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Joy Ride To Nowhere
(1977)
 

Director: Mel Welles                            
Cast:
Leslie Ackerman, Sandy Serano, Mel Welles


The actor in such movies like Little Shop of Horrors tried his hand at directing, as well as acting, in the car chase movie Joy Ride To Nowhere. I use the word "tried", because this is a pretty poor excuse for a movie. In fairness to Welles, he was obviously working with a budget that might have been even less than many other Roger Corman movies in the 60s, so a low budget can make some difference. However, Corman showed at times that with a lot of work and imagination, an ultra low budget movie can have some life; Joy Ride To Nowhere actually manages to make car chases and crashes as humdrum as watching molasses run. Sometimes, that's how fast the chases themselves seem to be going at times.

At the beginning of the movie, there's a "terrible" car crash, prompting a flashback of previous events, taking up most of the remainder of the movie. High school students Cindy (Serrano) and Liah (Ackerman) are two best friends living in a small town somewhere in California. Both are unhappy with their lives; shy Cindy is pregnant and reluctant to tell her largely absentee father who is constantly spending time with his girlfriend. Liah has an abusive alcoholic father, and has decided to leave town and try her luck in L.A. Though initially reluctant to follow, Cindy later that days blows up finding out her father is gone for another weekend, resulting in her stealing her father's car, picking up Liah, and heading to L.A.

Along the way, the girls get into a number of incredibly boring vignettes; the most exciting things happening to them involve them losing a wallet, and stopping for several minutes to watch a pack of guys talking and bragging about their motorcycles, trucks, funny cars, etc. (I may be wrong, but I don't remember seeing a shot of the girls watching this excitement during the segment.) Past the halfway point of the movie, some signs of a plot appear; small-time mobster Tank McCall (Welles) invites the girls over to his pad for drinks, showers, and underage sex. While he's in the shower, the girls decide to "borrow" some money from his wallet and "borrow" his fancy car outside. What the girls don't know is that in the trunk of the car there is $2 million from an armored car robbery earlier that evening. When Tank finds out what happens, he and his goons start the pursuit that takes up most of the rest of the movie.

Let's face it: Joy Ride To Nowhere is a terrible movie. The script (co-written by Buck Flower!) is a mishmash of small stories, with no central story appearing until more than halfway through the movie. Most of the characters are idiots, probably because they seem to mainly have sex on the brain. The technical aspects of the movie are laughable; at one point of the movie, a car stops at the side of a road. When the car stopped, the cameraman shut off the camera so everyone could get ready for the next part - with the camera at the same place and angle! By the position of the shadows in the shot, it took a l-o-n-g time to get ready for the next short and simple shot. The rest of the movie, though not as glaringly bad, is generally poorly shot, poorly lit, and with post-dubbed audio of inferior quality. The bad quality of the movie especially includes the chase sequences, though it appears Welles did not have anything to do with them. (A credit at the beginning of the movie states: "All action sequences written and directed by Ronald Ross") Welles or Ross, these action sequences would even embarrass the makers of the worst Keystone Kop chases. Joy Ride's action sequences are filled with moments that make you utter, "What the f__k?" out loud, with the vehicular action constantly cutting to a shot that has no proper lead up to warrant being there. The movie's ineptness may be explained by the name of the second assistant director: "Skip Schoolnik" (Skippy later directed Hide and Go Shriek) Anyway, the smashing and crashing itself still wouldn't be exciting even if it was properly edited. And the final scene, where the eventual fate of Cindy's baby and the discussion about it will strike many viewers as somewhat tasteless.

Despite me disliking the movie overall, I found there were a few things that I did like about it. My favorite, and the one I found most intriguing, was the portrayal of the friendship between the two girls. First, praise to Welles for casting two actresses that actually look like they are high school age, and can act in the manner that teenage girls act. Cindy and Liah several times get into conversations that actually sound more fresh and believable that you'd think. Both girls are obviously close friends, but they don't need to tell each other that; they know the other will be there for them. With this in mind, they are free to even manipulate each other. At one point in the movie, Cindy expresses thoughts of returning home; Liah immediately puts an end to that by immediately blurting out "Wanna go back to your father and his girlfriend?" - delivered in a tone that seems clear that Liah doesn't want Cindy to abandon her. As well, ordinary things like the girls brushing their teeth together seem relaxed and feel less scripted. The movie is also interesting that it can be seen as a kind of predecessor to Thelma and Louise, with the theme of two women on the run together. Though I doubt that Welles was trying to create a feminist theme in this movie, the movie develops such a quality, with two women sticking together, willingly doing dangerous things, and fleeing from authority (read: men). And like Thelma and Louise, there's a scene with a rape attempt and a rescue. Though Welles botches this scene somewhat by cutting to events elsewhere at the time, the scene still manages to be creepy, despite the fact that you know what will happen and how it will end up. Could this movie have inspired Thelma and Louise? I doubt it, but you never know. So despite being overall a terrible movie, viewers forced to watch Joy Ride To Nowhere will at least find some elements of the experience not so painful at all.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Taking The Heat, Survival Quest, Run, Angel, Run

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