Fireball 500 (1966)

Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Fabian, Chill Wills,
Stock car racer Dave Owens plays into the hands of whiskey runners by agreeing to drive in a cross-country road race. He is assisted by Jane Harris and Sonny Leander Fox. Soon Dave and Sonny begin a friendly rivalry for Jane. Track a
  • 5.0 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Leo Townsend, Writer:
  • William Asher, Director:
  • Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, Producer:
5 / 10

The kids from Philadelphia

Nice racing sequences and to my knowledge the only feature film to have boththose kids from Philadelphia Frankie Avalon and Fabian in the cast are theattractions that Fireball 500 has. The title comes from the logo that Avalonhas on his car.

Avalon is a professional racing driver and has arrived in North Carolina to tryhis hand at the stock car circuit where local boy Fabian rules. Fabian alsoruns a little moonshine on the side and of course is wary of the revenuers.These two as in the teen idol business were rivals in those late Eisenhower/Kennedy years.

The women they are rivals over are Annette Funicello and Julie Parrish, youwatch the film to see who gets who. There's someone else in the picturewho would like to eliminate both these guys. I won't reveal but it won't behard to figure it out.

Avalon is slightly miscast in a film that I think Elvis Presley might have hadfirst dibs on and rejected. Or Colonel Parker probably rejected for him.

Two very colorful character players Chill Wills and Harvey Lembeck are in the cast. Wills is Annette's uncle and Lembeck is most definitely not doingErich Von Zipper.

For aging fans of the leads like myself.

7 / 10

Frankie and Annette get off the beach

Stock car driver Dave Owens (Frankie Avalon) likes Jane Harris (Annette Funicello). He has a friendly rivalry with Sonny Leander Fox (Fabian) who has many groupies. He gets tricked into running moonshine. Next, he's trapped between criminals and the law.

Frankie and Annette have left the beach to try something more dangerous. At the end of the day, they can't. I would suggest something harder than moonshine but that would alienate their fans. It's a no-win situation. Their star power is fading and they have nowhere to go. Quite frankly, they are probably best fitted to be teachers in art school. Otherwise, they are always going to be Frankie and Annette on the beach. I do like some of the car action. There are a few good crashes although the actors are nowhere near the real driving. I just can't take this seriously.

4 / 10

Stockcars and sourmash

"Beach Party" leads Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, and Harvey Lembeck do what they can with C-minus material involving an ace stockcar racer who gets involved with moonshiners; the Internal Revenue wants him to work both sides, but he's more interested in finding out who's thwarting the midnight runs by playing chicken with the drivers. Barely involving 'grown up' effort from American International, not as good as their later stockcar comedy-drama "Thunder Alley", however Avalon and Annette both get to sing (his number, "My Way" is one of the best tunes Avalon ever got in an AIP film). There's a pretty good brawl between Frankie and Harvey Lembeck, but Fabian, as Frankie's nemesis, is under-used, as is Annette. Good photography by Floyd Crosby, cute opening Claymation segment by Clokey Films, but the story is so muddled we never know where we stand with these one-dimensional characters. *1/2 from ****

1 / 10

Reckless Driving 101

Leaving the beach behind, drag racing Frankie Avalon (as Dave Owens) and statuesque Annette Funicello (as Jane Harris) get involved with bootlegging racer Fabian (as Sonny Leander Fox). Pretty Julie Parrish (as Martha Brian) is Mr. Avalon's main squeeze this time around; in one of the film's few memorably bad scenes, she gets a firm grip on shirtless Avalon's buttocks. In a related move, Fabian's fan club, the "Eager Beavers" express devotion on their derrières. Chill Wills is (as Big Jaw) and Harvey Lembeck (as Charlie Bigg) are among the unfortunate supporting cast. Director William Asher's American International team absolutely needed a change of pace, but "Fireball 500" was about as unnecessary a postscript as could be produced.

6 / 10

Film Editing Team Rises to the Challenge

"Fireball 500" (1966) is technically the best production to ever come out of "American International". The cinematography looks as good as the best Hollywood productions from that period; with unexpectedly good shot selection and nice close-ups that you would expect to see now but were highly original back in 1966.

This is a film that should be shown to would-be film and video editors, as there are few finer examples of matching stock footage with first and second unit output; all done by linear editing (try it some time if you want a real challenge). When a low budget film tries to be high budget by inserting stock footage it is usually a disaster, but here there is a pretty good match of film stock and the track announcer's audio makes the action sequences easy to follow. You might recognize Fred R. Feitshans Jr's editing style from the old "Adventures in Paradise" television show.

The story is ordinary-straight action adventure and romance, no comedy like AIP's beach movies even though it does feature alumni Frankie, Annette, and Harvey Lembeck. There are three good Hernrig and Styner songs: "Fireball 500", "My Way", and "Turn Around"; sung by Frankie with help on the last one from Julie Parrish. Annette sings "Step Right Up" which mostly leaves you amazed that anyone ever bought her records.

As usual Annette is very buttoned-up and chaste but Parrish is hot enough to carry the whole film. Interestingly Annette pairs up with Fabian and Frankie gets Julie. Fabian also has a group of racetrack groupies who follow him around, four of the them are mid-60's Playboy centerfolds with one of those the Playmate of the year.

Frankie gets into a serious fight with both Fabian and Lembeck. These are decently staged and cut but unnecessary to the story and rather comical when you consider the participants. Casting these two singers was apparently an attempt to expand the target audience from teenage boys and stock car fans by including something for teenage girls. This was at best a lame idea since by 1966 those two were considered wimpy has-beens compared to "Herman's Hermits", let alone the "Beatles" and the "Stones".

There is tons of interesting stock car footage, making "Fireball 500" a nice historical archive. Overall it was a fun film to watch but nothing you would take very seriously.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.