> SMELL THE RUBBER BURN. HEAR THE WOMEN SCREAM
I’D KNOWN of Corky due to my obsession with wild 1970s street machines and the custom Barracuda that has a starring role in the film. However, I was honestly expecting your typical 1970s B-grade spoof with cheesy dialogue, some great car stunts, crudely funny humour and the odd titty thrown in for good measure. How wrong was I?
Corky Curtiss (Blake) is a young mechanic who has tasted victory in the minor ranks of stock car racing, but his loose stylings and risk-taking behind the wheel make him damaged goods when it comes to scoring a drive. It’s really hard to like him – he is a sickeningly oblivious narcissist who treats his family and friends like garbage in his quest to further his own agenda.
After a run-in with his boss, Randy (O’neal), Corky quits his job, then ditches his long-suffering wife Peggy Jo (Rampling) and their two toddlers. He hits the road with his best mate Billy (Connelly) to chase a dream drive with Richard Petty.
The thrill of early track success as they race their way across the country is quickly overshadowed by Corky blowing their winnings with his selfishness, bad temper and drunken behaviour.
This places an insurmountable strain on Corky and Billy’s relationship, resulting in fisticuffs between the friends as the wheels begin to fall off their adventure.
After being unceremoniously snubbed by Richard Petty and stock car boss Tobin Hayes (Stevens), Corky finally realises his dreams are dashed, and his suppressed demons come to the surface. He returns home an inwardly broken man but outwardly full of bravado, a façade he is unable to sustain when he learns that Peggy Jo has soldiered on in his absence and won’t tolerate any more of his crap.
This is the final straw for Corky, who throws himself headlong into a drunken stupor, with paranoid revenge front and centre. He attempts to go out in a wild blaze of glory, but that too fizzles out into a fiery mess of failure.
A REAL mixed bag, Corky is a depressing, often cringeworthy yet powerful flick where Robert Blake steals the show. You can’t help but hate his character, but Blake plays this lonesome loser to a T. Charlotte Rampling as Peggy Jo does well to spin gold from straw with her brief appearances – as you’d expect from an actress who already had a solid decade-long career at the time and is still going strong today. Thank goodness for the abundance of car action – it is just the tonic to balance the film’s bleak intensity.