It's a difficult task to profile an entire genre. We've
honed and whittled and weeded and humbly present the
list of titles that best represents an era. So rev it
up and read on
Without A Cause
Hardly a B film by anyone's standards, director Nicholas
Ray's delinquent classic jump-started the genre and
catapulted James Dean to stardom. The cliff side chicken
race alone qualifies it for re-examination, as does
its impeccable cast. The way Dean died and the fact
that he'd filmed a safe driving promo just prior to
his passing demand the film's inclusion.
School Confidential (1958)
Russ Tamblyn goes undercover to smash a high school
dope ring helmed by kingpin Jackie Coogan. Hot cars
and the pumping piano of Jerry Lee Lewis are more than
enough to recommend this one. In addition, super-stacked
Mamie Van Doren, in the role that forever defined her
screen presence, steams up the screen as Tamblyn's 'aunt!'
Making one more bid for teen stardom, Arch Hall Jr.
leads a band of roving car thieves who supply fresh
steel to the local chop shop. Arch croons a few lovably
banal tunes but in truth, the film belongs to rotund
character actor Bruno Ve Sota who'd honed slovenly habits
into an art form.
Another Ed Cahn-directed opus that simply transplants
the typical hot rod shenanigans onto the backs of Harleys.
Anne Neyland is top-billed as Steve Terrell's chick,
while John Ashley does an unusual turn as the bad guy.
Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer is interestingly cast as one
of the hog-riding thugs in Ashley's pack.
Charles Courtney stars as a motherless youth yearning
to prove his manhood. Robert Fuller stays in his face,
taunting him into a knuckle-whitening chicken race.
All the elements are present for a top-notch speed flick
but are sadly undone by a lack of ambience and an incongruously
perky score. Ten years later, Courtney starred in Billy
the Kid Meets Dracula.
School Hellcats (1958)
These crazy chicks are tough as nails, as the new girl,
luscious Yvonne Lime learns the hard way. The hot-rod
element is hardly prevalent, but the spirit of the genre
enhances this unusually taught tale of switchblade-toting
sorority sisters. Busty Jana Lund leads the pack through
a script possessed of some decidedly ambiguous psycho-sexual
Ed Nelson learned the filmic ropes as a prominent member
of Roger Corman's stock company. In an early leading
role, he rousts his teen thug minions into action with
a perpetual sneer plastered on his kisser. The proceedings
are without doubt dominated by Ed's gleaming, white
T-bird convertible, one of the coolest American cars
Rod Girl (1957)
Lovely Lori Nelson is the speed-craving ingenue and
Chuck Connors pops up as the understanding cop who tries
vainly to keep the kids in his charge on the straight
and narrow. Director Leslie Martinson sets the tone
with an eye-popping high-speed opening. Nelson's professionalism
lends a note of legitimacy to a cliched script otherwise
dominated by nifty racing footage.
Robert Mitchum produced, wrote and stars in this offbeat
backwoods saga of family booze-makers cargoing hooch
into Memphis via Mitchum's souped-up '50 Ford. Directed
by quirky Arthur Ripley, the nighttime scenes of Mitchum
cruising the Tennessee mountains at full-throttle are
some of the most exciting chase pieces ever filmed.
The jabbing horns and stinging rockabilly guitar make
the ambience unbeatable. Mitchum also wrote and sang
the film's hit theme song.