New Bio-Pic Blends Heart With Horsepower
By Cory Allen
As movie audiences filed out of advanced screenings of the new feature film “Snake & Mongoose,” their comments were decisive – this is a surprisingly good movie. Made on a very tight budget, Producers Robin Broidy and Steve Nemeth squeezed a lot out of a little to make the drag racing bio-pic. While many in both the motion picture and auto racing communities were skeptical this movie could be made as an independent project, clever use of time and materials made it not only possible, but the film delivers in unexpected ways.
Working from a well-crafted script by Alan Paradise, Director Wayne Holloway guided the story from the 1958 beginning of the racing careers of Tom McEwen (the Mongoose, played by new-comer Richard Blake) and Don Prudhomme (perfectly portrayed by Jesse Williams) to a climatic and emotional dual at the 1978 NHRA U.S. Nationals.
The one hour and 41-minute ride is filled with plenty of racing action, but it is tempered with the real trials, triumphs and tragedies the two men and their families faced along the way. The film opened at two sneak preview cities – Reno, Nevada and Detroit, Michigan – to packed houses. The official premieres were a week later in Hollywood, California and Indianapolis, Indiana. At the Hollywood event, famed drag racing pioneer and actor Tom Ivo commented, “I was friends with both Prudhomme and McEwen during the span in which the movie takes place. So, I knew the story because I lived it. Still, the ending brought tears to my eyes. It was very well done.” At the Indianapolis opening, NHRA icon John Force echoed Ivo’s comments. “It was really moving and exciting. The way they (producers) blended actually archival racing footage with the new footage gave it a real sense of authenticity and honesty.” Force added.
A big part of what makes the film so watchable is the pace. It is quick enough to cover a lot of ground yet finds a way to keep the audience in tune. Excellent supporting roles by Ashley Hinshaw (Lynn Prudhomme), Kim Shaw (Judy McEwen), Max Cotton (Jamie McEwen), and Fred Dryer (Ed Donovan) add texture to the story. Noah Wiley as Mattel VP Art Spear provides a nice cache to his scenes as does Tim Blake Nelson and Ken Medlock as the track announcer and track owner respectably. The production also benefited from having two Academy Award winners on board in Director of Photography John Bailey and Editor Richard Halsey.
On the collectible side, the Snake and Mongoose Hot Wheels cars have been on the leading edge of the die-cast space since both were introduced in 1970. They remain big sellers. The number of eBay listings for all Snake and Mongoose cars and racing sets have grown since news of the film first surfaced. In addition, movie posters, handouts, shirts, trading cards and other memorabilia have been listed.
It looks like Snake and Mongoose may be one of those rare independent films that find its way into the mainstream. If it does, it will further cement the two Southern California drivers as icons of racing and innovators in sports marketing. It will also inform and excite new generations of fans that never got the chance to witness the Golden Age of drag racing.
Release for Snake and Mongoose is a David vs. Goliath situation. Without the backing of a major studio, it will not be seen in all areas of the country with one release date. It rolls out in selected city’s beginning September 6th with more cities and screens being added on September 13th and 20th. If the movie does well in limited release, a wider release is possible.
Buy and sell your Hot Wheels Snake and Mongoose collectibles on eBay4>
Photo credit: Snake & Mongoose / Entertainment Universe