Monday, July 24, 2017

Fast Company

Completists of director David Cronenberg may scratch their heads over 1979's FAST COMPANY, a standard issue drama set in the world of competitive funny car racing in Canada and the Northwestern U.S.  Aside from an odd nude scene involving motor oil, there is nothing here that could be described as "body horror", despite this film being made between RABID and THE BROOD.  You might consider that Cronenberg made the picture for tax reasons, or that he was merely a director for hire.  I did in fact read that he is a big fan of auto racing and something of a gearhead.

And the gearheads among you will certainly enjoy this movie's loving detail with engine prep and repair.  But that's the only clinical approach Cronenberg takes this time out, otherwise delivering a yahoo squealing tire epic that plays like a less goofy version of STROKER ACE.   If you're mining for continuity of theme with the director's other movies, you might cite the character of Phil Adamson, a slimy corporate manager for FastCo., played by B-movie regular John Saxon.  Adamson is a bona-fide company guy, comfortable with pressure upon his shoulders ("That's where I like it!") and unconcerned about his ace drag racer Lonnie's (William Smith) actual win record; he's there simply to sell a lot of product - tickets to the races and that damned motor oil.  Corporations as evil forces would recur in SCANNERS and other Cronenberg fare.

FAST COMPANY follows a leisurely pace, much like a that of a lazy afternoon at the track, as it tells its oft told tale of driver rivalry, long distance romance, hotshot upstarts, and duplicitous corporate types.  There's even a weasely mechanic who does Adamson's evil bidding to sabotage someone's engine.  Nothing in this movie requires much thought or reflection.  It's all in the moment time killing.  A movie that does things efficiently, competently (especially the nice, smooth editing by Ronald Sanders) and then ends.  So it might seem odd that while many other, similar drive-in features of its time are neglected, this movie gets a sharp remaster, looking as good as a low budget movie such as this possibly could.

In addition to Saxon, other B-movie luminaries such as Smith and Claudia Jennings (under used and quite atypically clothed the entire time) are appealing, making this outing essential for students of '70s exploitation cinema and those just plain curious to observe Cronenberg's work here, which honestly is indistinguishable from any number of Roger Corman footmen like Steve Carver and Lewis Teague et al.

Speaking of Corman, that bizarre aforementioned nude scene features two topless young hitchhikers, one of whom has FastCo oil poured on her breasts.  The scene is completely out of place (and step) with the rest of this rather tame motion picture, and it feels like something Roger might've mandated to get an R-rating, to further satisfy a coderie of salivating male filmgoers.

P.S.  FAST COMPANY's cheesy appeal is hindered/enhanced by some hilariously awful saxophone laden imitation Springsteen tunes that champion the regular guy racetrack life. Makes you want to hoist a Miller High Life and emit a lengthy belch in agreement. 

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