It took me a bit of time to get around to seeing the Snake & Mongoose movie. While it was released last September, the movie was never available in the few theaters we have here on the California Central Coast and as such, I had to wait for it to come out On Demand a month or so ago.
My take might be a little different than most unless, like me, you can specifically relate to drag racers and the era. I was born to a Top Fuel dragster driver from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and without jumping ahead, I grew up with Hot Wheels at their onset.
Generally the story revolves around the connection between Southern Californians Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen. Through the mid-60s, drag racing was nothing more than a minor sport at best that most viewed as a bunch of grease-monkeys and ne’re-do-wells. Essentially drag racing started in Southern California, which is where this legendary account begins.
Whatever you may have thought about either of these men, what they did with bringing in corporate money to a relatively unknown and certainly unappreciated sport, revolutionized drag racing, if not motorsports as a whole. The movie offers up Don Prudhomme as a rising super star in the sport by the mid-‘60s, while Tom McEwen was one the established drivers. In truth, Prudhomme was a racer through-and-through and probably one of the best all-time drag racers, period. McEwen was good at racing but he was maybe the single brightest mind when it came to promoting – he was a visionary. The story does a good job of telling that narrative.
As a marketer, I’ve known the chronicles of how McEwen was able to get a meeting with Hot Wheels toy-maker Mattel and secure the first full-blown sponsorship of its kind. The rivalry of the Snake and Mongoose led to McEwen’s putting the deal together and the two barnstormed the nation, giving Mattel everything they wanted and more with massive exposure.
Whether the rivalry was made up or otherwise, doesn’t matter. The competitive nature of the Snake combined with the Mongoose’s flamboyant and sometimes playboy style comes out in the movie, making for an interesting drama and arrangements between the two. The passionate world of drag racing merging with the new dynamic of the corporate world is indeed legendary in the world of marketing, if not the entire sports world. Also, if you’re nostalgic for ‘70s, sideburns and polyester, this film has it all with a human side to the era. Although most of this motion picture revolves around the 70s (Hot Wheels sponsorship), the period starts in the ‘50s and goes to the ‘80s.
The movie was great, but then I know about the story and seeing all the old names and sites is nostalgic for me. Whether someone who doesn’t have that same connection will feel the same way – I’m not sure. To tie in old shots of the great races during the era is fine, but I don’t know how that would go over with someone who doesn’t relate to the old reels. Personally, I liked the story and thought it was engaging and showed the enduring culture of drag racing.
I’m not a professional movie reviewer, just a fan of nostalgia and drag racing … and music. The soundtrack was pretty cool. My view is tainted, but I will tell you that the accuracy regarding the tale of these two drivers rivalry is pretty good and the historic nature for the premise of the Snake and Mongoose is real; it directly led to the professional sport we have now.
If you are a drag racing fan, you’ll likely love this flick, if not, well, I’m not sure unless you like period pieces from the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a cool movie and represents everything good, bad or otherwise about drag racing.
Daryle W. Hier