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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

'The Gumball Rally' BD: That '70s 'Great Race'

Warner Archive chooses wisely in releasing the star-studdish 1976 madcap comedy "The Gumball Rally" on June 17, 2017. This is the type of fast-paced summer fare to which 1976 audiences fled for quality entertainment in air-conditioned comfort. The notable aspects of "Gumball" include the differences between it and the similar (Unreal TV reviewed) '60slicious "The Great Race" highlighting the New v. Old Hollywood style of the film. "Race," which arguably is one of the last Old Hollywood films, was filmed on a much more fantastic scale and was largely populated by "Golden Age" studio system Hollywood royalty.

Conversely, the "young lions" in "Gumball" include Michael Sarrazin ("For Pete's Sake" and "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud") as business executive/race organizer Michael Bannon, Gary Busey as redneck racer Gibson, and future indie film luminary Raul Julia as professional racer/womanizer Franco. Other "central casting types" include the young college professor, the bored upper-middle-class housewife, and the eccentric upper-class old men.

As an aside, the Busey highlight involves him trying to pee into a bottle in a car that is going more than 100 m.p.h. on a windy road. Sarazzin steals the show right from the opening scenes in which he is dreaming of the race while presiding over a painfully boring business meeting. One can easily imagine even 2017-era executives relating to the suit-clad Bannon fantasizing about racing across America.

The heritage of "Rally" includes almost certainly inspiring the 1977 Burt Reynolds classic comedy "Smokey and the Bandit."

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Gumball" highlights the aforementioned elements of the film.


One odd aspect of "Gumball" that reflects the New Hollywood style of the film is that the opening credits are very '70s style artsy but only list the behind-the-scenes folks; the actors must wait until the end to get credit where credit is due. The most probable explanations either are to keep the run-time to rough 1:45 minutes or to provide the audience the delightful surprise of seeing who is in the film as the characters appear.

The concept of "Gumball" is that invited participants gather in Manhattan to start a covert 2,900 mile race to Los Angeles. Unlike Fight Club, there are rules; they are "no catalytic converters and no 55 miles an hour speed limit." In other words, the racers cannot drive 55. A guideline is to keep collateral damage to a minimum.

An especially fun/very '70s "Easy Rider" style anti-authority element of "Gumball" comes in the form of veteran cop Roscoe, who is obsessed with thwarting the illegal activity. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of this type of film knows how that goes. The humiliation that writer/director Charles "Chuck" Bell, whose credits include a handful of "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch Nights" episodes, inflicts on that law enforcement officer revolve around the racers always easily being a proverbial step ahead of him. A "Knight" trick in the form of temporarily hiding a car in a big rig is one of the more clever ploys; ridding Roscoe of his trousers is the most amusing degradation.

The overall reckless driving contributes the strongest element of the must-see (and Archive released) '60s Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Wacky Races." The dirty tricks, which are too fun to spoil, that the drivers pull on each other also are right out of the cartoon. Any of these ploys would cause awesomely sadistic dog Muttley of "Races" to gleefully snicker.

Much of the fun of "Gumball" relates to rooting for your team, wondering who will win, and anticipating the next time that the group makes a total fool out of Roscoe. The one spoiler is that Ball does not disappoint regarding the payoffs.

The Blu-ray special feature consists of the theatrical trailer.

Anyone with questions or comments about "Gumball" is welcome to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.