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Long before we were all winning life a quarter-mile at a time with Dominic Toretto and his crew, B-movie extraordinaire Roger Corman told the first fast and furious story under the title The Fast and the Furious in 1955.
In this above average B-tastic movie, Frank Webster (John Ireland) breaks out of jail after being wrongly convicted of murder. While out on the lam, laying low at a roadside diner, Webster crosses paths with Connie Adair (Dorthy Malone). Adair is a Jaguar-driving racer who made a pit stop in order to get some food before going on a cross-country race that ends in Mexico. Once Malone hears about the race, he decides to take Adair hostage. His plan is to use her and the race as cover in order to zip on down to Mexico and cross the border scot-free.
The film is a sustained note of an awkward cat and mouse game between Webster and Adair. She is constantly trying to ruin his plans and get him busted while he attempts to stay ahead of her traps. In one pretty hilarious bit, she pulls the keys out of the ignition and tosses them while Malone is driving in order to get him pulled over by police. There is something really interesting about the way this movie unfolds too. Instead of the regular, hostage falling in love with the misunderstood protagonist trope, Adair keeps trying to get Malone busted well into the third act. Like, there is even a point where they pull over and he fills her in on how he was wrongly convicted. He gives her the real heart-to-heart and she seems like she sides with him but nope, turns out they're in an area she knows cops frequent. She is just waiting for them while letting this poor schlub tell his life story. In the end, she ends up awkwardly siding with Webster but even then, it's so that he can turn himself in.
Both character’s decisions are constantly questionable and pretty hilarious to watch unfold. For a guy on the run, Malone takes plenty of outrageous chances and Adaire, although sassy and cool, makes some peculiar decisions herself, including one in which she sets fire to a wooden shack in which she is being held captive, in order to escape.
The film is both written and produced by Corman. In typical Corman fashion, there are plenty of stock footage edits of the racing action and many rushed scenes of dialogue. These manage to produce a film that is undeniably related to Corman’s ‘shoot now ask questions later’ approach. Of course, it seems the only questions that were mostly asked in post-production had to do with how much stock footage could be jammed into said film.
Speaking of stock footage, when 2001’s The Fast and The Furious director Rob Cohen and Universal settled on the title for their movie, they had set out to purchase the rights from Corman for the title. Again, in the purest Corman fashion possible, he turned down the cash and instead asked for an abundance of Universal Studios stock footage.
The differences between 55’ and 2001’s The Fast and the Furious are aplenty. And in no way is this a remake, folks. You won’t find any tanks crushing sports cars or nuclear sub chase scenes, but in any case, both films exist, have the same title, and got made. I consider both winners in their own right and like Dominic Torreto himself would say, “It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning is winning.” Indeed Dom. Indeed.