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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Snake & Mongoose'

Dennis King Published: April 7, 2014

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Snake & Mongoose”

Octane junkies who enjoyed Ron Howard’s racing drama “Rush” should find similar mano a mano thrills in “Snake & Mongoose” (due out on DVD Tuesday), which charts an equivalent rivalry of hotshot drivers from the world of drag racing.

Where Howard’s film dramatized the ongoing rivalry between Formula 1 racecar drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, writer-director Wayne Holloway’s picture covers a spirited competition from the 1960s and ‘70s between drag racing stars Tom McEwen and Don Prudhomme that made headlines in the era and fueled the commercial popularity of a popular line of tiny Mattel toys called Hot Wheels.

The film follows a pretty standard biopic formula that reveals the colorful background of the two long-time nemeses – Prudhomme (Jesse Williams), nicknamed “The Snake,” and McEwen (Richard Blake), dubbed “The Mongoose.” Apparently, the two men – Prudhomme, the superior driver, and McEwen, the master showman, were long-time off-track friends. But in an effort to drum up some excitement and headline-grabbing controversy for their emerging motorsport, they concocted their superheated rivalry and played it to the hilt.

While the film lacks the high-gloss production values and the high-stakes drama of Howard’s movie, director Holloway gets lots of mileage out of revving, exciting archival footage of real drag races of the era and from a strong cast. Convincing performances are delivered by the two leads, who lend nice dashes of swagger and macho humor to their parts. Memorable supporting turns come from Fred Dryer, John Heard, Ian Ziering, Noah Wylie, and, especially, Tulsa native Tim Blake Nelson (sporting a bushy-bushy mustache) as a fulsome sportscaster.

“Snake & Mongoose” is rated PG-13 and runs 102 minutes. It’s being released by Anchor Bay.

- Dennis King