Dragstrip Girl (1957)
By: J.R. McNamara on December 19, 2008  | 
Dark Horse Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD 1.0. 69 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Starring: Fay Spain, Steven Terrell, John Ashley
Screenplay: Lou Rusoff
Country: USA
External Links
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Exploitation films are wonderful. Throughout the past 100 or so years, since the first films were made, exploitation has always been part of the scene. People love to go and see a film that either titillates them with real-life footage, like 1984's The Killing of America or 1903's Electrocuting an Elephant, or shows an amped up snapshot of current events and changing values, like various blaxploitation flicks, like Shaft or sexploitation flicks like Vixen. Every decade has had an exploitation archetype, and for the 50s it was juvenile delinquency and hot rods.

The movie industry was suffering in the 50s, with the advent of television taking teens away from the cinemas, so it had to get smarter. American International Pictures (AIP), under the direction of Samuel Z. Arkoff, had a great way of coming up with storylines for movies. Instead of thinktanks or marketing drives, Arkoff would go to the theatre owners themselves to find out what the kids wanted to see, and he got two things from his research: monsters and 'cool kids'. All of the sudden AIP stopped making their cheap but unprofitable Westerns and turned to two genres: monster movies and hot rod/ delinquent films.

Arkoff produced many of these delinquency films during this period, like Reform School Girl, Motorcycle Gang and this film, Dragstrip Girl.

Dragstrip Girl tells of gorgeous new girl in town, Louise Blake (Fay Spain) whose love of hot rod cars is only outweighed by her complete desire to not grow up, and just have fun. She meets up with two local hot rodders, hard working Jim (Steve Terrell) and spoilt rich kid Fred (John Ashley) who are members of a gang of car enthusiasts (whose members also include a young Frank Gorshin, who played the Riddler in TV's Batman, and the incredibly beautiful Judy Bamber, playing his long suffering girlfriend) who hang out at Mama's Pizza Shop and have been both lifelong friends and rivals. Both of these swell guys want Louise for themselves, but she doesn't want to commit to a relationship to either of them. Gosh darn it! Eventually jealousy tears the friendship apart, and violence, thievery and even murder become reasons for the split to become permanent. Who will get the girl, who will do the best Elvis impression, and who-a will do-a the worse-a Italiano impression-a?

This film was made by the AIP team of Lou Rusoff and Edward L. Cahn who were responsible for many films of the 50s, both as a team, and separately, and who both were contemporaries of the great Roger Corman. Of interesting note, this film was one of the catalysts that started Rat Fink creator Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth on his career of making hot rods, and scenes of it can be seen in the biographical documentary 'Tales of the Rat Fink'.
It's fullscreen, it's black and white and its over 50 years old…of course its an average image, but better than what you think it would be considering its age! Actaully the image only really breaks up completely once, and it is a lot better than a lot of Something Weird's releases over the past few years.
It's 2.0 mono and its over 50 years old, but again, it's better than what you'd think it would be considering its vintage.
Extra Features
Nothing… not even scene selection!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I like the goofiness of this sort of stuff, and it stars a pre-Riddler Frank Gorshin as a teenager, which is actually a little creepy… even though he probably was a teen when it was filmed. All in all a nice but basic presentation of a mid 20th century exploitation film that seemed far too nice to really be classed as exploitation. The hot rods in it were cool though…man! I couldn't honestly suggest this film to anyone unless they had a real passion for 50s Rod culture.

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