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JACK HILL'S 'PIT STOP' AKA 'THE WINNER' FEATURING SID HAIG

Denise Lynn and Sid Haig in PIT STOP Year: 1969
PIT STOP is actually THE WINNER, and there's only one pit stop — where villain turned strategic wild card Sid Haig stops for half a second during the last race. Which isn't your usual climax since the movie continuously peaks throughout. Backed by tough instrumental rock — the fat, crunchy guitar sounding more 1950's than 1967 — this low-budget curio's directed by b-movie icon Jack Hill, before his signature women-in-prison and/or urban blaxploitation flicks...

Filmed around Los Angeles in B&W from city streets to a steely-dusk junkyard  to the rowdy track, where the racing is mostly Figure 8: practically suicide even for the most intrepid hot dogs, and, with each smash-up always ending in a loud, boisterous, go-go barroom, Hill clearly lets you know what driver's behind the wheel, and when: Either Sid Haig's cocky Hawk Sidney or main character Dick Davalos as Rick Bowman, both working for Grant Willard, played by veteran actor Brian Donlevy, who's cooler and colder than the drivers he subtly pits against each other. And there's always a reason for the racing around, established within lean exposition that stretches PIT STOP beyond that era's hot rod exploitation fare — but it's all that, too...

Arrow Blu Ray signed by Sid Haig
And there's even some horror/thriller elements: Like when Haig turns borderline psychotic, taking an axe to Davalos's car simply for beating him the night before...

He's also jealous about losing his girl, played by the Jack Hill directed SPIDER BABY co-star Beverly Washburn...

With raven black bobbed hair (read why she cut it) and a flirtatious smile, she wields a loose yet still constrained b-girl sensuality combined with small town pathos and humble desperation.

By far, the coolest sequence takes place in the desert, filled with a reverberated, concert-like, beer-guzzling celebration of eclectic, experimental dune buggies where the edgy rock guitar grooves into a jazzy and melodic, psychedelic spontaneity as Davalos tests an engine for a pivotal race with the straitlaced husband of who eventually becomes his leading ingenue, and would, a year later, change her last name from Ellen McRae to Ellen Burstyn as tomboy mechanic Ellen McCleod, more desirably down-to-earth than Washburn's experienced hot rod moll.

Pit Stop Score: ****1/2
Like what George Lucas would achieve six years later with AMERICAN GRAFFITI, there's a palpable feeling as if being right there with the drivers in their machines — but not in the usual monotonous and often times convoluted mainstream cars racing around a circular-track fashion...

Placing PIT STOP ahead of large-scale productions like GRAND PRIX starring James Garner or the Paul Newman vehicle that made THE WINNER change its title, being too similar to WINNING. But neither of the A-list actors, or even Steve McQueen can equal these at-that-time no-name actors/actresses; and it's not all because of the drivers or their driving.

This is director Jack Hill's coolest, tightest motion picture, and with very few superfluous distractions for the target drive-in audience. Meanwhile, the ambiguous yet tragic "twist" ending really isn't a surprise if you (after several recommended viewings) pay close enough attention to the hard-line, monotone ethic of the primary leads: From the rudimentary city street drag race on, Donlevy and Davalos have one goal in mind — the finish line.
Director Jack Hill with Denise Lynn and Sid Haig in Pit Stop
Richard Davalos aka Dick Davalos in PIT STOP
Richard Davalos aka Dick Davalos in PIT STOP
Brian Donlevy, Beverly Washburn, Sid Haig and Dick Davalos in PIT STOP
Richard Davalos aka Dick Davalos in PIT STOP, and with skinny pants, too
Beverly Washburn and Sid Haig in PIT STOP also worked for Jack Hill in SPIDER BABY
Sid Haig and Hawk Sidney in PIT STOP aka THE WINNER
Figure 8 Racing in PIT STOP
PIT STOP aka THE WINNER by Jack Hill
Richard Davalos aka Dick Davalos in PIT STOP
Sid Haig aka Hawk Sidney in PIT STOP
Sid Haig takes an axe in PIT STOP
Sid Haig in PIT STOP aka THE WINNER
Ellen Burstyn in PIT STOP aka THE WINNER
Ellen Burstyn in PIT STOP aka THE WINNER
Dune Buggy scene in PIT STOP aka THE WINNER
Dune Buggy scene in PIT STOP aka THE WINNER
Regular Racing Race track scene in PIT STOP aka THE WINNER
Sid Haig as Hawk Sidney takes a split-second in a PIT STOP and it's the only PIT STOP in PIT STOP
Whoever she is she looks fantastic dancing in PIT STOP
Wild Guitar starlet Denise Lynn with Sid Haig and director Jack Hill in PIT STOP
The title of the movie is really THE WINNER since, well, here it is, not PIT STOP
As for now unnamed cool black dude and a glance into 1960's suburbs in PIT STOP w/ Dick Davalos
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