Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)

Would it be a really lazy gimmick if I tried to be funny by appropriating the overbaked hipster slang the hot rodding kids used in this film and declared it to be “the ginchiest?”

Sure, I’ve always been one to take my crate out and race for pink slips, but these hot chewers were the mostest!

Lest, you think I’m exaggerating the lengths this movie went to get inside the head of modern (well, 1959 modern that is) kids who love to make poker runs in their tricked out muscle sleds, the movie finishes with these words on the screen: The Endest Man.

But what is it exactly that makes Bonzo and the rest of the Zenith drag racing club the ginchiest? Is it the fact that club leader Dave (I’m assuming his name was Dave – I was busy writing down pick up lines from the film such as the classic “if you weren’t jacketed, I’d move in!”) appears in one of the scenes with an obvious case of Frisbees under his arm? Is it that Dave is constantly babbling about how the club constitution forbids illegal street racing? (Is he my dad or something?) Or could it be that they are the subject of a series of newspaper reports that reporter Tom Hendry is calling “This Restless Breed” which makes them sound like a club for Dobermans with attention deficit disorder?

While all those things are fairly ginchy in their own right, the ginchy clincher is that the Zenith Hot Rodding Club is getting evicted from its clubhouse because of a total lack of bread, man. If you saw their clubhouse, you’d understand why they were having trouble coming up with the funds necessary to maintain it.

This isn’t some pile of wood made into a lean-to in the alley behind Bonzo’s house. They’ve got a spacious garage as well as a diner attached to it, stocked completely with a gun-toting chef! I think we all know how hungry we get when we’re dropping in our straight eight engines and trying to fix the rod angle from running those bad boys backwards. You don’t think Pomona is going to win itself do you?

At this point, I was digging on the crisis that these kids were experiencing, anticipating some sort of gigantic benefit show where famous hotrodders like Tommy Ivo would show up and help these kids save their farm, I mean community center, I mean their greasy spoon/garage.

And in fact, Tommy Ivo did show up! Since I have no idea who Tommy Ivo is (nicknamed “TV” for reasons unknown) I didn’t even know he was in this thing until I checked out the credits after the fact. A fairly ginchy example of me not paying attention to things.

But how could I be expected to keep an eye out for TV Tommy Ivo when I was on the look out for this dang ghost that was supposed to be all up in the grill of these kids whenever they tried to race the dangerous curves that make up the legendary Dragstrip Hollow?

As you have no doubt suspected, the movie isn’t exactly true to its title. First of all, the only drag racing you get is a couple of dames duking in out in these cement canals in L.A. made famous when the Bionic Woman took on that space probe all those years ago. And Dragstrip Hollow is just a name for Flint Canyon, which is where some old lady has a house that she believes is haunted.

Old lady with a haunted house? Group of wisecracking street rodders in need of cash? Nosy reporter who has taken these kids under wing? Sounds to me like we’ve got a big costume ball at a haunted house in our future! Probably guest starring America’s hottest singing idol, American International’s own Jimmie Maddin! And you can bet he’ll be doing his rising single, “Tongue Tied”! This definitely isn’t shaping up to be two weeks on the slab, toots! No way is this shindig going to turn into a real buffalo!

Some of us used to the more traditional style of storytelling where events logically follow one another are no doubt a bit baffled by how we get from a newspaper reporter covering a group of young hotrodders to an old lady and her haunted house. To say that some of the transitions in this movie from one story line to another are rather abrupt is like saying that TV Tommy Ivo is merely an auto mechanic.

This is one example where the movie felt rushed and with a sixty-five minute running time to squeeze in the hotrodders, reporters, square parents, rival hotrodders, old lady, talking parrot, talking car, haunted house, costume ball, and a guy dressed up as monster that looks like cracked pavement, you may not exactly be wishing it was longer, but more time should have been allotted to connect the dots. I’m thinking that this could have been at least seventy or seventy-five minutes.

You don’t have to be someone of TV Tommy Ivo’s skills though to see that in spite of the fact that none of what happens actually adds up to anything more than a series of sequences designed to include every genre of fifties exploitation movies into an hour long extravaganza, that this film is an unqualified success even if it doesn’t live up to the promise of its title (hotrods tying to outrace headless horsemen and stuff).

If you’ve read this far, I know I don’t need to even explain why this is something you won’t quite forget (or quite comprehend) after a viewing. Besides, it even features a cameo by someone wearing one of the masks used in another classic of the era, Invasion Of The Saucer-Men and anytime the big headed, bug-eyed Saucer-Men crash a party, you damn sure know that it’s got to be the ginchiest, man!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

One thought on “Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)

  1. I remember all of Leonard Maltin’s movie-review books terming this movie a “bomb!” Well, it wasn’t made to compete with the likes of “Pillow Talk,” Ben-Hur,” or “Anatomy of a Murder” in 1959, just to have fun with your best girlfriend at the local drive-in. “Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow” was a welcome diversion away from the “teen hot-rodding crisis” movies of the late ’50s, and there is validity for seeing it as a cinematic “bridge” between the AIP dragging films and what would become the classical “beach-party” movies of the early-middle 1960s. (Lou Rusoff, who wrote “GDH” and produced the picture, also scripted 1963’s “Beach Party” (just before his early passing away). There are common elements in both movies, but the major change Rusoff made in “BP” was to eliminate the parents (although”Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Cavendish” of “GDH” do make a likeable and sympathetic twosome to guide “Lois” their hotrod-loving “daughter”) and focus primarily on the kids. The initial drag race in the L.A. riverbed between Lois (Jody Fair) and rival “Nita” Nancy Anderson) reveals a different approach: the girls (make that, young women) do the racing; imagine “Sandy” (Olivia Newton-John) and “Rizzo” Stockard Channing) from the smash 1978 movie musical “Grease!” doing the racing in the same location! The opening drag contest, the Zenith Car Club’s hangout (love “He’s My Guy” lip-synched by “Rhoda”/Elaine DuPont, “Amelia”/ Sanita Pelkey, and “Sandra”/ Judy Howard!), the Cavendishes bungalow to host the club “bash” and the slumber party, and the finale of the “spook-ball” costume party at Anastasia Abernathy’s Flint Canyon estate at “Dragstrip Hollow”–all are fast-motion elements as a part of the enjoyment in “GDH.” I grew up in Logansport, Indiana, and 1959 for an eleven-year-old was movies (we all were eager to see the “Three Stooges” in “Have Rocket, Will Travel” this same summer of ’59!), TV (the same summer we lost George Reeves of “The Adventures of Superman”: June 16, and will never forget this), sports, and comic books (from “The Brain” and “The Flash” to “Space Ranger” and “Cosmo the Merry Martian”). The refreshing, off-the -cuff nature of the spook ball’s Halloween outfits and the mystery of “two ghosts” in the mansion–one fake and one real–meant a guaranteed 65 minutes of fun. “The Endest, Man” is a fitting closer in the credits.

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