Review by Greg Goodsell
Before he hit pay dirt with an entire motion empire predicated on tiny, stop-motion figures wreaking havoc with his Puppetmaster and related films, Charles Band began his career with some extremely grimy, unrelenting, downbeat horror pictures that more than any other defined the genre that was dubbed “grindhouse.” When this reviewer is asked what the sleaziest motion picture he has ever seen, I invariably say Band’s Mansion of the Doomed (1976). Don’t laugh – there’s something about that film that worms its way under my skin. Dark, grim and relentless, there’s something about that dime store variation of Eyes Without a Face (1960) – with its cellar full of eyeless human guinea pigs that can’t be denied. Adding to the oppressive atmosphere is the presence of down-at-their-heels Hollywood has-beens Richard Widmark and Gloria Grahame wishing they were anywhere else.
Crash!, Band’s first film, while not reaching the gory heights of Mansion still has plenty of darkness and ill will bubbling underneath. Never released to video and DVD until just recently, Crash! is beyond ridiculous and borrows heavily from the many films that preceded it – The Car (1977), especially, but maintains viewer interest throughout.
The film open with a driverless black convertible driving a hippie van off the road, whereupon a stoner dude and his girlfriend are killed in a fiery, apocalyptic explosion. This goes on for awhile, satisfying the audience’s innate need for vehicular destruction. It makes perfect sense that author J. G. Ballard penned a novel with the same name that later became the main cornerstone in director David Cronenberg’s oeuvre of psychosexual films in 1996. Ideas that are far more pungent will be visited upon the yahoos in search of Band’s film who pick up Cronenberg’s picture by mistake.
|Fulci's lawyers are on the phone as we speak!|
Natch, the keystone is an ancient evil spirit, which is subconsciously used by Lyon to send her black convertible on a random spree of death and destruction. The question immediately arises … why was her car going on a murder spree before she lucked into the malefic keychain? The movie certainly doesn’t say …
|I think someone stuck some microdots onto my Dunkin Munchkin|
There’s not much too it from there on in. Lyon slowly regains her memory with the assistance of kindly Dr. Gregg Martin (John Ericson) and the car continues its war against humanity. Ferrer pops in and gets hip to the fact that satanic forces are being rallied against him – and in a scene quite tasteless, and therefore daring for an exploitation film – Ferrer’s wheelchair is telekinetically used to batter the Doberman pinscher to death.
WELL, the DVD is packed with extras, the best one being a documentary on tighty-whitey auteur director David DeCouteau love affair with the film. The film’s relative unavailability – DeCouteau caught it one weekend at a crummy theater, never to catch it again on VHS, TV or DVD led to his scavenger hunt for memorabilia. Certainly, the poster is one of the GREATEST ever for an exploitation film – a veritable doomsday of colliding automobiles with scantily dressed women running for their lives ties it once again to the Gospel of Cars, Sex and Death as preached by Ballard and Cronenberg.
While the enthusiasm behind this rare film is evident on the DVD, one has to wonder what Lyon and Ferrer thought about the direction of their lives and careers at the point they signed on for the project.