Coming to Blu-Ray/DVD combo on June 30th is Jack Hill’s mesmerizing ‘Pit Stop,’ a non-stop crash-o-rama, pitting man against steel on the figure 8 race track.
Originally titled, ‘The Winner,’ which still exists on this print, ‘Pit Stop’ follows Rick Bowman (Richard Davalos), a street racer who’s the embodiment of Brando and Dean with his devil may care attitude and only a checkered flag in his sight. One night, at one of his street races, he catches the eye of Grant Willard (Brian Donlevy), a big-time local racing promoter, who offers him a chance to race for him on a figure 8 track. At first, Bowman is hesitant because, of the danger, but after seeing and meeting larger than life loudmouth Hawk Sidney (Sid Haig), Bowman quickly changes his mind and gets a car from a scrapyard, striking up a deal with the owner that ends up having him working off the car he wrecked. After losing a couple races to Hawk, it’s obvious that Bowman doesn’t know what he is doing on a figure 8 track, which catches the attention of an old track camera man who shows him a thing or two to get him up to snuff. While working at the scrapyard, Bowman meets the very cute Jolene (Beverly Washburn) and the loner ends up with a girlfriend. When Bowman finally beats Hawk in a race, Hawk isn’t too happy, and takes his frustration out on Bowman’s car with an axe. Soon after, Hawk feels a little bad and makes amends, and the two rivals become friends and teammates running interference for Ed Mcleod (George Washburn), the big champ, who happens to be a little past his prime and getting tired of the game. His beautiful mechanic wife, Ellen (Ellen Burstyn, credited as Ellen McRae), feels the same way and starts subtly flirting with Bowman. All this leads up to a finale that you won’t see coming until it’s passed you on the high side.
Made for almost no money, a lot of beer, and a lot of cameos for favors, ‘Pit Stop’ is one of the finest low budget American racing films ever made, in my opinion. The racing scenes were made with the cooperation of the local Figure 8 Racing Club, meaning all the action was real and authentic, no stuntmen. The crashes are spectacular, but the near misses, even more so. Hawk says, “you gotta be a little dingy to wanna race the figure 8,” and he ain’t lying.
The script is simple, yet solid, with great characters and great actors to play them. Richard Davolos plays Bowman super straight and cold with very little emotion and will do anything to win. Sid Haig’s Hawk, like mentioned above, is larger than life, and no one else on earth could’ve played the part or danced better than him. (Side note: I didn’t know any of Haig’s work besides the Rob Zombie films, but through stories and the these Arrow releases, it’s awesome to see a vintage Sid in action.) Beverly Washburn’s Jolene is young and spunky, though slightly nieve. Ellen Burstyn’s Ellen McLeod is a frustrated wife that is tired of her husband being more interested in racing than raising a family. Finally, Brian Donlevy’s Grant Willard is a business man, plain and simple. Everyone meshes well to create an engaging experience.
Arrow picked an excellent film to fully restore and release on Blu-Ray with enough extras to blow your engine. The interviews with Jack Hill and Sid Haig are especially cool, but I actually really dug the ‘Restoring ‘Pit Stop” feature which shows before and after snippets of the restoration process.
I strongly urge everyone to pick this up, as it is not just a good cult film, it’s a well-made piece of American cinema full of adrenalin fueled action, action, ACTION!!!
- New High Definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Jack Hill
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
- Original Mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- New UK exclusive audio commentary with director Jack Hill moderated by his biographer Calum Waddell
- Crash and Burn! – Jack Hill on the making of Pit Stop
- Drive Hard -Actor Sid Haig speaks about his experience of acting in Pit Stop
- Life in the Fast Lane – producer Roger Corman on the genesis of Pit Stop
- Restoring Pit Stop – Restoration demonstration with Technical Supervisor James White
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Glenn Kenny and musicologist and writer Gray Newell on the film’s soundtrack, illustrated with original stills and artwork