"Hot Rod Girl" (1956)
     Movie review by William Moriaty


Moon Productions
Executive Producer: David T. Yokozeki
Produced By: Norman T. Herman
Directed by: Leslie Martinson
Original Story and Screenplay By: John McGreevy
Music by: Alexander Courage (trumpets by Maynard Ferguson)
Starring:
Policeman Ben Merrill....CHUCK CONNERS
Lisa Vernon.....................LORI NELSON
Jeff Northrop...................JOHN SMITH
Bronk Talbot....................MARK ANDREWS

With:
L.P..............................ROXANNE ARLEN
Flat Top......................FRANK GORSHIN
YoYo...........................FRED ESSLER
Two Tanks..................EDDIE RYDER
Judy...........................CARLYN KEARNEY
Steve Northrop...........DEL ERICKSON
Police Captain............RUSS THORSON
Henry Frye..................DABBS GREER

Run Time: 79 minutes
Black & White

This classic fifties movie of street rods and rebellious youth sporting D.A.'s, ponytails, bobby sox and black leather jackets starts out with scenes of circa '30s and '40s street rods thundering down a drag-strip somewhere in a California desert town. The most sleek and advanced car in the competition is a brand new Thunderbird convertible piloted by classy blonde Lisa Vernon, who looks strikingly similar to Hanna-Barbera character Penelope Pitstop from the Wacky Races cartoon show. In a sense this movie is like "Wacky Races Meets The Blackboard Jungle." It even has a theological theme with one racecar sporting the number 666 in the background.

Pitstop smokes her competition in the qualifying race and heads over toward her boyfriend Jeff Northrop, a handsome blonde manly man, and their other two buddies Flat Top (played by impressionist and "Riddler" character from circa 1960's "Batman" series, Frank Gorshin) and Two Tank. Not long after this walks up in a suit, tie and hat, good guy policeman Ben Merrill, played by "Rifleman" actor Chuck Connors. Ben wants the young white hooligans to limit their hot-rodding to the drag strip and not the city streets.

The Northrop Brothers Meet Muttley With Deadly Results
On their way back from the drag races Jeff Northrop and his younger brother Steve are heading back home in the street rod that Jeff built for his sibling when up to a traffic light creeps someone else in street rod that they had never seen before (it's always the people from out of town that are the trouble makers). "Who's the squirrel?" asks Steve. For identification sake, we'll call "the squirrel" Muttley. "Ignore him!" exhorts Jeff. Muttley revs his engine, smiling and wheezing. "That wise guy!" utters Steve. "Play it smart, let him go!" yells Jeff. Muttley then taps Steve's street rod twice. Steve can't take it no more- - a rumble in the street occurs and Steve loses control of his vehicle with catastrophic results.

Back at the Police Station
The Captain of the town's Police Department is seen rambling on and on To Ben Merrill about the city's hot rod threat. The Captain tells Ben, who has a soft spot for the racers, that one more hot rod complaint and the city will close down the drag strip and confiscate all hot rods! He then laments, "Law enforcement used to be so simple!" Wait until crack cocaine and drive by shootings Captain. Curiously, the Captain has this incredibly gruesome wall photo behind his desk of a car wreck-why on God's green earth would anyone want to look at that all day? "Gee, I just love this photo- - it reminds me of why I'm here!" Yeah, right. Then comes the phone call to the Captain's attention. "Crash-two hot rodders street racing- - the Northrop brothers!"

"Real Hopped Up Death Trap!"
The meat wagon shows up along with the Captain and Ben. Steve's lifeless body is sprawled out on the adjacent residential lawn. Ben asks Jeff who the other driver was ("Why didn't they get the guy's freakin' license plate number when he was first being a menace?" film critic and wife Karen Cashon). Jeff can't remember. Ben then breaks the news to Jeff about Steve. In one of the most atrocious crying scenes in human memory, Jeff starts bawling like a baby, and swears off hot rodding. The Captain looks at the flipped hot rod and waxes pathetic, "Real hopped up death trap!" That's tellin' him Captain.

"Gee, I just love this photo -- it reminds me of why I'm here!"

Jeff "Cops" An Attitude
At the city's P.D., Jeff is put on probation (which is dumb since he was a passenger). He swears off hot rodding to which Ben responds, "What about Flat Top, Two Tank and the others? They look up to you!" Jeff is not swayed and goes into a funk not seen since the malaise of the Jimmy Carter Presidency. He crawls back to his job as a mechanic at Henry's Garage. Penelope Pitstop tries using her female charms on Jeff to get him back into hot rodding, but to no avail.

Yo-Yo's, the Hoppin and Boppin Restaurant
Yo-Yo's is the city's teenage hangout. Penelope Pitstop pulls into the parking lot then enters in where Flat Top, Judy, Two Tank and his girl friend L.P. are gulping down malts and snapping their fingers to the music. "Wasn't that dreamy?" asks the brain dead L.P. Then in walks a handsome yet menacing stranger decked out in a black leather jacket with a perpetual smirk on his face. L.P. immediately gets the hots for him and Two Tank asks her, "Waddya want? Brawn or brains?" to which L.P. responds "I'll take one or the other!"

The handsome yet menacing stranger is an out of town (it's always the people from out of town that are the trouble makers) tough with a record as long as your arm, named Bronk Talbot, hereinafter known as Dick Dastardly. Flat Top does an impression of the smirking stranger. Dastardly then challenges the five some by smirking saying, "Some of the squares at Yo-Yo's tell me that you're the most!" He then unplugs the jukebox and challenges Flat Top to a game of chicken in the town's suburban streets. Like a fool, Flat Top accepts ("Why didn't they get the guy's freakin' license plate number when he was first being a menace?" film critic and wife Karen Cashon).

Blood on the Highway
Engines revving, Dastardly in his black '50s coupe and Flat Top in his street rod position themselves opposite one another about a mile apart in the centerline of the road. The count of three, horns honk, the brakes are released and they are hurtling at break neck speed headlong at one another. The camera pans closer and closer on their faces as disaster looms. Flat Top sweats profusely like a scene out of "Airplane".

Will this end what was otherwise a nice day in Pleasant Valley? Will this also bring an end to the drag-strip the wholesale confiscation of all hot-rods in the city? Will this cut short Frank Gorshin's career, forcing us to accept John Astin as the Riddler from the get-go? And will the police Captain have to peel the bodies of these two fools off the pavement after heavy metal thunder?

"Gee, I just love this photo -- it reminds me of why I'm here!"


The movie synopsis and review of "Hot Rod Girl" is ©2003 by William Moriaty. "Schlockarama™" is a part of Crazed Fanboy™ dotcom and all contents are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova

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