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The Young Racers (1963)

A former race-car driver-turned-writer decides to expose a ruthless, womanizing Grand Prix race driver in a book. However, his scheme explodes when his life is saved by this man, who is actually sensitive and misunderstood.



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Complete credited cast:
Stephen Children
Joe Machin
Patrick Magee ...
Sir William Dragonet
John McLaren ...
Lotus Team Manager
Robert Machin
Milo Quesada ...
Italian Driver
Anthony Marsh ...
Sesia Machin
Margrete Robsahm ...
Christina Gregg ...
Béatrice Altariba ...


A former race-car driver-turned-writer decides to expose a ruthless, womanizing Grand Prix race driver in a book. However, his scheme explodes when his life is saved by this man, who is actually sensitive and misunderstood.

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A little death each day, a lot of love every night! See more »


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Release Date:

January 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Carrera con la muerte  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$150,000 (estimated)

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Did You Know?


All of Mark Damon's dialogue was looped by an uncredited William Shatner. See more »

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User Reviews

Masterful portraiture
28 October 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I've developed a particular interest in one of Roger Corman's modes of directing. From what I can see, apart from the odd attempt at a prestige movie (for example with von Richthofen and Brown - a neat little movie), he directed three types of movies: the monster movies eg. 'Creature from the Haunted Sea' (1961), 'The Wasp Woman' (1960); then there are the Poe inspired ones, eg. 'Premature Burial' (1962), 'Pit and the Pendulum' (1961); however the movies I'm interested in are the movies he makes about subcultures which are typically labelled 'exploitation' movies. These include Gas-s-s-s (1971), The Trip (1967), The Wild Angels (1966) etc. His targets in these movies are particular American subcultures such as gangsters, beatniks, bikers, acid-heads etc.

In a manner very similar to Verhoeven these movies are only ostensibly pure entertainment, indeed they are poorly made exploitation movies in the eyes of many. There is however a lucid heat-seeking intellect behind the scenes. Corman's target throughout can be seen as laxity of thought. His style is most evident in the openly satirical Gas-s-s-s, where he thoroughly slices through hippie idealism with his cine-pathologist's scalpel. To a lesser extent it's on display in The Young Racers, more of a prestige movie than the "exploitation" movies referred to, but an intellectual cousin. The montage over the opening credits is key, it shows a series of photographs of two young children playing with toy cars in a sand pit, we are shown a photograph of a horrible toothy, gummy, grin from one the children (the only time a face is shown), the clear implication being that being a gas-head is akin to a second childhood, and we suspect we will be given a Cormanesque exposition on the existential/Socratic unsoundness of motor racing. And to an extent we are.

The movie is about an arrogant racing champion (William Campbell as Joe Machin) who steals the fiancée of a writer (Mark Damon, playing Stephen Children) only to use her and toss her away. Children wants revenge and decides to write a book on Machin exposing him as a brainless womaniser. To do this he joins the Lotus team as some sort of test driver (Children had been a promising driver but given it up because he thought the sport too unsafe and morally disturbing - in his opinion the spectators came to see accidents). He strikes up a false friendship with Machin saying that he is going to write a mere novel, with Machin as the main character.

The Young Racers could be Corman's best film because of it's sheer intellectual honesty and avoidance of cardboard cutout reactionary characterisations. We learn that Children's initial thoughts about Machin were totally inaccurate, that Machin is a highly functional individual who has realised that the only way to seize life is with cruelty and passion. During one midnight moment Machin scrutinises the scrutiniser. He says: "I know what bugs you, you're disturbed because people act as if the words you're written were whispered in your ear. They don't figure you had to have sensitive feelings to put 'em down" "How can you know that?", "Because they cheer for Joe Machin the Grand Prix driver, not Joe the man". The script is terrifically strong, another example is when Machin is told he "...drive(s) like a sixteen-year old pursuing a maiden, trampling down the flowers as you pass." Indeed Children is almost subjected to more scrutiny than Machin, we are shown clearly that his fiancée was not the woman he thought her to be, in his mind she was what he wanted her to be. In truth, Machin did not seduce her, she threw herself at his feet in a moment of brazen shallowness. The main message of the movie is, I suspect, not to judge people at face value. The criticism of motor-racing becomes secondary, though highly intriguing.

The movie has a high art content, the initial photographic montage at the start of the film is an incredible exposition of the photographer's art, it manages to make the scene very primal. It reminds me of the adolescent atavism in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch where a group of children set a scorpion against an army of ants, and then pour fire on top of them, but the feeling in The Young Racers is achieved with much more subtlety. I was reminded of Alma-Tadema in two shots, one showing the ecstatically beautiful rose garden in Aintree, and secondly in Monaco where a deep-focus shot of painterly beauty is achieved by focusing on a hotel balcony overlooking lower Monaco and the bay. It's one of two places where I paused the DVD to let the beauty sink in. The other was for a static shot at the Spa Grand Prix where a shot of the racetrack is predominantly filled with a rickety barrier caked in verdigris. The ugliness of the sport at that time is captured in full. I could go on, the picnic on the meadow above Rouen, the beautiful cottage rented by the river just to please Children's secretary, etc.

Why do people not like it (at time of writing the IMDb vote average is 3.1/10)? I can only speculate. It is not a straightforward racer, for example like the Tom Cruise vehicle Days of Thunder (1990). There is no embracing of racing culture, which I suspect tends to confuse the audience that it has been marketed towards. I must admit that the acting is not particularly out of the top drawer, we are not spoilt, as we are in other Corman movies by the presences of the likes of Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper.

The ending is also quite weak because the only way to tie up the film's themes is pretty anticlimactic. This having been said The Young Racers is more complex and human in it's storyline, and more beautiful in its imagery, than a dozen contemporary films.

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