The social ramifications of stuff blowed up real good weigh heavily on Judge Paul Corupe's conscience.
…"…and he's okay, folks!"
In the realm of sports videos, there's nothing more personally troubling than "crash" films, in which our humanitarianism clashes with animalistic urges to watch stuff get blowed up real good. Lightyear's DVD release of Crash Encounters is an injury-free 60-minute celebration of the spectacular extremes of vehicular destruction on the quarter mile track.
Crash Encounters promises a pant-load of dragstrip crashes, and that's just what you get here—montage after montage of burning, disintegrating, and otherwise exploding dragsters set to a jaunty musical score. Strict safety precautions and on-hand emergency crews ensure against serious injuries, so rest assured that the guilt of watching powerful manned vehicles slam into guardrails at 175 mph is always absolved with a shot of a shaken—but obviously conscious—driver waving to his devoted fans.
Crash Encounters originally ran as an episode of syndicated hot rod television program Nitro Warriors, hosted by famed drag racer "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and motorsports artist Kenny Youngblood. Occasionally breaking in with a little narration, the commentators explain how the sight of a crash can often worry the family of a racer, and provide a bit of detail about the amount of money lost each time a racecar is totaled. But when it comes down to it, it's the money shots that move units, and the hosts are not afraid to sit back with the audience to enjoy the parade of vehicles exploding into balls of flaming engine parts.
Once the racetrack footage is exhausted, crashing boats, ATVs, and motorcycles all make curious appearances in this release. I was prepared to forgive Crash Encounters for straying from its original purpose of enlightening us with "Drag Racing Mishaps, Crashes, Blow-Ups, Fires, Collisions, and Explosions," but then the film turned another sharp corner. An entire chapter dedicated to monster trucks running over junk cars? Does this even qualify as "crash footage"?
While there's no denying that this DVD generally delivers what it promises, the nonchalant attitude towards potentially fatal crashes presented in this and other "crash and burn" films is always disconcerting. They seem to show an idyllic world where breathtaking racetrack explosions always end in sighs of relief and hugs all around, and the only "loss" is the expense of a ruined dragster. I'm aware that a heavier message would weigh down the good-humored intentions of the film, but many of these crashes have claimed the lives of talented drivers throughout the years, and the subject frankly demands some decorum.
In terms of quality, Crash Encounters looked just slightly better than many of the other releases in Lightyear's series of Dean Papadeas-produced drag racing DVDs. Some of the scenes actually appeared sharp and bright, while others retained that "fuzzy" look. Source and compression artifacts are plentiful, with older footage appearing particularly distorted. I've heard better stereo sound out of window speakers at the drive-in. There are no extras included, either.
With ample footage of stuff blowing up, Crash Encounters may not be the best or most informative drag racing documentary, but it makes a good rental for fans of the sport. It's perfectly suited for those unable to reconcile their appetite for destruction with their desire to stay on the couch.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lightyear Entertainment
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