Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Arrow Video - PIT STOP on Blu-ray

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Arrow Video - PIT STOP on Blu-ray

PIT STOP (1969; Jack Hill)
I doubt I'd ever have ended up pursuing Jack Hill's films as much as I did if not for the ringing endorsement that Tarantino was giving him years and years ago. He drew the comparison to Howard Hawks, which is certainly fitting in that both directors worked in a variety of different genres. PIT STOP is akin to Hawk's REDLINE 7000 I suppose. PIT STOP is the better if these two racing films for sure. Another loose Hawks comparison one could perhaps make is that both directors had an actor or two that they bonded with early in their careers and they ended up sticking together for a while. For Hawks it could be John Wayne or perhaps Cary Grant, for Jack Hill it was Sid Haig.
I had seen some Jack Hill films before QT's praise because of the old 'Roger Corman  Classics' VHS series in the 1990s. I was discovering Corman and the breadth of the movies he created just at the perfect time as I was also just getting into Danny Peary's books. In fact , it may have been Peary's write-up of ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL in one of his Cult Movies books that put me on the Corman path to begin with. I started to watch all the Corman films I could and really became addicted. Then when Tarantino brought out SWITCHBLADE SISTERS via his Rolling Thunder imprint, my interest in Jack Hill got a nice boost. Anchor Bay put out a DVD of PIT STOP around the same time and I remember buying it sight unseen because it was a rarer Jack Hill film. I wasn't aware of it, but PIT STOP is now (as it was then) something of a cult favorite (as many of Hill's films are). It's basically the story of a young "figure eight" stock car racer and his rise and fall. I guess Jack Hill originally pitched to Roger that at the end he wanted the main character (played by Richard Davalos) would lose the big race, but Roger balked at that. So what Hill settled on was the idea that the driver wins the race, but loses his soul. The film is overall very artfully made and quite memorable because of it. The black & white makes it feel a bit like a stock car racing noir. The supporting cast is outstanding and includes Brian Donlevy, Sid Haig (of course), Ellen Burstyn and Beverly Washburn. 
The transfer looks good and hasn't been digitally messed with much so there is some nice grain to it and it feels like the film it was in 1969 (but better). As James White mentions in the restoration featurette (noted below), this disc will hopefully lead to many new folks being turned on to PIT STOP (and Hill's films in general). It's a good little flick.

Special Features:
--Audio Commentary - a newly recorded commentary with director Jack Hill moderated by Callum Waddell. Though I recall enjoying the track that was on the original Anchor Bay DVD, this one is good as well. Waddell is the author of a book on Jack Hill so he has some good questions and brings out some good stories from Hill.

--"Crash and Burn: Jack Hill on the making of PIT STOP" (16 mins) - A new interview with Hill about how PIT STOP came to be (starting with Corman seeing Hill's film MONDO KEYHOLE). He talks about wanting to make a stock car racing art film and how he was inspired by 'figure eight' racing to start with. Hill is a very soft spoken guy and makes for an affae interview.
--"Drive Hard: Sid Haig Remembers PIT STOP" (17 mins) Another new interview, this one with actor Haig giving his recollections on the film is great. Haig is just an actor I really like so I could listen to him talk about anything. He has lots of neat things to say about his longtime working relationship with Jack Hill (they go back to one of Hill's student films). 
--"Life in the Fast Lane: Roger Corman on Jack Hill and the Genesis of PIT STOP" (12 mins) New interview with Corman, who is also always a pleasure to listen to. I've loved listening to him ever since the short introductions he did with Leonard Maltin at the front of the aforementioned Corman Classic VHS tapes. Here, Corman talks about his working relationship with AIP and how certain policies they brought into play around the time of his film THE WILD ANGELS made him decide to go out on his own with New World. He also talks about how he cane across Jack Hill via some student films he'd done and how he initially hired him to reshoot some scenes on DEMENTIA 13 and how that led to PIT STOP.
--"Restoring PIT STOP" (4 mins) Features James White (who does remastering for Arrow Video) talking about the differences between using an original negative versus other sources. Jack Hill's own answer print was the best element they had at their disposal and was the one they used. This a neat little feature showing lots of before/after and has lots of information on how the process was done.
Lastly, the disc includes a booklet containing an in-depth essay on PIT STOP by critic Glenn Kenny and another essay by Gray Newell on the band The Daily Flash whose music is featured in the film.


1 comment:

highwayknees said...

wow.I've never seen Davalos in anything but East of Eden. i wondered what happened to him...

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