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Each year when I venture south to Indianapolis, be it for the 500 or the Nationals, one of my favorite parts of the trip through central Illinois is going through the small town of Gibson City, a non-descript little place that could have easily served as a location shoot for a typical John Cougar video.
The central point of my affection for this little town is its drive-in theatre. Drive-ins used to dot the landscape back in the '50s and '60s, but now, like the rotary phone or the public library, are becoming ever harder to find. Motion picture studios had genuine divisions of their operations directed at producing films specifically for these venues, and, admittedly, they weren't always the best of cinematic enterprises. This brings us to a 1959 film from none other than one of the giants of this genre, Samuel A. Zarkhoff, the grindhouse classic, 'The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow'.
Now, one thing I have to get out of the way immediately is if you’re looking for a wealth of late '50s racing, look elsewhere. Aside from one brief duel down the canals of Los Angeles at the start of the film (between two GIRLS no less), there isn't a speck of racing in the entire film. And, since one of the girls bears a strong resemblance to a teenage Dick Sergeant in drag, I can't even attest to them actually being GIRLS, but I digress. (And it’s hard not to look at those canals and not think of another iconic '50s film, 'THEM' - you keep waiting for that wet-fan-belt-noise that the giant nuclear ants made.)
After this merry misadventure, we reconvene in the gang’s clubhouse, where we see that the "teenagers", who, in the tradition of movies of this nature, are all WELL into their late twenties, are gathered about their newest ally, a reporter by the name of Mr. Hendry (veteran character actor Russ Bender) who interviews club member Tommy Ivo, being portrayed by, uh, TV Tommy Ivo.
TV delivers all his lines with perfection, gives us the lowdown on his spring of '59 exploits with his dragster, which sets up a moment that had to have the kids back then howling -- a boob joke. One of the girls from the club hops onto the car, announces she’s a radiator cap and asks 'how do I look'? Whereupon our reporter friend makes the observation, "THEY look fine." Gales of derisive laughter, and the peasants rejoice. Hey, it was the fifties, and that’s about as pornographic as it could get.