Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thunder Alley & Fireball 500

Last night watched a double feature on DVD of Fireball 500 and Thunder Alley. Both are on the same disc. Got the DVD from Amazon a few weeks ago and finally got around to watching it. Very kooky but cool sixties pop culture films. Fabian and Annette Funicello are in both films with Frankie Avalon in just Fireball 500. A bit racey for that crowd of pop fluff actors, with Fabian smoking and actually getting in bed with his "girl" (simply scandalous!) There are many snippets of vintage NASCAR and Mopar nostalgia footage in both films. Fireball 500 opens with Avalon driving a George Barris Kustomized Plymouth Barracuda, towing Richard Petty's 1966 #43 Plymouth Stock Car while singing the title theme! Surreal! Petty's Plymouth (one of the winingest cars of all time) features prominently in both movies. Both films use real NASCAR, demolition derby, stunt circus and modified racing footage, with the close-ups of drivers having obviously been filmed on a soundstage. Funky cool. Both films have flimsy plots that work hard to tie all the seemingly random racing footage together. Fireball 500 is basically the story of a race car driver (Avalon) being pulled into an illegal moonshine operation (in 1966?!?). Thunder Alley is about a race car driver (Fabian) who has strange blackouts while racing. During one, he accidentally kills another driver and gets suspended. He then has to work his way back into the good graces of the racing public and NASCAR officials. Of the two films, Thunder Alley was my favorite. Like Avalon in Fireball 500, Fabian drives a Barris Kustom- although his is the hideous Thunder Charger. I love 1966-67 Dodge Chargers and is just plain fugly. I can't believe they paid Barris to create this thing! Fabian's stock car in the grand finally race is actually LeeRoy Yarbrough's #12 Dodge Charger. Petty's #43 is fictitiously driven by a team mate during the last race. These films are must haves for anyone interested in vintage stock car racing or seeing Fabian getting beat up by Frankie Avalon.

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