Picks and Pans Review: Nitro Warriors I

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Even those who are not drag-racing fanatics—surely there are at least 15 or 20 of you out there who haven't been spending as much time at the strip as you should—may find this hour-long tape fascinating. For one thing, the thousands of hours and millions of dollars invested in constructing these often grotesque-looking vehicles and watching them perform their quarter-mile sprints is one of those peculiar, born-in-the-U.S.A. phenomena. For another, producer Dean Papadeas uses his seven cameras with considerable imagination. The competition, a day of racing at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix last January, is shot and edited so that it becomes not just a record of a sporting event but a surrealistic montage, with overpowering, distorted closeups, frequent bursts of flame and smoke and the eerie, otherworldly appearance of the helmeted, fire-suited drivers. There is also a constant rumble of naturalistic sound behind the track-side announcers, Jon "Thunderlungs" Lundberg and pioneer driver Don "Big Daddy" Garlits. While at their worst moments they seem about to lapse into the raving excesses common to wrestling commentators, they usually stay within reasonable limits, and Garlits, especially, is a disarmingly articulate observer. He throws around a lot of drag-race jargon without explanation—for example, he doesn't tell you that drivers "burn out" their tires with a brief run just before a race so that the tires will be hot and mold themselves to the road better; when he says that a car is "wrenched by" someone, Garlits means he (or sometimes she) is the head mechanic. But Big Daddy also conducts some amusing interviews. After driver John Force wins his final heat, Garlits talks to mechanic Austin Coil, who says that one reason Force won is "over this past winter he's come up with enough money to where he said we can play hard ball, and I finally had the chance to see if some of my wild ideas would work." So what are you waiting for? All you bench-racers (Monday morning quarterbacks) should stop smokin' your tires (spinning your wheels) and head out to pick up this tape. (Main Event, $29.95; 800-227-3835)

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