The movie Race with the Devil (1975) is an American action horror film directed by Jack Starrett, written by Wes Bishop and Lee Frost, and starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, and Lara Parker1. The film was released on June 27, 19751.
The plot revolves around two couples, Roger Marsh and Frank Stewart, who own a successful motorcycle dealership in San Antonio, Texas1. Together with their wives Kelly and Alice, they leave San Antonio in a recreational vehicle (RV) for a much-anticipated ski vacation in Aspen, Colorado1. Along the way, they set up camp in a desolate meadow in central Texas, where Roger and Frank race their motorcycles together1.
Later that night, after their wives retire to the RV, the men witness what turns out to be a Satanic ritual human sacrifice a short distance from their campsite, across a river1. After being chased by the Satanists and barely escaping with their lives, they arrive in a small town and report the incident to Sheriff Taylor1. The sheriff investigates but attempts to convince them that they probably only saw hippies killing an animal1.
Unbeknownst to the sheriff, Roger steals a sample of dirt stained with the murder victim’s blood, intent on delivering it to the authorities in Amarillo, as he became suspicious of being driven to the crime scene without having to offer any directions1. At the same time, while cleaning, the wives find a cryptic rune pinned to the broken rear window of the RV, and they steal books about occultism from the local library to further research the incident1. One of the books reveals that the ritual is what Satanists often perform to gain magical powers1.
As the foursome leaves town, the sheriff notices the red truck that begins to follow the RV, making it clear that he is either aware or part of the Satanic cult1. When the couples arrive at an RV park, Kelly sees she is being stared at by its residents while in a swimming pool and wants to return home1. Nonetheless, she accepts a dinner invitation from another couple at the park1.
While at the restaurant/nightclub, Kelly again sees she is being stared at menacingly, this time by one of the musicians1. When they return from dinner, the group discovers that Kelly’s dog has been killed and hanged from the RV’s broken open door, causing them to immediately leave the park1.
The movie Race with the Devil (1975) is a hybrid of the horror, action, and car chase genres1. The tension just builds and builds throughout the whole thing1. Particularly exciting scenes are those where Roger and Frank have to rush to get their vehicle going again before the villains can catch up, and where they and their wives must deal with an attack by a pair of rattlers1. But best of all is the invigorating, breathless climactic action featuring some extremely impressive human and vehicle stunts1.
- Peter Fonda as Roger Marsh2
- Warren Oates as Frank Stewart2
- Loretta Swit as Alice2
- Lara Parker as Kelly2
- R. G. Armstrong as Sheriff Taylor2
- Clay Tanner as Delbert2
- Carol Blodgett as Ethel Henderson2
- Phil Hoover as Mechanic2
- Ricci Ware as Ricci Ware2
- Paul A. Partain as Cal Mathers2
- James Harrell as Gun Shop Owner2
- Karen Miller as Kay2
- Arkey Blue as Arkey Blue2
- Jack Starrett as Gas Station Attendant2
- Wes Bishop as Deputy Dave2
Director Jack Starrett replaced original director Lee Frost when Twentieth Century Fox head Alan Ladd Jr. was unsatisfied with the dailies. Most of his footage was re-shot .
The picture of a human sacrifice that the women find in the library book is from a series of images of Aztec Indian life painted by H. M. Herget for the June, 1937 issue of National Geographic magazine .
The RV is 1975 Vogue 32’ Villa Grande .
Filming was done in director Jack Starrett’s birth state – Texas .
According to the books Kelly and Alice steal from the library, the cultists are rooted in an ancient Aztec religion .
The rattlesnake peed all over actor Peter Fonda’s shirt when he picked it up .
According to a review on Aquarium Drunkard, “While being a low-budget exploitation film, Race With The Devil transcends its genre trappings and sets itself apart from other drive-in movies of the 1970s. Besides boasting an impressive, balls-to-the-wall, twelve-minute long car-chase sequence that rivals White Lightning (1973) and Smokey and The Bandit (1977), Race With The Devil contains one of the most nihilistic endings to any horror film ever. From its cast to its aesthetic, it’s undoubtedly a film perfectly in step with its time, yet subtly more sophisticated than other like-minded genre-hybrids screening at grindhouse theaters circa 1975.”.
Musings of a Middle Aged Geek states, “For its game cast, a few genuine scares, and some ballsy stunt-driving, this 88-minute serving of demonic bunk isn’t a complete waste of time (though it begs for a “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-treatment someday). All the same, the movie might tax the patience of modern audiences, since anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex will quickly figure out the great ‘secret’ of the town.” .
C.M. Saunders: ” It isn’t often talked about these days, which is a shame as it’s definitely worth a punt.” .
Citations Wikipedia  Aquarium Drunkard  IMDb  Musings of a Middle Aged Geek  C.M. Saunders