Tuesday, June 9, 2009

FAST COMPANY (Blu-Ray)

While I enjoy car chase films, I’m not much of a fan of professional car race films. I find cars driving in a circle to be boring. And FAST COMPANY, a 1979 drive-in drama directed by David Cronenberg (SCANNERS, HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) focuses on funny car drag racing – if anything bores me more than cars going in circles, it’s cars going in a straight line for a short distance.

But here’s the thing – I really enjoyed the movie. FAST COMPANY doesn’t really have much of a plot. It is more of a thoughtful character study of an idealistic, aging race driver (the great William Smith, RED DAWN, THE LOSERS), his young protégé (Nicholas Campbell, THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME) and their corrupt, sleazy promoter (the legendary John Saxon, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, ENTER THE DRAGON). Because the cast is so good and their characters so well-drawn, I found myself caught up in their little soap opera, and didn’t even resent the almost fetishistic lingering over car engines and race track operations.

The cast also includes the lovely B-movie starlet Claudia Jennings (GATOR BAIT, DEATHSPORT) in her last film role before her premature death.

Cronenberg’s direction here is pretty workmanlike, not really exhibiting any of his usual stylistic flair, but then, the material doesn’t really lend itself to such. It is beautifully shot, though, and cinematographer Mark Irwin, who would go on to collaborate with Cronenberg again on several other films, including VIDEODROME and THE FLY.

The new Blu-Ray edition from Blue Underground is very nice, with a startlingly sharp 1.85:1 1080p high-def transfer. Several audio options are provided, including 7.1 DTS-HD, 7.1 Dolby True HD and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround.The disc is also enhanced for D-Box Control Systems.

Extra features include an audio commentary by Cronenberg, an entertaining on-screen reunion of stars Smith and Saxon, an on-camera interview with Director of Photography mark Irwin, and two early student films by the director, STEREO and CRIMES OF THE FUTURE. Oh yeah, the theatrical trailer is there, too.

Not really typical Cronenberg, although fans will want to check it out, if only to view his early shorts. For others, FAST COMPANY is a solid automotive exploitation film from the Seventies and is very entertaining on its own merits.

Recommended.

BUY: Fast Company [Blu-ray]