Monday, June 15, 2015

Pit Stop (Arrow Blu-ray) - The Monster is the Figure Eight Track

Secret time. I’m a fan of car racing movies of the 1960’s. I blame My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult for this especially the Hit & Run Holiday album that features some cult movie samples that really sell the genre. I don’t discuss car flicks often, and I certainly don’t pretend to be as literate in this particular genre as I am with Horror. The first time that I heard about Pit Stop was when Arrow Video announced this title would be hitting Blu-ray under both their UK and US banners. Hopefully my newness to the film can make you understand why this is a must own disc and a proper crossover film for Horror people. I’d expect our cult/exploitation readership to be on top of this one and to have this already preordered given the important nature of the release. It’s Jack Hill. It’s Sid Haig. It’s Ellen Burston. It’s a unique brand of automotive terror based in reality and summoning up a unique monster... the figure eight track.

Jack Hill has directed your favorite genres. He creates some of the most perfectly disturbing and exhilarating images set to film. Many of you will know his work from more popular fair like Spider Baby released a year or so before Pit Stop or perhaps his 1970’s exploitation fan favorites, The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage, Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Switchblade Sisters. Pit Stop on the other hand may have escaped your viewing eyes and for that we have a remedy, a pristine Blu-ray release with all the Arrow trimmings including a handsome booklet, updated cover art in keeping with the spirit of the original artwork and a jam packed Blu-ray featuring one of my favorite interviews from Sid Haig. His dedication to the work of Jack Hill and his knowledge of the industry that allows for such an interview makes for a great watch.  I’ve included the full extra list below which is in keeping with the promise afforded to all Arrow releases that they contain the maximum amount of material for fans to provide context and back story to a release with historical significance. There's reversible cover art if you don't enjoy the updated look of the feature image.

It should be noted that Jack Hill approved of this transfer and that it is mono only and not altered to surround sound as is often done. Care has been taken to preserve the original visual and audio experience. This is evident in the restoration feature by Technical Supervisor James White. Its grain structure and contrast looking striking. As I cannot compare it to a previous release, I can only say that it was a great viewing experience for me. I can imagine there would be strong support for a repertory screening. The restoration extra on the disc is a great introduction to the transfer process. Very important viewing for anyone who wants to better understanding this art form.

What’s to love about Pit Stop? The car crashes combined with a delicate, non-traditional story that balances motifs of the 60’s with the adventurous, rebellious nature of a Jack Hill picture. What surprised me was the development of characters. The picture comes off as a simple racecar, action drama with bang up, smash up sequences to knock you out of your seat but it’s so much more than that. The villain in Haig transitions from devious, sadistic madman to respected wing man. Even our leading man Richard Davalos begins the film with a sense of immature, rogue toughness that gradually subsides to allow for an intelligent, courageous mastermind, albeit reckless. I know some of you are rolling your eyes and want me to focus on the amazing auto wrecks of which there are plenty. I’ll let these pieces of grit speak for themselves. You can take your tuned up Subaru to the trash heap after seeing what these stock car madmen are capable of.  The chases on the figure eight are intense, but make sure to appreciate the dune buggie racing as well. It’s action, rebel melodrama, action, rebel melodrama on repeat that represents the formula of 60’s cautionary films with slight variations that make it distinctly Hill. Pit Stop has a mean spirit. The Daily Flash score is pure garage band and perfect for fans of surfy, dirty rock n’ roll. The notes in the booklet that accompany the release provide a complete history of The Daily Flash. Go back and find their full length albums.

Pit Stop is apparently going to represent a bit of controversy upon its stateside release. Of note is that Pit Stop is receiving a release in the US via the Code Red label within a month of the Arrow release. It is part of the Code Red Roger Corman series whereas the Arrow Video release is under the Jack Hill banner. Obviously this is raising some questions none of which I have answers for at this time. I have the Code Red Blu-ray on pre-order, and it should be noted that Arrow does provide copies for review ahead of time. I will try to provide an addendum to this review at the time of review of the Code Red edition to provide maximum info on the title. What can be said is that Roger Corman is the reason Pit Stop was made and that Jack Hill made it. Also worth noting though completely unsubstantiated at time of review is that writer Calum Waddell has made comments as to the legality of use of this commentary track on the Arrow release in the US release. If more information presents itself, we will update this entry as well. To our knowledge and the info provided to us the Arrow release was produced legally and in accordance with all contracts provided to that company.

My first viewing of Pit Stop was tremendous and made me fall in love more with the race flicks of the 60’s. It had me excited enough to own both US editions of the film and got me hot to explore pre-Spider Baby Jack Hill pictures. The car flipping, head slamming, axe wielding action may be enough to rush you to the bathroom for your own pit stop.

Full Specs, extras and synopsis from Arrow:

  New High Definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Jack Hill
  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  Original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  New audio commentary with Jack Hill moderated by his biographer Calum Waddell
  Crash and Burn! – Jack Hill on the making of Pit Stop
  Drive Hard – actor Sid Haig speaks about his experience of acting in Pit Stop
  Life in the Fast Lane – producer Roger Corman on the genesis of Pit Stop
  Restoring Pit Stop – restoration demonstration by Technical Supervisor James White
  Original trailer
  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
  Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Glenn Kenny and musicologist and writer Gray Newell on the film’s soundtrack, illustrated with original stills and artwork.

Region: ABC/0
Rating: 12
Cat No: FCD901
Duration: 91 mins
Language: English
Subtitles: English TBC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: MONO 1.0
Colour: B&W


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.

Pick up your copy at DiabolikDVD:

I leave you with some Daily Flash.


  1. If there's a problem why Waddel doesn't sue Arrow instead of whining all the time?

    1. He claims the expense would outweigh potential financial gain. I think I'd prefer him to stop the drama and allow his name and material to be seen by a wider audience. His interviews and content generally look pretty great. Let it speak for itself. Review contracts better in the future.