The Italian Racing Movie sub genre is a new one on me. A guy I know in Greece sent me a wonderful box of prior rental tapes and this was amongst the loot. It's a fabulous movie mixing safari footage with racing scenes, and I have zero idea what the point of it all is but it beats the heck out of WAR OF THE WORLDS on a human level just by being real.
Joe Dallesandro -- who's voice was strangely dubbed by some mid Atlantic accented character, this in spite of the fact that he is very much a punk from Brooklyn -- actually resembles Tom Cruise in a way, playing a hot shot "Rally" race driver who has a freak accident at the beginning of the film, grows to doubt himself, and finds redemption as the last minute replacement for a Rally team about to embark on a hundreds mile race through Kenya. There are some familiar looking cult movie faces in the supporting cast, and the great Carlo Rusticelli composed the movie's propulsive, disco-tinged soundtrack. Lots of bongo drums, rhythm guitar and organ, always maintaining an up-beat tempo, and helping the movie be 2/3rds over with before you realize it.
Movies really aren't "about" their stories, though: I think this one was about Italian cult cinema looking for something new to make movies about after Spaghetti Westerns, Gothic Horror, Giallos and the Mob Trash film cycles had spun themselves out. It is inhabited by caricatures: The loyal mechanic, the self sacrificing sidekick/navigator, the foxy reporterette, and the sexually available spoiled rich wife if the main competition, etc. The car race and all it's trappings are just there to give mere mortals reference points by which they can follow along at home -- If you are looking for a racing movie, stick with LE MANS or even BULLIT, and it is odd that for a movie set in Africa we don't meet many Africans. None, actually. Even the soul brother sidekick is from Italy, and the main function of the Africans shown on film is to either cheer the racers on or scuttle out of their way. In that sense this is an exercise in Jungle Trash, where white Europeans go to darkest Africa to have fascinating experiences whilst the natives carry all the luggage.
But then again the movie isn't about Africa or a car race in Africa but something else. This is more about how Italian cult cinema was changing from it's classic form into what became the modern wing, and is a fascinating study in film-making that doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose except to be made. Film for the sake of film-making. It doesn't matter what the story is about, which is the great thing about the Italians and why their stupid, cheap little movies are so fascinating. Sort of like the Holodeck on STAR TREK, one week it's a Western, the next week a Cop Movie, then a Tarzan flick, a Giallo and now a Rally Race flick. The cast may change, but the names still stay the same, the events tend to repeat themselves, and there is a nice sort of relaxing sensation to know that you can turn up the AC, wallow in the film like a wading pool, and just let the world go deal with it's own problems for 85 minutes or so.
Let Hollywood slump all they want: Movies like SAFARI RALLY make getting up in the morning worth the bother, and probably cost as much to make as Tom Cruise's catering bill from the entire production of WOW. If Hollywood really wants to know why we won't go see their movies, here you go. They can't compete with this film, which doesn't want to teach me anything, score any political points, broaden my mind or even get me to buy the products used as props during the filming. Just a dumb, stupid movie about guys racing their cars through the jungles. And I love it.
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