Trans Am riveted the nation with his performance in the various Smokey And The Bandit films where he single-handedly carried the annoyingly smug Burt Reynolds to super stardom. John Travolta was practically the entire late 70s himself with his TV show, singing career, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever!
Clearly, John was pretty busy and if you thought he’d find time for an Italian movie about a big time demolition derby, then up your nose with a rubber hose, Sweathog!
The Italians though were experts at tapping into what they perceived to be popular in American culture and then delivering the absolutely palest of imitations. Thus we find ourselves watching John’s brother Joey in the starring role!
But it isn’t just the hottest cars (yeah, you get more than one bad ass white trash sports car in this one!) or the brother of the hottest actor though that firmly plants Car Crash‘s sizable skidmark in the Me Decade!
How about that van that the luscious antiquities dealer named Janice is driving? With its rainbow on the back and flowers on its side, you could park that thing on any beach in southern California, crank up the Sammy Johns classic “Chevy Van” on the AM radio and make sweet love all night long while the moonlight is dancing off her hair!
Full disclosure demands that I advise that Janice turned out to be a bit of a doublecrosser and Joey’s buddy Nick angrily referred to her as a “snatch” during a particularly heated moment, but that’s also kind of 70s, isn’t it?
It wasn’t the first time that Nick played the role of cockblocker for Joey either! There was the time on the train Nick went and got himself beat up by some mobsters and then barged in on Joey while he was getting a piece of ass he just met. That’s more 1970s for you right there! Casual, anonymous, one night stand train sex!
But even better than that, this chick is a demolition derby groupie! She got into racing after tiring of rock music and was obsessed with letting Joey rear end her after watching his performance in the Laguna Derby!
But what are Nick and Joey doing on a train if they’re the toughest demo driving squad around? And what are those mobsters doing messing up Joey’s chance to lay a fine woman like whatshername?
Like most nonsensical mob stories it all began when Joey didn’t lose a race that a mobster bet on. I was trying to be understanding of the mobster’s feelings, but Joey had never even agreed to throw the race! If you’re a mobster betting on fixed races, shouldn’t the races you bet on actually be fixed?
No time to cry over spilt milk though because the mobster is bound and determined not to let Nick and Joey make it to the biggest demolition derby of them all, the Imperial Crash!
After a sniper tries to kill them following the race (he only manages to set fire to their race car), Nick and Joey get themselves terrorized at a gas station where they meet Janice. They run into Janice later on while hiding out in Mexico where she tells them that she is going to sell an ancient statue to a collector to raise money for an operation her mom needs.
She turns out to be in league with the mobsters which immediately raises this question: why? What do they need her for? Can’t they kill these two without her?
At one point they cut the brake lines on her van necessitating Joey to make a thrilling maneuver from his speeding Trans Am to her out-of-control van where he grabs the wheel and runs it off the road to safety. The mobsters later try to kill her again and actually succeed in forcing her to roll the van a number of times before it explodes! If I was Janice, I’d try to have a little more input on the plans the mobsters come up with!
All’s forgiven though between Nick, Joey, Janice and the audience once we finally get to the Imperial Crash!
Director Antonio Margheriti puts his cinematic genius on cruise control and does everything you expect and want! The film is sped up to simulate the cars going fast! The Imperial Crash race course seems to be designed by a five year old with its barrels of explosive materials, dams, railroads, cliffs, and all manner of destructive obstacles being the order of the day! And best of all, the model builders get a hell of a workout as model cars blow up and dams burst!
But Margheriti didn’t even wait until the Imperial Crash to give the old remote control cars a spin! A car chasing our boys smashes into a model train and an inferno not seen since the Dresden firebombing is ignited! There was even an army of dump trucks terrorizing our heroes until they grab some dynamite and blow everything up including a good portion of their own car!
John Steiner’s appearance as the eccentric art collector further confirms Car Crash‘s 70s worship. Steiner was a frequent participant in the finer Italian trash pictures of the era, working in Mannaja, Deported Women of the SS Special Section, Shock, and Waves of Lust among others.
He instigates a nice car chase on his estate through some inexplicably flooded roads and gets everyone involved in a fist fight right in the middle of his room housing all the delicate pieces of art he’s accumulated before finally providing our boys the entry fee needed for the Imperial Crash and then taking over the mob!
References to B.J. and the Bear and the mellow theme song round out Margheriti’s fond farewell to a decade we all remember from watching 1990s movies like Dazed and Confused.
Car Crash is solid Margheriti, but without the enjoyably goofy craziness of such projects as Yor, the Hunter from the Future and Cannibal Apocalypse, though it does feature Nick checking out his car with a stethoscope.
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