STARS/**** Image D Sound D
starring Raymond Cruz, Mark Dacascos, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Traci Lords
screenplay by Jerome Gary
directed by Mary Lambert
by Walter Chaw Unspeakably horrendous, Showtime's excruciating Dragstrip Girl finds its way to home video eight years after its initial airing. There is nothing to recommend this film save perhaps a quarter of a Traci Lords breast glimpsed briefly from behind. It's appalling in every conceivable measure of quality, from acting to screenplay to direction to editing; the only thing that kept me going is the ghoulish realization that the lovely Natasha Gregson Wagner (who is an exquisitely bad actress) now has a period drag-racing movie just like her mom Natalie Wood. (They even share the same costume in a particularly tasteless homage.) I can only think that Dragstrip Girl is getting a video release now because the surprise success of star Mark Dacascos's Brotherhood of the Wolf might sucker a few people into renting the benighted thing. That avaricious, spur-of-the-moment thinking explains why the the film's DVD transfer is so awful, but it doesn't explain why Dragstrip Girl itself is, too.
Good girl Laura (Wagner) falls in with a greaser from the wrong side of the tracks, Johnny (Dacascos). She's a Cinderella, he's a car thief with a wheelchair-bound dependent (a.k.a. "heart of gold")--their star-cross'd love affair interfered with at every turn by illiterate roughneck Doogie (Raymond Cruz), Soc jock boyfriend (Christopher Crabb), and stock gumshoe Detective Dryden (Richard Portnow), who gets the biggest unintentional howler of the film with his exit line, sighing, "The slaughter of innocence." Somewhere along the way, Johnny steals Laura's diary from her car (don't ask), but nothing ever comes of that. Come to think of it, nothing ever comes of anything in Dragstrip Girl--its plotting is so arbitrary and obscure that it plays like history's most banal haiku.
The one thing to recommend Dragstrip Girl might be that its dialogue is so ear-bleeding and its acting so bizarre and ghastly that there are moments that play with a kind of David Lynch-ian surrealism. As involvement with the film never threatens to happen at any juncture, there's a built-in detachment--and as one can never make sense of anything the characters do or say, there's an attendant sense of confused dread. Kirkegaard made a career out of this sort of existential detachment and the fear and trembling that results. Then again, that Dragstrip Girl inspires core disquiet because of its confounding badness is probably not reason enough to see it.
Released by Buena Vista Home Video in its original broadcast aspect ratio, Dragstrip Girl looks awful. It's grainy, the negative is badly flawed in several places, colours are muted and smeared, and the black levels are so off that it's blissfully impossible to detect detail during night scenes. As for the DD 2.0 Surround audio: there's a scene early on in Dragstrip Girl where Johnny and his heart of gold discuss building the better car engine. If you watch very closely, you'll see that neither actor is moving their lips for thirty seconds or so of dialogue. The irony is that this pathetic bit of dubbing is possibly the clearest exchange in a film marred with garbled sound and muted effects; whether the fault of the source or the transfer, I'm not certain--sufficed to say there's enough blame to go around.
The nearly featureless disc is rounded out with trailers for such winners as Shannon Doherty's Jailbreakers, Renée Zellweger's Shake, Rattle, and Rock, and Alyssa Milano's Confessions of a Sorority Girl. The thinking being, I wager, that if you've rented Dragstrip Girl on your own, you might also rent the other bathetic pieces of chunder commissioned by Showtime concurrently with this film. Originally published: February 22, 2002.