Crash! (1977)

Crash! (1977)
AKA Akaza, the God of Vengeance, Draculas Todesrennen [Dracula’s Death Race], Death Ride

Starring José Ferrer, Sue Lyon, John Ericson, Leslie Parrish, John Carradine, Jerome Guardino

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: High, I need some more giant 70s explosions courtesy of Charles Band.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


So last week I was pretty sorely disappointed with Full Moon’s latest offering, Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt, leading me to plumb the depths of Charles Band’s filmography in search of something sure to wet my whistle. I found it right at the beginning of the list in Crash!, a movie promising more car action than I would know what to do with. Perfect timing after my disappointment with the lack of said action in this summer’s Drive. While Crash! isn’t quite as exciting as the poster makes it out to be, it is a barrel four-barreled good time, with more crashes and explosions than you’d ever expect a low-budget film from 1977 to sport.

The plot isn’t the strong suit here, but as Crash! is Charles Band’s second directorial effort and earliest surviving film (his first film Last Foxtrot in Burbank is a sex comedy forever lost to the sands of time, perhaps for the better), it is interesting as foreshadowing for his later career path. I expected this to be nothing more than a rollicking car crash movie, but it’s actually a horror film about a driverless, killer car and a woman doing her best to avoid being killed by her invalid husband. The woman picks up a small, primitive idol at the swap meet and somehow it inhabits her car and starts driving around, blowing up other cars. I’m not sure exactly what happened, nor do I care, the explosions are great and the car stunts are spectacular, hitting notes that The Blues Brothers would echo a few years later.

So I mentioned allusions to Band’s later career, and there are many. First and foremost is the wild supernatural storytelling. For me, Full Moon films are typified by their reckless abandon, throwing virtually any semi-plausible story at the wall and making a film out of it. How many other studios would produce films like Hideous! about a group of mutated fetuses on the rampage? Or allow the chaotic frenzy of Subspecies‘ Radu anywhere near the silver screen? They shoot for the moon and usually fall somewhat short, but the results are almost always worth watching and highly entertaining.

Another easy connection is the general lack of regard for a flowing narrative. While Band’s later films do have plots you can follow for the most part, anyone that has sat through all the Puppet Master films can tell you that Band won’t let a plot that makes sense stand in his way. This recklessness is ever-present in Crash! and it allows for a film more fun than one that sticks to the rules. How else would I have a scene involving an unnamed, bickering elderly couple getting their car smashed from above by a careening police cruiser? Game. Set. Match.

One major failing point of Crash! is its budget, and it shows itself in the final half hour or so, when instead of actually filming some more footage, Band decides to replay every car crash from the film back-to-back with a red filter signifying that it is a memory– OH SHIT! I just had an epiphany, revealing Crash! to be far more impressive and artistic than I gave it credit for. It’s still a low move to replay ten minutes of the movie, but I get it now. Right before the film starts replaying itself, the main character is locked in a sauna and then the film cycles back to all the car action you’ve been enjoying. But the first time you saw it, it was all flash-forwards into the future and when you’re seeing it now, under the red filter, the car is under the direct control of the girl in real-time. Hahaha, reading that back I sound like a raving lunatic, but trust me, watch this film and tell me that explanation doesn’t fit perfectly.

Crash! is a fun B-movie with lots of great explosions and slow-mo car crashes. The added supernatural elements were interesting and unexpected, adding another layer of fun on top of the car action. The acting was pretty good from the cast, with José Ferrer standing out as the invalid husband and Sue Lyon holding her own as the hero/victim. I can’t believe that Band got actual actors for this one, with Ferrer coming from a long line of respectable movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, and Lyon most famous for playing Lolita in Kubrick’s Lolita. It’s definitely got a low-budget 70s vibe to it, so if that’s a turn-off, be warned. Those willing to brave bad sound recording and butterfly collars will find a fun action/horror hybrid. Let’s hope Charles Band and Full Moon put this one out on DVD in widescreen as the Pan & Scan VHS just doesn’t do the film’s interesting cinematography justice.

[Update: Whoa! On October 10, 2014 Full Moon actually released the film on DVD in widescreen! Check it out!]

Next week, Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver. I gotta get it over with at some point… If it’s not obvious, I’m not a big fan of Gingerdead Man although part 2 was an improvement from the first.

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