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Stock car race driver Dave Owens (Frankie Avalon) is a drifter, pretty
much travelling from racetrack to racetrack to win trophies and the
attention of girls - and make some money on the side perhaps. Sonny
Leander (Fabian) is the local champ of a rural American racetrack, and
when Dave arrives in town and wins "his" race, he's more than a
little upset, and the two men soon go head to head.
falls in with two "race promoters", Martha (Julie Parrish) and
Charlie Bigg (Harvey Lembeck), who try to hire them for their moonshine
running operation. He turns them down, but since he has been seen with
them, he's "persuaded" by two feds (Douglas Henderson, Baynes
Barron) to be their mole. Interestingly, he tells Martha and Charlie right
off the bat when he joins forces with them, and they still let him drive
for them. Dave and Martha soon become romantically involved as well ...
someone driving Martha and Charlie's drivers off the road, mostly to their
deaths, to relieve them of their moonshine. Even Dave is driven off the
road once by a reckless driver who just won't evade, but he escapes with
minor bruises. Dave suspects it's Sonny, but Sonny's girlfriend (Annette
Funicello) convinces Dave that beneath his hothead attitude, Sonny is an
honest man. Eventually, Dave and Sonny go on a moonshine run together, and
again are faced with a car coming right at them showing no intention of
evading - but this time, they crash right into it ... to find out it was
just a mirror. Martha has meanwhile alerted the feds, and now they're just
waiting for someone to pick up the mirror - who turns out to be Charlie,
who wanted to this way kill his competition with Martha, who he's long
been in love with.
For the finale, Dave and Sonny, now friends at long
last, both drive in the Daytona 500 - where Sonny has an almost fatal
crash and won't be able to ever drive a racecar again ... perfect for his
girlfriend who's always been more of a homebody.
this movie's a mess: Most of the characters (apart from Dave) lack
motivation or are flip-flopping on that account, the subplot with the feds
hiring Dave as a mole makes little sense in the light that Dave officially
announces being a mole and is still hired, to no consequence, the motive
for the murders is doubtful at best, the Daytona 500 finale seems to be
tagged on, and several songs are woven into the plot without much rhyme or
And yet, the film isn't a total failure: Frankie Avalon is
pretty convincing in one of his more serious roles right after the Beach
Party-movies, Fabian plays the asshole rather well, but above
all else, there's heaps of vintage car race footage that's nothing short
of supercool. Plus, the whole thing is held together by a rather tight
directorial effort at least. So if vintage racecars is your thing and you
can forgive major narrative flaws, this one's pretty much a must-see I