Without contrast nothing would have any meaning, how can you appreciate the light if you’ve never been in the dark, how can you appreciate good if you’ve never felt evil. Just like this double-feature, without experiencing the wretchedness of Moving Violation you wouldn’t be able to appreciate what few redeeming values Fighting Mad has to offer.
Saddam Hussein, Nicolae Ceausescu, Pol Pot, Kim Il-Sung, and Jeremy Clarkson all have one thing in common. They all owned a Mercedes-Benz 600. Guess what kind of car the bad guy in Fighting Mad rides around in. You guessed it, a Mercedes-Benz 600. That’s about as subtle as things get in this movie. The good guy; Tom Hunter, a phoned in performance by Peter Fonda, is the prodigal son returning home to help out on the family farm vs the bad guy; Pierce Crabtree, in a wonderfully condescending performance by Philip Carey, a corrupt strip-miner. The screenplay never gives you a chance to have any sympathy for the bad guys. The bad guy’s goons are introduced early in the film ramming their exhaust spewing Cadillac senselessly into a townspersons truck then complaining about the scratches left on the Caddy. They are ruthless, murderous, and cruel like all B-Movie villains should be. Unfortunately they are too caricature like for you to take any real delight when they get their ultimate comeuppance and therein lies the real problem with the film. Despite some decent performances by Lynne Lowry, Fonda’s love interest, John Doucette and Scott Glenn, Fonda’s father and brother, and Harry Northup playing the conflicted sheriff you never really care. Written and directed by Jonathan Demme all of the elements are decent enough, if not exactly good, but the movie just never really manages to connect. Moving Violations the other movie in this double feature set is a much worse film but at least it involves you enough to get some satisfaction from the ending, even if it is a wreck.
Have you heard the one about the drifter who gets hassled by the cops, then picks up the local girl and while they are skinny dipping in the corrupt town patriarchs swimming pool witnesses the Sheriff murder his own deputy? No wait that’s not a joke, it’s a plot. Or at least the setup to a plot, and frankly for a chase movie it’s a pretty fair setup. The movie starts with a lot of promise. There is a wonderful opening sequence of oil pumps pumping and a Phil Everly, yes half of the Everly Brothers, tune playing in the background. Unfortunately it gets interrupted by the rest of the movie. Enter the hero Eddie More hitchhiking down a county road. Eddie is played by Stephen McHattie who comes across as some weird amalgamation of Peter Weller and Paul Rieser. The evil Sheriff is played by Lonny Chapman and the local girl, Cam, is played by the beautiful Kay Lenz. Later on Eddie Albert even shows up. Of course the story is just an excuse to base the chase scenes on and even if everything else falls apart, which it does, if the chase is exciting enough all will be forgiven. Sadly the chase in Moving Violation doesn’t manage to save anything. As Eddie and Cam drive around the bumbling cops fail to provide any menace, despite the fact they are corrupt and willing to kill their own. The misguided attempts at humor paint them more as buffoons than monsters. While there is some kind of weird magnificence in watching the giant police cruisers, big four door big block Dodge monstrosities, barreling down the road nearly every scene is ruined by extreme undercranking, the film is run through the camera slower than normal to make the action filmed appear faster when it’s played back There are a couple of shots that almost make the movie worthwhile. In both the camera is set beside a long undulating straight stretch of road with Cam and Eddie flying by with five or six police cruisers in tow. If all the action scenes had half the energy those simple scenes did this would have been a much different movie.
The films are both presented in widescreen format. The transfers are from decent prints, but there are some scratches visible here and there, nothing so bad as to really distract you though. A bigger issue is the exposure. In quite a few scenes the contrast is just two great for the film that was used which means that the light parts of the scene like the sky are washed out with no detail while anything in shadow is murky and muddy. Even with both films squeezed onto one DVD I never noticed any digital artifacts like moiré, aliasing, or blooming.
The audio is presented in the original mono for both movies and in English only. There are no subtitles available. The sound is nothing special but it is functional. The on the nose soundtracks, squealing tires and roaring engines never steps on the dialog even when McHattie is at his mumblingest.
The Packaging and Bonus Features:
Both movies come on one DVD packaged in a clear Amaray DVD case. Like all of the Roger Corman editions from Shout! Factories the artwork is composed of original movie posters and does a great job of representing the movies. You are getting exactly what is promised by the copy. Extras for Fighting Mad consist of an audio commentary with Roger Corman, Jonathan Demme, Peter Fonda and Lynne Lowry. Lowry and Demme carry the commentary for the most part with occasional interjections from Corman and Fonda. Its sounds like they were all in the same room and its a legitimate four way conversation that avoids the annoying tendency of some commentaries to just turn into a pat each other on the back complement fest. There are also two excellent trailers and a downright misleading TV spot that has more footage from Moving Violation than from Fighting Mad. The extras for Moving Violation are the same, an audio commentary with a couple of movie trailers and a TV spot. In an inversion of Fighting Mad the trailers are kind of pitiful while the TV spot is pretty good. The audio commentary with Charles S. Durbin, Julie Corman, Roger Corman and Stephen McHattie is lacking compared to Fighting Mad as well. It’s laudable that they were able to get everybody together, actually I don’t think they were all together in the same room, but unfortunately most of the information is either obvious of self-congratulatory fluff, with a few curve balls thrown in by McHattie.
While this Shout! Factory release of Corman films isn’t as much fun as some of the other Corman double features its awesome seeing somebody putting these out with this much care and respect.
Overall (not an average) 5/10
The Movie 4/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (not an average) 5/10