Race With the Devil

By no means will I argue that Race With the Devil is the best of three old Warren Oates movies being screened this month at the GI. (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is followed by Two-Lane Blacktop.) But in 1975, as a young filmgoer, it was the most terrifying thing I'd seen in a theater. Oates and Peter Fonda (plus wives) are piloting a luxury RV from San Antonio north toward an Aspen ski vacation. En route, they stumble upon a band of virgin-sacrificing Satanists—and the chase is on! Now the lumbering RV isn't very fast, and the Satanists aren't terribly effective (they use clubs and hidden rattlesnakes as weapons). But Race is, nonetheless, a race, complete with a car-smashing highway pursuit, fiery crashes, narrow escapes, and Fonda blasting away with his shotgun atop the RV. And here's what I didn't grasp in '75: The Manson murders (and cults generally) were still seared into the American mind; and Race fuses that threat with Nixonian normalcy. The film is creepiest as Oates and company begin to realize that the helpful squares they meet on the road may not be so helpful or square. Evil can wear a mask of small-town probity. (PG) BRIAN MILLER

Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Starts: Sept. 16. Continues through Sept. 24, 2011

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