DOC’S JOURNEY INTO HAMMER FILMS #22: RACE FOR LIFE [1954]

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Directed by:
Written by: , ,
Starring: , , ,

Hammer-films

 

UK

AKA THE MASK OF DUST [1954]

AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD

RUNNING TIME: 79 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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Former world class Formula One racing driver Peter Wells has been struggling to regain his winning form in the two years since his discharge as an Air Force pilot. His wife Pat is worried about his safety and wants him to quit, while his best friend and co-racer ‘Pic’ Dallapiccola thinks he should retire to the pit crew, but pressure from rival younger driver on his Corsi team Guido Rosetti, who thinks he’s lost his nerve, makes him want to continue. After he has a disagreement with Pic just prior to an important race, his friend’s car is involved in a horrific accident and, against orders, Peter quits the race to make peace with him….

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Not at all a thriller and certainly in no way shape or form a film noir, this often dull motor racing drama was of some interest to me because of its subject matter and its great stock footage of actual racing, though despite some commentating the racing isn’t made very coherent. It’s obvious that bits of various races have been pasted together, and shots of Peter in his car feature back projection so poor that even Alfred Hitchcock would have rejected it. Out of the two races, the climactic one has some tension and considering the film’s measly budget I suppose it’s not too badly put together really, but director Terence Fisher keeps on cutting to the same shot of smoke around Peter’s feet. The human drama, such as it is, is overly repetitious and suffers from much of the dialogue being delivered at a snail’s pace, while the script, based on the novel The Last Race by Jon Manchip White, never fulfils its dramatic potential, such as the rivalry between Peter and Guido, which seems to disappear with no real explanation, or what seemed to me to be foreshadowing of a downbeat ending which didn’t happen. Rush this certainly ain’t, though it’s not even Grand Prix either.

Characters perform actions which don’t make much sense as if some transitional scenes are missing, though Richard Conte, a fine actor with considerable screen presence who never quite made the big time, is quite convincing in evoking Peter’s personal struggles. Most of the cast members aren’t given enough to do with their basic characters, while Fisher really doesn’t seem that interested in the proceedings and his staging is sometimes downright sloppy, like a doctor who only spends a second listening to somebody’s heart. If you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t think this director would soon become a very good one and a master of horror. Not a terrible film overall, but a mostly half-hearted, lacklustre affair.

[racing: 3.5/10]

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2649 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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