Sunday, June 28, 2015

Flash and the Firecat (1976)

          Enterprising low-budget filmmakers Beverly and Ferd Sebastian cranked out a handful of zesty drive-in pictures during the ’70s, including this vapid lovers-on-the-run romp, which feels very much like myriad Roger Corman productions featuring the same basic storyline—think Moving Violation (1976), Thunder and Lighting (1977), and so on. With their rascally heroes, scantily clad heroines, and tiresome car-chase scenes, these pictures are all basically interchangeable. That said, Flash and the Firecat has some pleasant passages thanks to lively leading actors and the use of dune buggies instead of conventional vehicles, though it won’t meet anyone’s criteria for quality cinema. In fact, it won’t even meet anyone’s criteria for exploitation cinema, since the Sebastians offer such a tame presentation of kidnapping, prostitution, and other crimes that the movie is rated PG. 
          Flash and the Firecat starts out well enough. Leggy blonde Flash (Tricia Sembera) and her crafty boyfriend, Firecat (Roger Davis), spend their time making out and riding dune buggies, since they’re apparently averse to working for a living. Eager to score cash, they contrive a ballsy scheme. Flash uses her looks to coax a 13-year-old boy into her dune buggy while Firecat visits the boy’s father, a bank manager. Claiming that his partner has kidnapped the boy—and using a carefully timed phone call to sell the illusion—Firecat nabs ransom money and flees. Then Flash releases the boy unharmed. Soon, the bank manager tells local top cop Sheriff Thurston (Dub Taylor) what happened, so Thurston puts his incompetent deputies on the case. Next, an operative of the bank’s insurance company, towering Milo Pewitt (Richard Kiel), shows up to help recover the bank’s money. Thereafter, Firecat and Flash zoom around the boonies, hiding at places including a whorehouse, while being chased by bumbling cops and the relentless Milo.
          Leading man Davis has an amiable quality, emulating Paul Newman’s mischievous screen persona, and leading lady Sembera is competent and sexy. Taylor, always a hoot, energizes his scenes with southern-fried lunacy, at one point barking to the very tall Kiel: “You can kiss my ass if you can bend down that far!” Kiel, best known as “Jaws” from the James Bond blockbuster The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), is looser than usual, though he’s saddled with a trite characterization. Even at a scant 84 minutes, Flash and the Firecat eventually wears out its welcome. When Corman’s people made movies like this one, they knew that eventually some sort of emotional hit was required to give all the mayhem meaning. Conversely, the Sebastians’ brisk little movie runs on fumes.

Flash and the Firecat: FUNKY

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