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'American Nitro' is back!

Wed, 09 Apr 2014

"Seventies drag-race mayhem is back!" bills "American Nitro," a schlocky drive-in exploitation film whose only quote of praise, from a dog-eared period issue of "Car Craft," reads, simply, "SPECTACULAR CRASHES!"

Director Bill Kimberlin says that he made "American Nitro" in 1979 as a response to Tom Wolfe's influential 1965 essay, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby." "I was just getting out of high school in a small town in Northern California when Wolfe's book came out," he said. "Nitro came about as my response to the car culture I was exposed to in the small valley town of Boonville, Calif. Instead of 'American Graffiti,' I made 'American Nitro.'" A fitting comparison, in fact, considering Kimberlin later worked for George Lucas at ILM, starting with" Return of the Jedi."

Now the movie is being released on DVD for the first time -- beware of bootlegs, warns the website -- and digitally remastered, while retaining the explosive charm and goofy narration of the 1979 original. That original trailer, by the way, is basically two minutes of screaming 1970s funny cars spliced with footage of Jungle Pam. Everybody loves Jungle Pam.

"Get off on a life-and-death struggle as you sit behind 2,000-hp engines and move into a split-second kick that gets you off!" The '70s were not a time known for subtlety.

All you need for low-buck entertainment is vintage footage of dragster mayhem, starring the Snake, the Mongoose, "TV" Tommy Ivo, plenty of funny car bodies rocketing skyward, the occasional fire burnout and vintage babes who could actually be our mothers. The DVD is now for sale for the low, low price of just $19.95 (plus shipping and handling), but the unintentional hilarity provided by the trailer is priceless. "The movie that turns Russian Roulette into kid's play!" If you sprechen sie deutsch, you can save yourself the $25 and watch the entire thing on YouTube, in German.

Thanks to Hot Rod magazine (where else?) for digging up this vital piece of Americana.

American Nitro
"Get ready...for a motion picture that will KNOCK YOUR WHEELS OFF!"

By Blake Z. Rong