The Wild Racers (1968)

The Wild Racers (27 March 1968)
Filmakers Productions (Roger Corman) — American International Pictures

Executive Producer: Roger Corman
Director: Daniel Haller (Devil’s Angels, Dunwich Horror)
Writer: Joel M. Rapp

Girls: Mimsy Farmer, Judy Cornwell (born 1940 UK), Talia Coppola (born 1946), Ursule Pauly, Fabienne Arel, Mary Jo Kennedy (aka Deschanel, born 1945)

Boys: Fabian, Warwick Sims (UK 1944 – 2005), Alan Haufrect (born 1941)

Olds: Dick Miller

Jo-Jo Quillico, an unrestrained racing car driver, is hired by a race car tycoon to be runner-up for a more experienced driver in the year’s big European trophy races. Their common mechanic, Charlie, is also Jo-Jo’s close friend, sharing in his fast life. In the first race, Jo-Jo cannot help but try to win and burns out the expensive car’s engine in the process. Jo-Jo then dumps his current girl friend and picks up another to see him through the next round of competitions. She too, however, is dropped when Jo-Jo gets a new car and takes up with another woman, Katherine, for whom he feels the first stirrings of real love. He is also being cooperative with his boss by supporting his racing partner’s lead in several races. But his partner is injured, and Jo-Jo, given his chance, scores several spectacular victories. Now an international figure among racing drivers, he must deal with the marital aspirations of Katherine. Aware that his way of life could never include marriage, Jo-Jo coldly replaces Katherine with a woman willing to share his carefree existence. TCM.

The Wild Racers (1968) was shot in 5½ weeks, which is five weeks longer than Corman managed at his best (supposedly finishing The Little Shop of Horrors in three days).

It stars the modestly talented singer-turned-modestly talented actor Fabian (born no less plausibly Fabiano Forte). He plays American stock car racer Jo Jo Quillico, who moves to Europe to try his hand at GPs.

“Show him a curve and he’ll take it,” says the film’s shout-line, “on two wheels or with a kiss.” Amazing that hasn’t been printed on a tea-towel.

Although Jo Jo is employed as a back-up driver he’s not happy about it. He’s not happy about much, actually, and it’s hard to know what it is about this thoroughly unappealing egotistical tantrum-thrower that is meant to make us care.

It’s not even as if there are great Grand Prix scenes. Most of it is actually F2 filmed in Holland, Spain, Britain and France, with little bits of F1 spliced in, along with crashes from all manner of other formulae.

There are also some car-to-car and in-car shots of Fabian and others driving at the Zandvoort track in Holland. These are cut into all the races, no matter where they are supposed to be.

Jo Jo’s car seems to have a Cosworth four-cylinder engine but a Repco-Brabham badge on the steering wheel.

Between races he drives a Porsche 911 Targa, a variant that was brand-spanking new at the time. Much of the time he has the attractive Mimsy Farmer (yes, Mimsy) in the passenger seat.

This pairing gives the screenwriter a chance to indulge in the truly loathsome dialogue that is standard issue in almost any motor racing film.

There’s one scene, apparently shot in five minutes flat without appropriate permits, where our “hero” is sitting in a Ferrari 250 GTO in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

The car must be genuine, as it was too early for anyone to make fakes (no one then knew it would become the world’s most valuable car).

Officially the director was Daniel Haller (first film: Die, Monster Die!) who may or may not have been responsible for the endless quick cuts, weird close-ups, strange voice-overs and other hallmarks of the ADHD school of film-making.

The Spanish race is interspersed with scenes from a bullfight. Because.

Although Fabian afterwards plumbed ever deeper obscurity, Roger Corman still had plenty of directorial schlock left in him, making Women in Cages, Death Race 2000 and Piranha.