The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum

HOT ROD GIRL (1956) ***

Lori Nelson is an unsung actress from the ‘50s that should have more of a following. I guess the reason she never caught on was because she was usually found playing strong female characters (in films like Revenge of the Creature and Untamed Youth) instead of the usual bimbo roles that were offered to women her age. In Hot Rod Girl, she plays a tough, but well-spoken gal that has a lot more dimension than the token female leads found in hot rod/juvenile delinquent movies of the time.

And Hot Rod Girl is a bit different from most genre films from the era too. The big difference is how the law handles the hot rodders and hooligans. Cop Chuck Connors isn’t the bad guy. He understands that teenagers need to blow off a little steam, so he arranges for them to have their own dragstrip. He figures it will be safer for them to race there instead of in town.

The theme of the cops seeking to understand and coexist peacefully with the teens sets Hot Rod Girl apart from its counterparts. The Blob and The Giant Gila Monster also had similar subplots where the local law did their best to befriend the teenage heroes, but Hot Rod Girl predates both of those films by a couple years.

Nelson plays a hot rodder whose boyfriend (John Smith) is an ace mechanic. His hotheaded brother dies in a car wreck while street racing, and it sends him into a deep depression. While he’s been off sulking, a new hot rodder has come to town and has begun causing trouble. It’s then up to Nelson to snap her boyfriend out of his funk and show the new guy in town what’s what.

Hot Rod Girl is better at nearly every turn (no pun intended) than it needs to be. The performances by Nelson and Connors are excellent and they help elevate the material. A young Frank Gorshin is also on hand as one of the young racers and he does a great James Cagney impersonation. He later reteamed with Hot Rod Girl director Leslie H. Martinson for Batman: The Movie.

If Hot Rod Girl has a detriment, it’s John Smith’s performance. Like his nondescript name, his acting style is bland and he’s lacking the chops needed to carry the film. Some also may be disappointed by the fact that Nelson limits her hot rodding to the opening credits sequence, but overall, Hot Rod Girl is a pretty sweet flick; one that will definitely appeal to fans of hot rod movies and juvenile delinquent pictures.

Tags: cult, drama, h


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