"Back then, sponsors with deep pockets were unheard of, so everything had to be homebuilt in their own shop and paid for with their own money. It cost $7,000 to build this race car. It ran in the low 10s and high 9s at almost 150 mph, which was very respectable for the mid-'60s. This photo was taken in 1968 in Rockford, Illinois, with Joe at the wheel."
Watch This: R&C Movie Review"Tales of the Rat Fink"We got a phone call from Moldy Marvin in late March. He's the guy behind the annual Rat Fink Party we told you about last month, as well as the one who told us about the new Ed Roth movie, "Tales of the Rat Fink," which we announced in the June issue.
He had arranged for us to attend the L.A. pre-release screening of director Ron Mann's documentary tribute to Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. The promotional material they handed us at the screening describes Roth as a "Renaissance man ... who engineered a shift in mid-20th century culture." Even to those of us who love Big Daddy's cars and creatures, that sounded like a little bit of an overstatement-until we let the movie make its case. Now we can't help but wonder what the world would look like without Roth's influence-not just on cars, but on TV, music, fashion, and all other elements of pop culture.
The movie starts and ends with Roth's last appearance at a Rat Fink Reunion event, and then traces his life from his high school days, through his years as a T-shirt painter, his influential show cars, the models, and his cartoons, including, of course, his alter ego, Rat Fink.
Although it focuses on Roth, "Tales of the Rat Fink" is also about the history of hot rodding, put in the context of American culture during his heyday. Ron Mann packs in all kinds of vintage footage, including film from El Mirage in 1946, the Santa Ana drags in 1952, clips from old hot rod movies, TV commercials, and newsreel-style film of teenage hot rodders on the street.
When we reported that "Tales of the Rat Fink" features the voices of Alex Xydias, Robert Williams, Ann-Margaret, and others, we weren't quite sure how that was going to work. Turns out, it works fine. The celebrities portray various cars, such as Roth's customs, traditional hot rods, and other vehicles (a few examples: Billy Gibbons is the voice of the Beatnik Bandit, Brian Wilson is Roth's Surfite, and the Smothers Brothers are the NHRA Safety Safari wagon and trailer). The cars do the talking, explaining or describing some aspect of Roth or hot rod history. Most of the narration is from Roth's point of view. Since Big Daddy passed away early in the making of the movie, John Goodman provides the voice-over, and is eerily convincing as Roth.
"Tales of the Rat Fink" makes the case that Roth's influence was not only in his cars and artwork, but also in his character. During his most influential period, he was the crazy pied piper of nonconformity in a world that mostly didn't get it. But for lots of kids growing up in that world, Roth was a hero. At one point in the movie, Roth/Goodman reads a fan letter from one of those kids that says it all: "Thanks, Big Daddy. You made being a weirdo cool."
We don't know where "Tales of the Rat Fink" will be playing in theaters or when it will come out on video, but if you're any kind of Roth fan, hot rodder, or weirdo, you'll want to find it and see it.