family until they reach their destination.  One punk girl throws an unopened (unopened!  blasphemy!) can of Schlitz from the speeding car and almost hits Tom's son.  These teenagers are beginning to get on Tom's nerves; hope they don't go onto his lawn.

      The leader of the gang is Duke (Paul Bertoya, far older than the seventeen-year old he was portraying); among the others in the gang are his girlfriend (I doubt if Duke would use that term) Gloria (22-year old Mimsy Farmer) and Ernie (22-year old Gene Kirkwood, who would move onto bigger things as a producer).  In a bit of non-serendipity, the gang has been using the motel that Tom has bought for illegal parties.

     Will Tom be able to defeat the hotrodding gang?  Will the wayward youths discover the error of their ways?  Will California's roads ever be safe again?  Will Tom's infatuated daughter Tina be seduced by that neer-do-well Duke?  Will anyone in the cast recover their acting chops?  Will this movie save the musical careers of Mickey Rooney, Jr. and His Combo?  (No kidding, they do three songs.)

     Produced by Sam Katzman (The Fastest Gun AliveGet Yourself a College Girl, Hootenanny Hoot, Jungle Moon Man, and so many more), directed by John Brahm  (The Undying Monster, The Lodger, Hangover Square, The Brasher Doubloon, etc.), written by Robert E. Kent (who wrote a lot of  movies for Katzman, plus such classics as Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, The Falcon's Adventure, Philo Vance Returns, and Flying G-men), and based on a Saturday Evening Post story by Alex Gaby -- it's hard to understand why the critics didn't take to the film.

     This is a so-bad-it's-almost-good cult flick.  And it has its fans, some of whom considerate it a laugh-a-minute-film.  (I'm glad there are people out there with taste as bad as mine.)  In fact, there's a web site devoted to the movie:


      Hotrods to Hell shows up once in a while on the Turner Classic Movie channel, which is where I watched it.  Here's a clip from TCM:


     For more Overlooked Films, see Sweet Freedom.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds good. I love those so-bad-it't good types. Did it ever get the Mystery Science Theater treatment?