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Go, Speed! April 3, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Cartooning, Japan, Other.
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Sandra Bullock was a guest on The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago.  She is amazingly funny, and held her own with Jon Stewart, cracking him up.  Maybe she seems even funnier than she actually is because she is so conventionally attractive.  I never expect somebody of either sex who is that attractive to be so witty.  Anyway, they were talking about her current movie, which is apparently all jumbled, temporally speaking (although some reviews assert that it is jumbled in many other ways, too).  Events don’t appear sequentially in the narrative, like Slaughterhouse Five, I guess, although I haven’t seen the film, and probably won’t until it comes out on DVD.  Ms. Bullock pointed out that, as an actress, all films were like this to her, because they don’t film scenes in the order in which they will eventually appear.

Sometimes things are like this watching shows in syndication, too.  Remember M*A*S*H?  They had a final episode that wrapped up the lives of various prominent roles.  I don’t remember what happend to any of them because I was pretty bored with the show by then, but I know that they did. 

As a kid, I watched Speed Racer, and I always wondered what happened in the final episode. Did he ever find out that Racer X was actually his brother Rex Racer, who had run away from home many years before?  Did he ever marry his girlfriend Trixie? 

You can’t really find out from the official Speed Racer site, because they only summarize episodes from the first two or three disks, before they got bored, I guess.  I rented three of the five Speed Racer disks from netflix, and I found that the final two were only available for purchase.  So I ordered them from somewhere and we watched the final episode last week.  Since you, gentle reader, are dying to know what happened, I’ll summarize Episodes 51 and 52, “The Race Around the World.”

The episode begins as Speed enters the Around the World Grand Prix.  The winner is to be awarded “a small mountain of purest gold.”  Just before the race started, the sponsor, Mr. Goldminter, announced that there would be an additional prize.  The winner would also marry his daughter, the beautiful Lovelace Goldminter.

Naturally, Lovelace is horrified, and with her faithful servant/mechanic Oscar, she decides to enter the race.

Some of the racers, Lovelace among them, disguised as a boy, notice that the rules did not prohibit interfering with other racers, so they decide that they will do everything they can to wreck each others’ chances of winning.  Speed, of course, wants no part of such talk.  Quoth he:

All the gold in the world isn’t worth a man’s honor.

And,

I’ll win fair and square and no other way.

The race begins in California, with Formula 1 cars, and racers are soon pushing each other off the road and using dirty tricks to wreck the other cars.  They travel through Washington DC, for some reason, although their first destination is Miami.  Before they get to Miami, somebody working for Lovelace tampers with Speed’s jetboat.  So even though he is the first to arrive (naturally), his boat catches fire on the way to Brazil.  Speed and his assistant Sparky began to fix the boat just as Lovelace and Oscar comes by, dropping off Speed’s brother Spritle and his pet monkey, Chim Chim, who had sneaked aboard Lovelace’s boat, thinking that it was Speed’s. 

After repairing the boat, they get back in the race, only to find that Lovelace’s boat had crashed into some rocks.  Lovelace and Oscar are in imminent danger of being eaten by a shark, so Speed stops his boat and dives into the water with a knife in his teeth.  He kills the shark and tells them that they should row to a nearby island while that shark distracts the others in the area.  Then he gets back into the race.  Another assistant of Lovelace’s steals another jetboat and she gets back in the race, too.

When they reach Brazil, the racers transfer to fanboats to make their way up the Amazon.  Then they transfer to biplanes (!?!) for the rest of the journey through South America.  Racer number 4 (Reed Scrounge, if I caught it correctly, and his unnamed assistant) had thought ahead, installing a huge switchblade on one wing, with which he cut the wings off of most of the other planes, sending their pilots and crew to the ground.  Speed and Sparky crash in this manner and have to build a boat out of logs to make it the rest of the way to the next checkpoint.

Geography is abused in a number of ways, I think.  I’m relatively certain that there is no major river that flows from the headwaters of the Amazon to Tierra del Fuego.  At any rate, they get aboard submarines to travel to Antarctica, then snow trackers to the South Pole.  First Lovelace’s snow tracker is thrown into a crevasse. Speed pulls her out, and Spritle discovers, during the rescue, that she is actually a girl.  He tells Speed, but he doesn’t believe Spritle.  Speed calls her “the smart-aleck boy who travels with the old man.”

Then Speed’s snow tracker is destroyed by a land mine, placed by Scrounge.  He and Sparky rig a snow sailer out of the parts to continue.  In Antarctica, we see Scrounge’s true colors, the depths of his evil, when his assistant spots a flock of penguins and points them out to him.  Scrounge says:

Let’s have some fun with them.

And then he drives straight through.  It isn’t all that graphic, because the only type of gore that the cartoonists were comfortable with was explosions, but the point is well-made:  Scrounge is bad.  He’s a bad guy. 

The race resumes in Africa.  Although they are traveling from the South to the North, the race seems to take place entirely within the Sahara, in jeeps.  Scrounge lobs hand grenades from his jeep, dozens of them.  Speed thinks that it is Lovelace throwing the grenades, because Scrounge has painted her number on his jeep.  Um, they take motorcycles (with side cars) through Italy, then, finally, climb aboard the Mach 5, which takes them through Russia and Siberia.  At some point in Siberia, Lovelace runs out of gas.  Speed stops and loans her some.  They shake hands and he discovers that she is a girl, because of her soft hands.

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Unfortunately, Speed soon runs out of gas himself.  Racer X happens by (He is not competing. Perhaps his yurt was nearby.) and chews Speed out.  Speed had no obligation to help the other racers, Rex tells him.  He shouldn’t have let Lovelace have that gas.

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Speed realizes it was a stupid mistake for a professional racer to make, and he cries, eventually lying on his back and tearing grass out of the ground weeping and sobbing.  You can fight sharks for other drivers.  You can turn around and pull them out of a crevasse.  You can offer to give them a ride if their boat is smashed.  But do not, under any circumstances, give them your gasoline.  It is an odd code, but it is not ambiguous.

sr204-01-07.jpg

But Sparky watches Racer X drive away and notices that he had left a can of gas behind.   So they race towards Vlaidivostok, where they will catch a ship to take them to the final leg of the race, to Tokyo.  Scrounge attempts once again to run Speed off the road, and Speed hits his automatic jack, sending the Mach 5 into the air.  Scrounge flies off a cliff and his car blows up.  Although Scrounge’s car appears in the distance shots of the subsequent ticker-tape parade, he is not seen again.  Lovelace comes in second, and Speed wins.  He doesn’t claim Lovelace as his prize, but heads off to “more exciting adventures,” with Sparky in the car, saying

“Come on, Sparky. Let’s go!  There are more races to be won.”

sr104-01-07.jpg

So, none of the series’ loose ends are tied up.  Aside from a couple of episodes where people appear to have revelations of some sort (Episode 50, for example, where Speed tells Racer X that he thinks he is his brother Rex, and Rex punches him in the stomach and quits racing forever, in order to put more energy into his full-time secret-agent gig) the actual order of the episodes doesn’t really matter all that much. 

But now, after all these years of guessing, I know that for sure.  They left things open for the movie that is coming out next summer.  That’s thinking ahead.

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Comments»

1. strugglingwriter - April 3, 2007

Good synopsis. I enjoyed this post. It actually has me wanting to watch some of these crazy episodes if I had time for that sort of thing, of course :)

2. silverneurotic - April 4, 2007

Hey, I noticed that you were reading the “Jane Austen Book Club”…it’s by Karen Joy Fowler. How are you enjoying it?

3. caveblogem - April 5, 2007

strugglingwriter,

The first three discs were pretty fun, but it’s getting a little old now. We’re moving on to Ultraman now. I’m not sure that Speed Racer or Ultraman would have the same appeal to a girl. Both have female characters who are periodically strong, but are male-dominated to an alarming degree.

4. caveblogem - April 5, 2007

silverneurotic,

Thanks. This is the first thing I have ever read of hers. I don’t know why I find her name difficult to remember. I am very impressed by the storytelling, the writing. I am enjoying it very much.

5. dan k - May 15, 2007

good post

you have to always make time to kick back and enjoy life a little


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