Drama, Sports

Fast Company (1979)

0 Comments 30 September 2012

Studio: Blue Underground

Theatrical Release: August 1979

Blu Ray Release: May 19, 2009

Director: David Cronenberg

R

Review by James Klein

Known for being the master of “body horror”, director David Cronenberg has graced us with some of the best horror films from the 70’s and 80’s (The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly). His films usually revolved around the idea or notion of some sort of inner struggle with one’s body. Even as Cronenberg drifted away from the horror genre, his later films still had similar theme(s) (Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Crash, Spider) as his horror films. Which makes the simple drama Fast Company all the more strange. Feeling like a made for TV film, Cronenberg’s race car drama is like the red headed step-child in his long list of film credits. Right from the very opening credits with a somewhat catchy Bob Segar-ish rock song playing over the credits, Fast Company looks and sounds nothing like a typical Cronenberg film…or does it?

Character actor William Smith stars as Lonnie “Lucky Man’ Johnson, a legendary race car driver whose almost past his peak. Lonnie races funny cars (much like regular race cars only Funny Cars do not use a transmission, but rather transmit power to the wheels via a timer-controlled clutch) for Fast Co, a fuel additive company that sponsors Lonnie and his racing team. When Lonnie crashes, he comes away unscathed, thus adding to his famous status as being lucky. While Lonnie and his team travel the country, going from race course to race course, the sleazy promoter for Fast Co. (John Saxon) is not happy with some of Lonnie’s choices and continuous crashes. He slowly tries to kick Lonnie out and put in his place Lonnie’s competitive nemesisGary”The Blacksmith” Black. When Lonnie’s car is taken away, he and his company along with his beautiful girlfriend Sammy (the extremely hot Claudia Jennings, who ironically died in a car accident a year after this film was released) decide to steal back his car and modify it for what may be Lonnie’s final race.

While Fast Company‘s story is a by the numbers, basic drama, its elevated by the cast and direction. William Smith, who usually plays villains, has great screen presence and an instant charm as this humble aging race car driver. I have always liked Smith and his grizzled face is exactly what you would picture Lonnie to look like. John Saxon is also great as Phil, the scumbag Fast Co. promoter who would sell his soul just to make a quick buck. Former Playboy Playmate Jennings has a smaller part than what I would have liked but her presence on screen helps elevate this simple film. Rounding out the cast are numerous Canadian character actors like Nicholas Campbell, Don Francks and Cedric Smith who have appeared in numerous horror/genre films.

While the cast for Fast Company is great, Cronenberg’s direction is just as wonderful and its apparent he has grown as a director since his previous films Shivers and Rabid. His quick cutting with various shots of cars and the race track and fans are great. One scene takes place entirely inside a race car with a timer at the right side of the screen. Sticking the camera inside the car, we see what it looks like from the point of view of the driver and how fast these funny cars can go. While this drama isn’t your typical Cronenberg film, there is one Cronenberg trademark that is kept in Fast Company: sex. Yes, my friends, we get ample amounts of female flesh throughout the film, giving this usually PG-rated type of movie a big R. One bizarre scene that makes me laugh just because its so strange is when Lonnie’s protégé Billy “The Kid” picks up two ditzy hitch hikers and smokes pot with them while pouring cans of Fast Co. on their naked breasts. Huh? Its small little moments like this that almost pushes Fast Company into an exploitation film but seems to almost be afraid to go one step more into darker or stranger territory. What made Cronenberg hold back, I wonder?

As always, Blue Underground’s blu ray looks amazing. While there are times the picture looks a bit grainy, the colors from all the race cars and jump suits pop and look simply gorgeous. I’ve never noticed how colorful this movie was until watching the blu ray. The sound is also impressive as car engines and tires peeling out can be heard from all different sides of the speakers. As I have said in other reviews, Blue Underground knows how to put out blu ray’s and rarely disappoints.

The extra features are also something that will make fans salivate. We get a few short interviews (my favorite being the recent interview with Smith and Saxon who have remained friends since the production of the movie, though Smith has not aged very well) and a trailer but its the two short films directed by Cronenberg that is exciting. The 1969 short Stereo and the 1970 short Crimes of the Future are must see films for any Cronenberg fan. Both shorts, directed by Cronenberg when he was in his 20’s and still in college are pretty impressive and strange and not for everyone. They borderline on the experimental and while some may find these shorts boring, I found them fascinating. These two shorts show glimpses of the director’s trademarks of what was to come.

While Fast Company may look like a typical, by the numbers drama, the film is elevated by a great cast and fantastic direction thus making what could have been a dull movie, exciting. This would make a great double feature with his notorious 1996 drama Crash.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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