There are no exploding heads in Fast Company, no penile growths or malformed fetuses or vaginal stomach slits. Not a single vaguely sexual bodily penetration. Nothing at all, in fact, to identify the film as being the work of body-horror specialist David Cronenberg. Released following Shivers and Rabid, Fast Company is perhaps the only film in Cronenberg’s vast filmography to lack all of the easily identifiable themes and motifs that traditionally mark his work. The only thing Fast Company says about Cronenberg the person and artist is that the dude really, really likes drag racing. Auteurists should probably look elsewhere.
Fans of well-crafted B movies, on the other hand, will be right at home. Set in the world of corporate-sponsored drag racing, Fast Company deals with a team of racers led by Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson (William Smith) as they struggle against a rival driver (Cedric Smith) and the team’s evil corporate overlord (John Saxon). The film doesn’t go anywhere unexpected (Johnson must maintain his integrity in the face of his enemies’ increasingly shady and violent attempts to stop him), but Cronenberg keeps it chugging entertainingly along.
His compositions are characteristically crisp and muscular, the editing sharp and rhythmic. The racing scenes are never less than thrilling because Cronenberg utilizes unusual camera angles and techniques, including frequent inside-the-car and point-of-view shots, to increase tension and put the audience inside the driver’s headspace. And even if the extra-racing scenes are never that adventurous, the film’s cast of B-movie character actors turns in consistently strong, pulpy work.
There’s not much subversion in Fast Company; unlike in Cronenberg’s Crash, the cars don’t function as metaphors for the inhumanity of modern society or for its characters’ violent sexual urges. They’re just cars, powerful and loud, that look cool and go fast. And in Cronenberg’s hands, that’s almost enough.
Nearly unseen on American theater screens, Fast Company gets a gorgeous Blu-ray transfer: film grain is faithfully retained, maintaining the film's striking 1970's aesthetic; the palette of primary colors is rendered bright and clear; and fragmenting and motion blur are virtually nonexistent. The disc contains several options for surround-sound viewing, all of which serve the purpose of recreating the feeling of being at a race. It's loud and overwhelming-just as it should be.
Cronenberg turns in a dry, somewhat dull commentary track, and there are two nice featurettes, one focusing on funny, engaging character actors Smith and Saxon, the other on repeated Cronenberg cinematographer Mark Irwin. The real meat of the package, however, is in two of Cronenberg's early student films, Stereo and Crimes of the Future, both of which have remained unreleased up until now. The two hour-long films, with their enigmatic imagery and lack of any dialogue other than voiceover tracks, are very similar, and neither is entirely successful, but their presence on the disc makes it unmissable for Cronenberg fans.
Fast Company may not be much more than a footnote in Cronenberg's career, but this disc is a must-own for followers of his work.