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snake and mongoose
Directed by: Wayne Holloway
Starring: Jesse Williams, Richard Blake, Ashley Hinshaw, Kim Shaw, Tim Blake Nelson, and Noah Wyle

All of the cars, not just the race-cars are listed in the credits. This more than the fact that one of the producers is the National Hot Rod Association should clue you in on exactly what the storytelling priorities are for the creators of Snake & Mongoose. I’s not like they didn’t pull together a decent script and some decent actors but the real draw of Snake & Mongoose is the cars and the racing.

The Movie

In the early sixties Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “Mongoose” McEwen are two successful Southern California drag racers; well Prudhomme is winning more races, but neither one is making a living from the racing. Even after they take advantage of their on track rivalry and team up to travel all over the West racing each other for appearance money they are still just scrapping by. They continue to scrape by through the sixties. While Prudhomme is the better driver, McEwen is the better promoter and in 1969 McEwen cooks up an idea that turned drag racing on its ear. McEwen secures a sponsorship with Mattel that allows Prudhomme and McEwen to build real life Hot Wheels cars, and take them on the road with full support teams. Prudhomme’s and McEwen’s 1:1 scale Hot Wheels cars are Funny Cars, purpose built drag racing machines with a fiberglass body that is at least inspired by a production vehicle, just stretched out and streamlined. They look like rolling cartoons, which made them a perfect fit with Hot Wheels. The Hot Wheels sponsorship brings Prudhomme and McEwen financial success and national fame but the life on the road ruins McEwen’s marriage. While Prudhomme just keeps on racing McEwen is now struggling to try and salvage his relationships with his three sons. When the Hot Wheels sponsorship dries up after a couple of years so does Prudhomme’s and McEwen’s partnership though the rivalry continues as both of them manage to find new sponsors.

Jesse Williams is quite good as Prudhomme, he’s a lot better looking than Prudhomme but he manages to capture his brooding look. Jesse Williams who plays McEwen and the rest of the primary cast is just fine as well. Some of the minor speaking roles though are atrocious. The script follows a pretty standard friendly sports rivalry format and there is only one truly painful scene, which strangely enough could have been cut without having any impact on the story, other that improving it. There are times the film shows its budget as well. There are a couple of stretches of road that seem to show up every single time the teams are on the road. All of the pit scenes look they were shot at the same track and too often the music sounds like a song that was written to sound like another more expensive song. So if you are only looking at the new footage shot for Snake & Mongoose then what you have is a an average made for TV movie. Luckily Snake & Mongoose has a couple of secret weapons. The first; archive footage. Often the filmmakers are able to show the actual races that the drama is unfolding around. I lost track of how many shots were real vintage races. There is a fair amount of old promotional materials thrown in as well to sort of fill in the corners. It’s not just the archive footage though. The second; the cars, they look like the real racecars and according to the credits they were. So Snake & Mongoose maybe a failure from a filmmaking point of view from gearhead’s point of view it’s a home run if I’m allowed a baseball metaphor in a review of a drag racing movie.

5/10

The Video
The video is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ration at 1080p. The new footage looks great. It has a nice soft low contrast look that still lets the bright colored cars really pop. There is a lot of detail even in the shadows. The archived footage runs from decent to bad, and it’s really only a few scenes that are really bad.

7/10

The Audio
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and includes English and Spanish subtitles. The dialog is always mixed well and the engines always roar, but some of the music is awfully quiet. Like they are afraid you will notice the song playing is not actually the song you think it is.

7/10

The Packaging and Bonus Features

The Blu-Ray comes in a standard blue tinted Blu Ray case with excellent artwork. There is a coupon for motor oil included. Which is a good thing because the only other bonus feature is a short making of featurette.

4/10

Overall (Not an Average): 5/10

The movie is a treat for drag racing fans. The filmmakers really did their homework with the technical stuff it’s just to bad the rest of it is so mediocre.

The Review

The Movie: 6/10
The Video: 7/10
The Audio: 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features: 4/10
Overall (Not and Average): 5/10

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