Hot Rods to Hell (1967)


“Hot Rods to Hell” is a youth gone wild, sixties morality tale about damn juvenile delinquents raising pure hell on Mr. and Mrs. Americana of the traditional Nuclear family. Before the real free revolution, “Hot Rods to Hell” was another glance at the youth tearing down good old fashioned America, and it was deemed much too risqué to play for television. Made for television, ironically, the studios shipped it out into theaters, and drive-ins and it’s quite a messy little clunker with an utterly simplistic plot. A mixture of “Beach Blanket Bingo,” “Last House on the Left,” and “Leave it to Beaver,” John Brahm’s “Hot Rods to Hell” sets down on a family called the Hills who go on a road trip to move to the desert. On the way there they come across a group of sadistic hot rodders who really want to make their lives a living hell from now on.

“Hot Rods to Hell” is an awful film with errors as far as the eye can see. Tom, after nearly being killed in the opening from a car crash, is hospitalized, and his family is told that his spine is damaged and shouldn’t be moved for a long time. Cut to the next scene where Tom is in a bathrobe walking around with a cane. And then there’s the bar scene where our character Duke is drinking a blurred can of soda (this is due to the fact that the company that placed their product in the film were so afraid of being associated with the juvenile delinquents, that they opted out of production.). “Hot Rods…” is so cheesy you’ll be forced to roll your eyes more than a few times, but it’s also fun. The car chases are exciting not because of the choreography, but because of the beautiful hot rods that act as the threatening force behind Mr. and Mrs. Do-Gooder America. They follow them, they race them, and they nearly run them off the road.

Meanwhile, we’re forced into tedious exposition on the family, led by Dana Andrews, and Jeanne Crain who are both brutally over the top, but admirable attempts at sympathetic characters. And then there are the performances by the cast, all of whom have their moments of sheer absurd horror. From Andrew’s incessant grimaces, Crain’s constant screaming and crying, son Jamie’s repeated “Gee Whiz!” reactions to the threats of violence, and of course Laurie Mock, who is a presence all her own. One of the most inadvertently laugh out loud sequences of the film involves Laurie Mock’s character Tina’s attempts to ignore a wild bash going on only a few feet away from her motel room. Mock’s truly atrocious performance is perfectly summed up in this one scene as she desperately attempts to ignore the wild music, and sleep, and instead, looks as if she’s having the best orgasm of her life, and that damn music is interrupting her vibrator session.

It just has to be seen to be believed. Tina is constantly seduced by the group leader Duke, and by god if her performance isn’t one of the worst in film history. Dancing with Duke, and succumbing to his seduction, she looks instead like a zombie about to pounce on a puppy, and I dare you not to laugh in disbelief at her incredible display of apathy at her little brother being nearly knocked unconscious by a flying beer can. “Hot Rods to Hell” shamelessly dives into the morality theme in the second half, while featuring a still rather exciting climactic car chase, but all in all, it’s a classic piece of sixties trash that’s really like a car wreck. You want to move on, but you can’t help but continue staring. Youths run wild in fast cars terrorizing Suburban Americans, and authority figures putting a stop to these damn youngsters! It’s so god-awful, but I dare you to turn away from it.