Friday, January 26, 2007


After last week's venture into the land of movies I didn't like even as a child, I think it's time the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day got back to basics: silly movies that I actually liked as a kid. And with that in mind, there's only one way for me to go today:

The Gumball Rally

It came out in 1976, but I hadn't heard of it til I saw it on a Sunday Night Movie, probably in about 1978 or 1979. I've reached a point in my life now where memory becomes an unruly amalgamation of the focused-upon reality, of real events unrelated to what I'm trying to recall, and of pure fiction (aka, stuff that never happened). But acknowledging that, I seem to remember being very excited about this flick, after seeing it previewed following the prior week's Sunday Night Movie. A preview for a movie about a cross-country race, with fast cars and good drivers. Yessssssss, I was psyched. I loved movies with car chases when I was little, as I mentioned a few months ago when the FSMOMYOTD was Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. Every week I debate with myself whether Smokey & The Bandit qualifies for this feature, because I fucking loved that movie. Loved it.

And you know what my favorite toys were as a kid? Thaaaaaaaaaaaat's right: Matchbox cars, along with their B+ cousins, Hotwheels.

(But screw it, I had no tolerance for those damn Corgi cars. Crap. They were the RC, or C&C, to Matchbox's Coke and Hotwheels' Pepsi. Or the Jack 'n the Box or Hardees or even the late Wetson's to McDonalds & Burger King. I knew quality as a lad, and I didn't compromise. Pul-lease.)

In addition to MAD Magazine, my only subscription at that time was for some ridiculous, monthly Matchbox Cars newsletter, complete with pictures of dorky kids posing in grainy photos with their collections of cars. My collection of cars was pretty big, but even at 10 years-old, I was already such a geek that I worried they wouldn't print my picture since my collection included about 40% Hotwheels.

So I never sent in a photo. But every once in a while I would get all my cars together, and I'd just sit and admire the scope of the collection. Some cars were chipped and scuffed, a remnant of the demolition derbies my friend and I had when we were still 6 or 7, before I came to appreciate the majesty of the cars. Some cars had bent-up "axles" -- mostly the earlier Matchbox ones, where those "axles" were thinner than surgical needles -- and others had broken off doors or hoods. But a few were pristine, and those were my favorites.

I still remember the three favorites-of-the-favorites: a bright red Matchbox 1978 Renault (of all things), which wasn't cool looking, but had the smoothest-spinning wheels of any of the dozens & dozens I owned, making it lightning fast going down ramps or across the slick kitchen floor; a Hotwheels late-70s Ferrari 308 GTB, also red, which didn't "ride" as well, but was so freaking cool looking I just had to roll with it (it was called "Racebait 308" on the "information" under the car. Hotwheels always had a cartoonishness in the cars & the names which I considered inferior to Matchbox's verisimilitude); and a beat-up looking dune buggy-type thing, that actually had a springy suspension. The dune buggy never went straight for more than a foot or two, but on a narrow track? Soooo-weeet.

Anyway, I settled down to watch The Gumball Rally in the den with the old man, of course. And I am certain that I had at least 5 or 10 of my favorite Matchbox cars in front of me for the whole movie. The Ferrari, the Renault, and the Dune Buggy would've been there, and probably the white, racing-striped Lamborghini Countach, as well. If I had my own Gumball Rallys during commercials, I'm certain the Ferrari or the Renault won as they always did. And the movie itself?

I loved it.

Awesome. Car chases, car races, sports cars, convertables, you name it. Unlike Cannonball Run, which I never liked, I remembered this one revolving far more around the cars, around the race, as opposed to goofy comic hijinks, and improbable or implausable action sequences. Like my tastes in Matchbox cars, I wanted accuracy over comic bookishness in my car chase/race flicks. I was a GEEK.

Nonetheless, it was a comedy, and it had it amusing moments. I can still remember one of the characters getting into his Italian sports car & ripping off the rearview mirror because that's how they did it in Italy. Even at 10 or 11 that seemed ridiculous, but it stuck. Or I think it stuck. Remember what I said earlier about memory. Hmmmm, let's check the "Memorable Quotes" section on IMDB. You know what? They have a quotation about that scene, and more amazingly, my memory was right:
Franco: And now my friend, the first-a rule of Italian driving.
[Franco rips off his rear-view mirror and throws it out of the car]
Franco: What's-a behind me is not important.
And that-a silly, Italian-a accent should-a tell you, ever-a-ting about-a this-a movie (and you know I had my hand in the air doing that . . . uhhh, that Italian talking thing as I wrote that sentence. Even though my Italian accent sounds like Chico Marx). As to the plot, while not matching my memories exactly, here's the Wikipedia entry on the movie, which makes comparisons to Cannonball Run and Cannonball, a movie I'll admit not knowing:
The Gumball Rally is a 1976 film about a coast-to-coast road race. It was inspired by the actual Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash run held by Brock Yates that inspired several other movies, like Cannonball with David Carradine, also from 1976. The main difference is while Cannonball is an action film, The Gumball Rally is a comedy, just like the later series of Cannonball movies starring Burt Reynolds and many others. The Gumball Rally is often considered better and less infantile compared to the later, star-studded exploitations of The Cannonball Run, which even copied the running gags of the police man chasing the racers through the whole USA.
Less infantile. Better. That's what I thought. Burt gets chased by Jackie Gleason in Smokey & the Bandit. Period. He didn't need to do Cannonball Run. Then again, he didn't need to do Smokey & the Bandit II either. Oh Burt, what did you do between 1980 & 1997? Maybe Dirk Diggler's career-fall sequence in Boogie Nights was inspired not by John Holmes or some other similar "performer," but by the man who played Dirk's mentor! Anyhoo, I haven't seen The Gumball Rally in 28 years or so, so I'm not putting my rep on the line over it, but it was good enough for 11 year-old me, so it's good enough for the FSMOMYOTD. And with that, let's get to . . .

The Cast: We'll start right off with the unlikely "star" of The Gumball Rally, the man behind the "memorable" rear-view mirror line, Raul Julia. Before I saw this I had no idea, of course, that Julia was any kind of "serious" actor. And I doubt that seeing The Gumball Rally as a kid was the moment that got me to appreciate his talent either.

Also "starring" was Michael Sarrazin, who I know only as Jane Fonda's dance partner in Sidney Pollock's unspeakably depressing "classic," They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (He was also her partner in another way in that one, but I won't play spoiler. Though I will advise people to skip the movie altogether, in that it's an unremitting downer with no payoff whatsoever.) Nevertheless, Sarrazin's resume includes two essential facts, both of which I have no choice but to mention here.

One, he appeared in a 1976 Italian film called, The Loves and Times of Scaramouche. That's right, "Scaramouche." And, if my dates are correct, Queen's A Night At The Opera, the album that included "Bohemian Rhapsody," came out in 1975. So, The Loves and Times of Scaramouche not only receives a 3.5-out-of-10 rating on IMDB, but it was beaten to the punch by a pop song in the "roguish commedia dell'arte character who wears a black velvet mask and black trousers, shirt and hat, yet still manages to hit the late 20th Century culture scene" category.

Uhhhh, or something like that. I realize it's a narrow category, but that flick still managed to lose. And I wonder if Sarrazin could do the fandango? He seemed to play a poor boy from a poor family in They Shoot Horses.

And the second Sarrazin fact I have to mention? He hosted SNL in 1978 and appeared in 1976 as "Diner." Was he on an early episode of the "Chee-burger, chee-burger" sketch? I need to know this, if anyone can help me out. If so, Sarrazin is elegible for immediate induction into the FSMOMYOTD Hall of Fame due to Rule 14 (b) (1) (C) (iv) of the By-laws. You can see the stakes here are very high. Let's get to researching, shall we? Whoever figures this out wins a Hotwheels car. That's right, no Matchbox, Hotwheels.

Norman Burton appeared in Valley of the Dolls, Planet of the Apes, and The Towering Inferno, giving him an insurmountable early lead in today's "Most roles in surprisingly watchable shlock" contest. Let's just give him the award right now.

(What's that? He's dead? He can't accept the award? Ok, then let's give it to Winona Ryder's Acting Career, which is merely mostly dead.)

Yes, I know Planet of the Apes is actually a damn good movie with a certain degree of lovable shlockiness, as opposed to Valley of the Dolls & Towering Inferno which are pure shlock in the dictionary definition sense. I know. But let's let the dead guy enjoy his award, ok? Let his soul rest in peace, you bastards! You finally really did it, didn't you? You maniacs, god damn you all to hell. Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty--

{My what? My lithium? Oh yeah, thanks. And a glass of water? Thanks.}

Now where were we, err, where was I. Ahh, the cast:

Yes. And speaking of unhinged lunacy & mental illness, Gary Busey was in The Gumball Rally. As was Tim McIntire, who played Alan Freed in American Hotwax, a FSMOMYOTD a few months back. So was Joanne Nail, who not only has the last name "Nail," but also appeared in Switchblade Sisters, and Midnight Lace. And she was also in 1981's 1.5-out-of-10 star-rated The Perfect Woman, as well as 1978's semi-classic TV movie, Mother, Juggs & Speed. And what characters did she play in these two films? Why, "The Perfect Woman" and "Juggs."

I'm guessing double-D's. Anyone else with a guess? With an alternative theory? With a contemporanous photo? (**Update** As commenter Minstrel Boy points out, Mother, Juggs & Speed is better known as a 1976 feature film starring Bill Cosby, Harvey Keitel, and Raquel Welch. The one that Nail starred in was a TV show, not feature, from 1978. I'll now commit ritual suicide as penance for my shameful error).

Larry Silvestri, who played a cop in a November FSMOMYOTD entry, The Warriors, was in The Gumball Rally. He also played, "Detective Silvestri," in GoodFellas. And even though I own it, and have seen it 4,629 times, I'm drawing a blank on that one. Anyone? Is that the dude who busted young Henry when he was selling cigs out of the truck with young Tommy?

(And if anyone gives me any guff about "spoiling" GoodFellas . . . well, I can't even contemplate it.)

Casey Kasem was "Radio DJ" in The Gumball Rally. Way to stretch out that acting range, Casey. John Morton had himself an interesting little run in 1980, when he managed to appear in Superman II, The Empire Strikes Back, and Flash Gordon (future FSMOMYOTD?). And Alfred Shelly appeared in a movie called Black Samson in 1974, the same year that fellow Gumball Rally cast-mate Jack Oliver found himself in The Black Godfather.

(And no, I don't have a joke. And even if I did, you think I'd be getting anywhere near that one?)

Finally, Lola Daydream made her one and only appearence in movies in The Gumball Rally. How the hell can a woman be named "Lola Daydream" and appear in one movie? How is this possible? Who's responsible for this decision? Who robbed us of a FSMOMYOTD all-star? I need answers.

A Corgi car for whomever figures that one out. I wanna know, but I'm not giving away any Matchbox cars. Not even a Hotwheels. No sir. No Coke or Pepsi. RC.


Anonymous John Royal said...

Can't really comment on this movie. I saw it years ago, and I just don't remember anything about it.

However, regarding schlock, please remember that "The Towering Inferno" did get 8 Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

I also remember reading something about Paul Newman and Steve McQueen having a big argument over who would get first billing.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

"The Towering Inferno" did get 8 Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

Ok. So I file this under "Anti-shlock arguments" or "Pro-Shlock"?

11:17 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Look, I like "The Towering Inferno." And I don't think it's schlock. If you want schlock, try "Earthquake," which, I believe came out that same year, and which, I believe, was the first movie with sensoround.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

"Like" has nothing to do with it. John, you've gotta embrace your shlock love. It'll do you good.

Come out of the shlock closet. Pride, sir. Pride.

11:35 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

not to intrude on any nail love you might be having, but the juggs character in mother (cosby), juggs, and speed (harvey kietel) was raquel welch.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

This was some sort of 1/2 hour TV adaptation:

I'll admit I was a little confused; wondering where Cosby was.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

"Mother, Juggs, and Speed," now there's a movie for a Friday discussion. And yeah, Ms. Welch sure did have some Juggs.

Wasn't Harvey Keitel in that movie? And J.R. Ewing?

12:16 PM  
Blogger DED said...

I think I saw this movie back in the day on HBO but I can't remember it. No big loss.

Matchbox cars.... now that's a fond childhood memory. I had tons of them, with a fair amount of Hot Wheels thrown in. I used to have races in my room. And since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, my son's into them big time. He's more of a Hot Wheels fan. I don't see too much Matchbox in the stores, except for larger sets. The quality is there for Hot Wheels. I've seen some really cheap knock offs though. Oh man are they bad.

What sucks though are all these crazy race tracks they've got now. It's all rollercoaster like sets with "Escape From Gorilla Mountain" nonsense. You'd think that with the popularity of NASCAR they'd just have some normal tracks for kids to play with.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

Wasn't Harvey Keitel in that movie?

I believe he was Speed. Or on speed. Whatever.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Keitel on speed? Wasn't that the movie "The Bad Lieutenant"? Or was that just every drug that he injested in that movie?

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


I don't see too much Matchbox in the stores, except for larger sets. The quality is there for Hot Wheels.

That's too bad.

What sucks though are all these crazy race tracks they've got now. It's all rollercoaster like sets with "Escape From Gorilla Mountain" nonsense. You'd think that with the popularity of NASCAR they'd just have some normal tracks for kids to play with.

Ahhhhh. Someone who shared my taste for "realism" in the matchbox world.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I believe he was Speed. Or on speed. Whatever.

Keitel on speed? Wasn't that the movie "The Bad Lieutenant"? Or was that just every drug that he injested in that movie?

What wasn't he on or doing in Bad Lieutenent? Coke, booze, raped nuns, jerking off in front of teenage girls. Man, that was a "need a shower NOW" flick.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

Hey Mike. Dig the blog. Check mine out somtime:

Or even better, feel free to link to it and I'll do likewise. Cheers, Rickey

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Rickey Henderson shows up & doesn't bestow some 3rd person hijinks upon us.

That ain't right, Rickey.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Yeah, shouldn't Rickey Henderson say "check out Rickey's blog?"

Rickey not speaking in the third person is all wrong. It's like there's a tear in the fabric of the universe. It's like Steven Seagal making a good movie, or George Bush making an articulate statement, or Bill Belichick not looking like some homeless guy. It's just wrong. Wrong.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

I took about thirty showers after seeing "The Bad Lieutenant," but I still felt dirty.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

30 showers wouldn't remove the existential stank I'm now wearing due to Rickey not saying, "Or even better, feel free to link to it and Rickey'll do likewise. Cheers, Rickey, the Baseball Steals King."

4:23 PM  
Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

Rickey is very damn sorry for offending you. Rickey was just pimping on behalf of Rickey. Rickey enjoys your blog immensely and would be honored to put your site in his blogroll if you'd kindly do the same for Rickey.

Rickey out.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Rickey didn't offend anyone. Rickey's welcome to pimp in the 'Hood anytime he wants.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Mike - Ricky is "Nick in Westchester" from Metsgeek. Good guy.

Matchbox and Hot Wheels are both Mattel since the nineties.
I loved matchbox as a kid, had a whole bunch of cars and track. About 15 years ago, I was at Mom and Dad's and they showed me something they pulled out of the attic, a box with track and cars. We gave it away.


12:53 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Ricky is "Nick in Westchester" from Metsgeek. Good guy.

Yeah, I figured that out. Some funny stuff there.

About 15 years ago, I was at Mom and Dad's and they showed me something they pulled out of the attic, a box with track and cars. We gave it away.


2:08 PM  

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