John Brahm – Hot Rods to Hell aka 52 Miles to Terror (1967)


This revolutionary masterpiece was, at first, misunderstood as a mere exploitation film. However, the subversive genius shown in its subtext and plot construction was eventually recognized. It now plays quarterly at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which has instituted a lecture series on the various intellectual facets of the film. While the series is still in its infancy we have already heard Barak Obama speak on, “Hope and Hot Rods,” and Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan on, “Christian symbolism and family values in Hot Rods of Hell,” to say nothing of the hilarious speech by Tim Curry, “What exactly is a ‘Hot Rod’.” Those interested in perusing the literature on the subject can contact the Hot Rods of Hell Research Department at Columbia University in NYC. However, you should be prepared to show your research credentials.
@Unkabunk at TIK

From The Cosmic Catacombs:
(contains spoilers)
A pretty cheesy exploitation thriller from the late ’60s.

It’s about a very “square” family who, when moving into a new town, are targeted by a group of young hoodlums who harass the family on the road. They follow them with their cars, box them in, run them off the road, and a bunch of other stuff that is really pretty tame in retrospect.

It was produced by Sam Katzman (The Corpse Vanishes, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers) and was originally intended to be a television movie, but was deemed “too intense for TV viewers” and instead had a fairly successful theatrical release.

I would hardly call the film intense, but then again this is coming from a guy that has watched movies that would probably give people in the ’60s heart-attacks. Times surely have changed. There’s not much violence in here at all, and certainly no gore or anything like that. There’s some implied off-screen sex and some skimpy looking girls but nothing explicit.

But, it’s very early exploitation so its tameness can be forgiven. However, there were tons of exploitation-y hot rod films released in the ’50s, many of which I prefer to this. One cannot help but to think of The Fast and the Furious or Motor Psycho or The Choppers or Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, all exploitation films that did what Hot Rods to Hell did, better than Hot Rods to Hell did it, and before Hot Rods to Hell did it.

All the film’s value really comes from how funny it is. You have your typical ’60s middle-class Dad and family and all their moral conversations. Then there’s the hooligans with the hot rods, who are pretty unintimidating and just as cheesy as the family. It can be pretty damn hilarious at times, simply for its high camp, cheesy dialogue, and the squarest people the 1960s could find.

It’s certainly not Dana Andrews’ best work; in fact all the acting here is pretty awful. But it adds to the camp value.

The soundtrack wasn’t too bad. All the cars definitely looked cool enough and the road cinematography and car tricks were pretty solid too.

It’s definitely worth the watch if you’re into this kind of stuff (high camp, exploitation, so-bad-it’s-good). There’s just a lot of better stuff out there that can provide the same enjoyment. Also, apparently Micky Rooney’s son (Micky Rooney, Jr.) is in here…

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