Watched Jul 06, 2012
Steve Grzesiak’s review:
Apparently Duel wasn't the only made for TV film produced and aired during the 1970s that features malevolence and cat-and-mouse action on a dusty desert road. There was The California Kid, too.
The California Kid isn't really in its class, but then again Duel is peerless when it comes to TV movies - it is arguably the greatest of all time of its type. However, with its impressive cast of upcoming talent (Martin Sheen in the title role, Nick Nolte as a young mechanic, Michelle Phillips as a waitress / love interest) I would have thought that this would be better known.
Sheriff of a small town Vic Morrow is shoving speeders to their deaths outside of his town and when one of the deceased turns out to be the brother of Sheen, he travels to the town in his extraordinary souped up vehicle with the intent of finding out what happened and heads for a predictable showdown on the highway with Morrow.
Actually, the title refers to the name of the car (I don't know what sort of car it is, a Vauxhall Astra is the only car I can identify and it's not one of them) rather than Sheen, and when it rolls into view, you really do think think that you are in for a really campy treat. What you end up getting is a fairly sedate drama with Morrow stomping round town and growling at people for the most piddling of naughtiness while Sheen circles him with his investigations as to what he's up to.
It's probably a bit too sedate, though, and even for a 74 minute film it feels far too slow at times. That said, Morrow is excellent and doesn't overdo a fairly stereotypical small-town sheriff role. Sheen is also excellent, and you also wonder why Michelle Phillips hasn't gone on to have much of a career post-Mamas And The Papas. A bit of a shame, that, as she's really good in what could have been quite an anonymous and uninteresting role.
Slightly different from what I expected but worth looking out for if you like a road-based thriller, and a decent companion piece to Duel. It's up on YouTube in good quality here - www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKqgYVQ7K5E