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Fireball 500 Stock car racer Dave Owens plays into the hands of whiskey runners by agreeing to drive in a cross-country road race. He is assisted by Jane Harris and Sonny Leander Fox. Soon Dave and Sonny begin a friendly rivalry for Jane. Track action filmed at the Ascot and Saugus Raceways near Los Angeles, local color shot in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Film Editing Team Rises to the Challenge
Fireball 500 (1966) is technically the best production to ever come out of “American International”. The cinematography looks as good as the best Hollywood productions from that period; with unexpectedly good shot selection and nice close-ups that you would expect to see now but were highly original back in 1966.
This is a film that should be shown to would-be film and video editors, as there are few finer examples of matching stock footage with first and second unit output; all done by linear editing (try it some time if you want a real challenge). When a low budget film tries to be high budget by inserting stock footage it is usually a disaster, but here there is a pretty good match of film stock and the track announcer’s audio makes the action sequences easy to follow. You might recognize Fred R. Feitshans Jr’s editing style from the old “Adventures in Paradise” television show.
The story is ordinary-straight action adventure and romance, no comedy like AIP’s beach movies even though it does feature alumni Frankie, Annette, and Harvey Lembeck. There are three good Hernrig and Styner songs: “Fireball 500”, “My Way”, and “Turn Around”; sung by Frankie with help on the last one from Julie Parrish. Annette sings “Step Right Up” which mostly leaves you amazed that anyone ever bought her records.
As usual Annette is very buttoned-up and chaste but Parrish is hot enough to carry the whole film. Interestingly Annette pairs up with Fabian and Frankie gets Julie. Fabian also has a group of racetrack groupies who follow him around, four of the them are mid-60’s Playboy centerfolds with one of those the Playmate of the year.
Frankie gets into a serious fight with both Fabian and Lembeck. These are decently staged and cut but unnecessary to the story and rather comical when you consider the participants. Casting these two singers was apparently an attempt to expand the target audience from teenage boys and stock car fans by including something for teenage girls. This was at best a lame idea since by 1966 those two were considered wimpy has-beens compared to “Herman’s Hermits”, let alone the “Beatles” and the “Stones”.