Friday, May 21, 2010

1965 - RED LINE 7000, Howard Hawk's "worst" film isn't crap but it's not so hot either

While waiting for John Wayne to become available for El Dorado, Howard Hawks decided to film a story about NASCAR racers and their women.  Red Line 7000 failed with the critics and the audience.  Everyone felt that Hawk's was completely out of touch with the contemporary audience, even Hawks himself thought he blew it. 

Red Line 7000 had two big problems, the story by Howard Hawks himself and some pretty poor acting by a lot of the cast. 

Hawk's film was about the romantic complications of three racers and their girlfriends.  One girl thinks she is bad luck and won't become romantically involved with any racer.  Another is an inexperienced virgin when it comes to men.  James Caan played a driver who won't be involved with a "used" woman.  This film was essentially a 1930's film with some updating for the 1960's crowd.  The whole story however was very outdated for the 1960's.

The acting is not so great either.  Hawks hired some very inexperienced good looking actors, but with the exception of James Caan and some of the supporting cast, they were pretty bad.  Hawks always fancied himself a Svengali when it came to working with young actors, particularly women, but he  didn't have the touch here.  All the women look really good but Hawks directed them to talk in really low voices imitating Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not.

One actor in particular, Gail Hire who was apparently a former model, is pretty poor.  She had the added bad luck of having to do the standard song usually found in a Hawk's film.  Hire's rendition of Nelson Riddle's song "Wildcat Jones" with go-go dancing waitresses is one of the film's extremely ridiculous but unintentionally hilarious low points.  

To further add to the problems in the film, Hawk's filmed a lot of 2nd unit racing footage which had some spectacular crashes in it but didn't match very well with the rear projection scenes of the racers in their cars that were inserted into the footage.  Nelson Riddle's music didn't help much either, Riddle was a great arranger and wrote a couple of cool songs like "Route 66" and the original "Batman" theme, but inspiration seemed to be lacking this time.

Still the film does perk along pretty well.  The car crashes are pretty cool and the women do look good. An interesting antique of a film from a director who had a good run of films almost his entire career.

Hawks had a lot better luck with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in his next picture.

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