RAW GUTS FOR GLORY! FLESH AGAINST STEEL!
The most dangerous game ever devised, to pit man against man, flesh against steel the figure-8 race! Jack Hill (Coffy, Foxy Brown) follows up Spider Baby, once again teaming up with Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses) in one of his greatest roles for this action-spectacular crash-o-rama!
Richard Davalos (East of Eden) stars as Rick Bowman, a street punk who winds up in jail after a street race goes wrong. Bailed out by race promoter Grant Willard, Davalos is put in the deadly track where he comes up against Haig s maniacal winner Hawk Sidney. Featuring an outstanding supporting cast including Brian Donlevy (The Quatermass Xperiment) in his last film appearance, Ellen Burstyn, billed as Ellen McRae (The Exorcist) and Beverly Washburn (Spider Baby) Pit Stop is one of Hill s lesser known films but arguably his greatest.
Filmed on a real figure-8 track, Hill and his crew were able to capture gripping real-life car wreck scenes lending the film a brilliant sense of realism. You ve never seen a motion picture like this before can you take it?
Arrow Video ports over their UK edition of Jack Hill’s Pit Stop to the U.S., presenting it here in a new dual-format edition. The Blu-ray presents the black and white film in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition presentation is presented here at 1080p/24hz, sourced from the filmmaker’s 35mm answer print.
Arrow has pretty much set an expectation in recent years and here they clearly meet it. Judging by their releases it appears Arrow’s top concern is to make their encodes look as close to film as they possibly can and here they succeed again. This is one of those films you’d expect to see on some beat-up source or some old VHS tape, yet here it is more than likely looking like how it did on opening night, or possibly even better. It’s very filmic in its presentation, rendering grain sharply and naturally, and surprisingly it’s rarely all that heavy. Sharpness and detail are pretty impressive, which is especially impressive considering the shooting conditions (most of it was filmed at night), and textures also come off looking pretty well. Contrast also looks superb, with fairly rich blacks that don’t crush out details and smooth transitions in the gray levels. Some scenes can be a bit fuzzy around the edges, but I blame this on the source elements or shooting conditions. In terms of its digital presentation it’s quite impressive, looking clean and natural.
The restoration work itself is also very good. Most of the stock car race sequences present some heavier scratches and marks, though I’m sure this is because of shooting conditions and such since these sequences look to have been filmed more off the cuff (all of this footage is also apparently not stock footage, and was actually newly shot for the film), as the rest of the film, where sequences are clearly more planned out and staged, present very little to no damage. Yes, some marks, scratches, and tram lines do pop up, but they’re infrequent and not as noticeable as what happens during most of the racing sequences.
A release of the film coming from Kino/Code Red promises a different transfer and I’m very curious about that one, but this one itself is very strong itself and I’d imagine hard to improve significantly over.
Sporting a lossless PCM mono track, Pit Stop is still limited by age. The track is a bit flat and tinny to my ears, but I never noticed any pops or drops, and it rarely sounds edgy or harsh. The film’s great, jazzy score can be a bit muffled but still comes through effectively. So despite the lack of any fidelity or range it’s still an impressively clean track, all things considered.
Arrow brings over their supplements from the UK edition, starting with an audio commentary featuring director Jack Hill. Hosted by Callum Waddell it acts more like an overview of Hill’s career as a whole while Pit Stop plays in the background. While they talk about how Hill got this film made, how he was able to get around the low low budget (they had to shoot black and white because they couldn’t afford the lighting that Technicolor film required for night shoots), and working with the various actors (like a then unknown Ellen Burstyn) they then talk about his various other films, his “disaster period,” as Waddell keeps referring to it—though Hill is good humoured about it—when Hill was making a number of films with Boris Karloff that technically never got finished. They also cover this period of filmmaking, the “drive in” period as they call it, and the obstacles he faced (racism was a big problem at the studios when he was trying to make Coffy for example). They discuss his newish cult following, which I think he primarily attributes to Quentin Tarantino, who of course just loves his films, and talk about any possible regrets he may have. Though not too heavily focused on this film it’s a great track, Waddell keeping the track going with decent questions (some are a bit pompous, which Hill obviously thinks) and Hill freely talking about everything.
Crash and Burn! is a 15-minute interview with director Jack Hill. Here he focuses more on the making of the film in comparison to the commentary, though still covers some of the ground covered in it. At any rate he expands on his intent with the film, wanting to make an art film about stock car racing, though Corman told him the hero had to win, and the freedom he actually had while making it. He also shares a few anecdotes, talks about the performers (Haig couldn’t drive, apparently), and also talks about some of the things he learned from Corman while making this film. It’s a short but in-depth interview worth watching, even if you listened to the commentary.
Two other interviews are also included: Drive Hard features a 17-minute interview with actor Sid Haig, who talks extensively about Pit Stop and his work with Jack Hill, while Life in the Fast Lane features a 12-minute interview with the man himself, Roger Corman, who talks about forming his own company and his desire to make a stock car race film. Both are entertaining and insightful interviews, which is how the interviews with these two go.
The disc then concludes with a great 4-minute restoration demonstration narrated by James White, showing the work that went into restoring the film, and the film’s rather fun theatrical trailer.
Not stacked but I was finding this a solid set to begin with, but like their UK releases (at least limited to the first run) Arrow includes a fantastic booklet featuring an excellent essay on the film by Glenn Kenny and then another piece by musicologist Gary Newell about the film’s music and the group that may have done it, The Daily Flash. Hill talks a bit about the music in the commentary but Newell here really expands on it and provides an interesting essay: the group doesn’t recall actually recording the music, and Hill seems to think they did it (just showed up, improvised a score, and left), so who actually did it may be up in the air. Newell also gives a brief but fairly thorough history of the group.
Overall it’s an excellent release. All of the material is incredibly informative and very entertaining.
Arrow yet again goes all out on a film that doesn’t seem like a likely candidate for Blu-ray and releases a stellar edition for it. The presentation is top notch and the supplements are excellent. It comes with a very high recommendation.