Pit Stop

Pit Stop

There’s something really rather exhilarating about stumbling across an exploitation movie so obviously knocked out on the fly to cash in on a passing trend and yet discover it’s an enjoyable piece of art in its own right. Maybe I’m being too generous but I think Pit Stop is such a film.

We open with a drag race on a nondescript Los Angeles street, which is being spied on by a sleazy Brian Donlevy. Donlevy plays Grant Willard who lives and breaths fast cars and recognises Rick Bowman, the pretty boy racer that beat his driver as a talent perfect for his stable of racers and one who could make him a lot of money. What follows is your standard rags to riches tale where the protagonist slowly realises he is stepping over the bodies of heroes, friends & lovers on his way to the top.

Initially thankful to be bailed out of jail by Willard following the drag race, Bowman becomes enthralled by the world of near suicidal Figure 8 racing. Like no other racing Bowman – or indeed the audience – has ever seen this is a stock car race around a figure of eight that features an intersection of cars crossing each others’ paths. Add to that the presence of a madman called Hawk who proclaims himself the ‘dingiest driver there is’ and boasts of having ripped the brakes out of his car and you have yourself quite a recipe for excitement.

This looks beautiful in crisp black & white and sounds dreamy when scored by a fabulous soundtrack The Daily Flash. The set pieces, particularly the figure 8 scenes and a lovely, long and indulgent sequence that sees hundreds of beach buggies caroom over endless undulating sand dunes will mesmerize. But there’s heart in the story too. Bowman may be hungry for success but he’s made out to be a sympathetic type, out of his depth too early and perhaps never given the chance he deserves.

This is an under appreciated film by Jack Hill, more well known for the later blacksploitation work. It’s well worth seeking out.

Pit Stop aka The Winner – directed by Jack Hill (1969)

In Short
Nicely told tale of the rise and (moral) fall of a young hot-rodder who joins the ranks of professional stock car drivers.

Trailer here