10 June 2011



1957/Director: Edward L. Cahn/Writer: Lou Rusoff

Cast: Fay Spain, Steven Terrell, John Ashley, Tommy Ivo, Frank Gorshin

One thing that could never be said of director Edward L. Cahn was that he was a lazy man. 1957 was an average year for the man during the period of the 50’s and early 60’s. He churned out six feature films that year (one film less than 1957 but one more than ’58) and among those films were Invasion of the Saucer Men, Zombies of Mora Tau and this post’s feature Dragstrip Girl. His actors were kept busy as well. Dragstrip Girls stars Steve Terrell and Frank Gorshin would also star in the campy but wonderful sci-fi comedy Invasion of the Saucer Men. In many ways Dragstrip Girl is typical of much of the juvenile delinquent and hotrod flicks of the time. The kids (many who look about 25 or so) really do seem all that rebellious and most parents would welcome these ‘hooligans’ as teenagers to cope with. Heck they even wear suits and ties to the swingin’ alcohol free parties held at some other kid’s parent’s house. But make no mistake, these kids are troubled and tortured and just looking for kicks and something to rebel against. But like many of cahn’s low budget features Dragstrip girl is a slight cut above the rest. Cahn actually knows how to frame a shot and as usual the b/w photography is remarkable. The pacing does not drag and the acting is better than average for a b-movie feature from 1957. In particular are the performances by the three central characters, dragstrip girl herself Louise Blake (Fay Spain), good kid Jim Donaldson (Steve Terrell) and bad boy Fred Armstrong (John Ashley of the 60’s bikini films with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello). Ashley is excellent as the jealous rich kid who always wants to one up his working class buddy Jim but can never seem to do it. Not on the high school football team and not now with new girl and hotrod lover Louise. Of course Louise has no problems with playing the two competitive lugs off of each other for her special form of fun and kicks.

The gang hangs out at a local pizza place but never seem to have enough money to buy even a single slice of pizza. The obligatory clown of group is Tommy Burns (Frank Gorshin). He is constantly trying to get a slice of pizza off the Italian owners and wise cracking with the local cops. But he is also an ace mechanic and has fine tuned Jim’s hotrod so that it is a cinch he will win the big race that is coming up and get enough money to go to college. Fred is going to do all he can do to win Louise and the drag race both and humiliate his life long rival. Louise seems to enjoy all the attention and at one point loses interest in Jim after he has some guilty feeling when he almost hits a woman and a baby carriage. She is looking for kicks man and Jim is keeping the pedal off the metal and she can’t go for that. But later Fred gets a little too carried away and almost kills one of the gang and suddenly Louise sees that maybe all this hotrodding is risky business after all. None of this will prevent the big race from happening on the weekend though. But the cops suddenly show up and have questions about a hit and run from the night before. The evidence points to Jim and his car. Is Jim going to go down for a crime he never committed? Will Louise finally make a decision as to which hotrodder she really loves? Will Fred ever grow up and just be a real buddy to Jim? Will any of the gang ever get oily and greasy and mess up their hair while working on their hotrods? Check out this fine little flick and find out for yourself. I am trying to find the Cahn film Motorcycle Gang which was also made in 1957 and also stars Steve Terrell and John Ashely as troubled young lads. You can expect a review on that once I get it. Other Cahn films that will appear here sooner are later are Zombies of Mora Tau, Invasion of the Saucer Men and It! The terror form Beyond Space and who knows what else since this guy made so many interesting films.