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Thunder Alley

Thunder Alley

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Thunder Alley  Stock car racer Tommy Callahan is forced to join Pete Madsen’s thrill circus after his blackouts cause a fatal accident that gets him thrown off the circuit. He shows Pete’s daughter Francie and her boyfriend Eddie Sands everything he knows about driving. Eddie takes up with Tommy’s girl Annie Blaine after winning the first time out. They become fierce rivals by the next race, during which Tommy remembers driving over his brother with a go-kart and Eddie hits the wall. Days of screaming wheels, nights of reckless pleasure!

A really fun 60’s AIP stock car racing drive-in item

Thunder Alley Terminally blah 50’s pop singer teen scream Fabian gives a thoroughly bland and stiff performance as Tommy Callahan, a proud, earnest, virtuous ace stock car driver whose unfortunate tendency to black out whenever he gets boxed in causes a massive lethal pile-up that leaves two drivers dead. Tommy gets suspended indefinitely from the pro racing circuit by hard-nosed NASCAR bigwig Stanley Adams. Tommy, disgraced and desperate for work, humbly accepts a degrading gig as a stunt daredevil driver in a two-bit thrill circus outfit owned by shameless skinflint opportunistic con man hustler Pete (a hearty turn by stand-up comic Jan Murray). Naturally, Tommy shows cocky eager beaver protégé Eddie (amiable Warren Berlinger) the ropes and falls in love with Pete’s feisty, hot-tempered daughter (a surprisingly lively and hence more tolerable than usual Annnette Funicello). Of course, this latter development doesn’t go over well with Tommy’s current main squeeze, the extremely jealous and possessive racetrack groupie hottie Annie (the always enticing, attractively slender blonde spitfire Diane McBain, who heats up the screen with her customary fiery aplomb).

Director Richard Rush, whose other 60’s exploitation feature credits include the terrific hippie dope acidhead treat “Psych-Out” and the killer biker pictures “Hell’s Angels on Wheels” and “The Savage Seven,” jazzes up the standard-issue story by keeping the pace galloping along at a brisk clip and offering up a lot of snazzy visual flourishes. Monroe Askins’ funky cinematography pulls out the wondrously garish psychedelic 60’s stylistic stops: solarization, super-impositions, wipes, shaky hand-held camera-work, and dizzying segueways all shot in gloriously bright and vibrant Pathecolor. Kudos also to the groovy score, which has sinewy drums laying down a primordial pounding beat while fuzzed-out guitars rip-riff up a crackling sonic storm. Sy Salkowitz’s predictable, but compact and serviceable script scrupulously covers all the necessary audience pleasing bases: bang-up peel out and crash’em demolition derby-style racetrack action (the authentically grainy racetrack newsreel footage especially smokes), fiercely going at each other’s throats bitter rivalries, good-lookin’ well-endowed girls in tight sweaters, crazy swingin’ kids frenetically frugging away at regular intervals, a rowdy barroom brawl, and, in the movie’s roll-over-wacky hedonistic highlight, a wild, delightfully raucous and unruly let it all hang out somethin’ nutty sex’n’booze’n’dancing’n’stripping all-night rockin’ party sequence. Only Fabian’s underwhelming stale whitebread square presence and Annette briefly belting out this hideously saccharine slushy mush love ballad detract a little from the otherwise solid and on the money fun.

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