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Posted November 24, 2010
It's interesting that my first Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movie isn't one of their famous beach films but a racing flick, the other big teenage film fad of the early '60's. Since most of these films were mostly background for necking at drive-ins, plus the fact it produced by American International, I wasn't surprised to find this a lightweight piece of filmaking.
"Fireball 500" starts and ending with an interesting (but very, very short) piece of claymation made by Chokey Films ("Gumby") before we meet our hero, Dave Owens, winning the eponymous race of the film. He's driving Richard Petty's car, Number 43, which strikes a weird note but I'm guessing Petty wasn't yet nationally known, so the director used it to match with the stock footage.
About the stock footage: There's a LOT. And since the races in the film consist mostly of that and rear-projection shots, they really lack any tension at all. However, in the final race there's footage of a multi-car pileup that must be seen to be believed.
After winning and during the opening credits, Dave heads south (for no apparent reason) while singing the first of several banal songs and driving a far-out custom car that I doubt any real racer would be seen dead in. Once below the Mason-Dixon line, he starts dirt racing on the local track. Why, I don't know. He's going to Dayton soon and I would figure the prize money from the race at the start of the film would tide him over until then, so maybe it's just for kicks.
In short order he half-heartily romances Funicello (who appears so little in this film it's practically a walk-on), annoys the local racing big shot by beating him and is tricked to unknowingly moving a load of moonshine at night. Yes, really.
Most of plot involves a rather silly and threadbare mystery that I won't spoil. Of course in the end there's the Big Race!
Frankie Avalon was really not suited for the role of tough racing driver here. The lines really don't sound natural coming from him and the fact that seems a good half-foot shorter than any other male in the film doesn't help either. This makes the fight scenes look even faker than they probably would have.
Bottom line: Skip unless you're into these kinds of films.
Posted October 1, 2010
I have not seen Thunder Alley, but, Fireball 500 greatly disappointed me as a Frankie/Annette fan. Perhaps I am thinking too much in a box, but, if I see a Frankie and Annette movie, I expect them to end up together...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.