by Brittany D. 

movie-posterMany things have unlikely beginnings. Basketball is from Canada. Panama Hats come from Ecuador, while Arabic numerals originated in India. The multibillion dollar industry of sports marketing also had a surprising start.

Rather than glamorous arenas, corporate sponsors can thank dusty racing tracks in 1970’s Southern California for their bounty.

This historical perspective, mixed with horsepower and drama, is the basis for ‘Snake and Mongoo$e’. Much more than a racing movie, the historical drama tells a story about family, friendship and adrenaline.

Plot Overview:

Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme (Jesse Williams) and Tom ‘The Mongoo$e’ McEwen (Richard Blake) are rising stars in NHRA drag racing. The drivers are also devoted husbands and fathers. Each man quickly emerges as a brand name in an otherwise unknown sport during the mid 1970’s.

Rivalries in sports are not uncommon. What sets the Prudhomme/McEwen feud apart is what happens away from sports. Their friendship and mutual respect also define ‘Snake and Mongoo$e’. Even today, the pair remains close friends. Art Spear (Noah Wyle), a Mattel executive, finds the horsepower and camaraderie an attractive marketing combo.

History Made:

The corporate sponsorship from Mattel is among the first and most successful of its kind. What results is the legendary Hot Wheels toy car series from Mattel. Cars raced by Prudhomme and McEwen before sparse crowds became household items across America. While cars are an American passion, Hot Wheels tells a story that brings drag racing into the mainstream.

Almost 40 years later, corporate sponsors are an integral part of sports. Drag races between two young drag racers were the unlikely sources for this success.

Filmmaking:

Director Wayne Holloway and Executive Producer Elliott Broidy chose to use archived footage of the races. Given a low budget, the pulse pounding action would have been difficult and expensive to recreate. The decision seems to have paid off, as grainy footage from NHRA archives adds authenticity to ‘Snake and Mongoo$e’.

YouTube videos of the duels quickly gained followers. Low cost marketing and film screenings in racing hotbeds have been crucial to the movie’s success.

Indianapolis hosted the ‘Snake and Mongoo$e’ premiere in late August. Over 30 years after their racing careers ended, Prudhomme and McEwen were mobbed by autograph seekers. Similarly, their ‘Cuda’ and ‘Duster’ funny cars that were the basis for Hot Wheels, were also prized for photos.

Broad Appeal:

‘Snake and Mongoo$e’ also features suspense off the track. The racing duo struggles to balance their young families and budding racing careers. Lynn Prudhomme (Ashley Hinshaw) and Judy McEwen (Kim Shaw) support their husbands despite the toll taken by their passion for racing. It is ultimate success on and off the track that endears ‘Snake and Mongoo$e’ to a broad audience.

Theaters and Upcoming DVD Release:

Playing in select cities, ‘Snake and Mongoo$e’ is scheduled for release on digital download on March 4th and Blu-Ray and DVD release on April 8th.

Cast:

  • Jesse Williams: Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme
  • Richard Blake: Tom ‘The Mongoo$e’ McEwen
  • Ashley Hinshaw: Lynn Prudhomme
  • Kim Shaw: Judy McEwen
  • Noah Wyle: Art Spear
  • Fred Dryer: Ed Donovan