By David G. Firestone
In 1990, a NASCAR movie was released that took the world by storm. It used real life racing footage, had great prop cars, and a well-known actor in the lead. That move was…Dorf Goes Auto Racing. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. Most people haven’t.
Written by, and starring comedian and actor Tim Conway, the Dorf series featured Conway as Duessel Dorf. Duessel Dorf was a rehash of the character Mr… Tudball, in the Mrs.. Wiggins skits from The Carol Burnett Show. Mr. Tudball runs an office, and wants to run it smoothly. Mrs.. Wiggins is his secretary, and constantly screws up. This was successful because of the chemistry that Burnett and Conway had. For the Dorf movies, Conway took Mr.. Oddball, added a hairpiece, and decided that the best way to rejuvenate the character is to make him shorter, so most of the scenes he is in, he is standing in a hole, with shoes on his knees.
Dorf Goes Auto Racing starts out with Door racing and winning the Formula 1 Championship, using questionable methods. When asked about his championship, he states that he has won the “Romanian 50, the Bulgarian 20, Liechtenstein 10, and the Minsk 2.”When the reporter states that “The Yanks say that until you’ve won with the stock car, you ain’t won yet.”When Dorf asks who said that, the reporter states “Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty, Richard Petty, Mark Martin.” So Dorf decides to race in NASCAR.
He gets signed by Col. Ovid Bolus, a cheap owner, who flies Dorf from Europe to California on a biplane. He meets Bolus’ assistant, Dipstick Taylor, a talkative nerd, who is slow to understand things, and they arrive at a hotel, where Dorf holds a press conference, attended by three people.
The scene cuts to Sonoma Raceway, then known as Sears Point Raceway. Dorf introduces his pit crew, Dipstick, Tony Chboike, who spends the entire movie eating a sandwich, Timber Jim, who is 7 feet tall, Willie Davis who incessantly plays a flute he carved by hand, Boom Boom, a hot blonde woman, who contributes nothing and who is ignored by the crew, and Pops Morgan and old man who is slow. This is followed by a sequence where Pops gets stuck on the track while cars fly by.
Dorf is next asked about his car, and a vintage Monte Carlo with steam pouring out of the engine is moved across the screen behind him. The announcer then sarcastically remarks “The pieces are in place, top driver, cream of the crop pit crew, a lousy car, and a greedy owner.” This is followed by interviews with Harry Gant, Ken Schrader, Geoff Bodine, and Michael Waltrip, who is working on his wrecked #30 Country Time Pontiac, while blaming Dorf.
As the announcer is talking, he is given a piece of paper, and he announces that with 30 minutes left to go before the race, Budweiser and Junior Johnson will supply Dorf with a car. The next scene is a series of qualifying events including Rusty Wallace, Harry Gant, and Sterling Marlin, Dorf being forced to qualify for his NASCAR license, and the Budweiser hauler driving to the track. Dorf somehow gets his license, and the car is given over to his incompetent pit crew. Dorf qualifies well. Another series of Interviews follows, including Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, and Darrell Waltrip, all of whom blast his abilities.
The scene shifts to a hotel where Sears Point is holding a banquet, and Dorf is a guest of honor. The keynote speaker discusses changing a spark plug, and makes it sound even more boring than it is in real life.
The next day, the race is held, the vice president of NASCAR states that because of Dorf, they are going to review their licensing process. Unocal’s representative states that he ran Dorf out of the office, but reluctantly admits that he has to provide fuel to Dorf’s team. Ned Jarrett even takes a shot at Dorf. Hoyt Axton made a cameo, singing the National Anthem, Willie plays along, while Dorf struggles to remove his helmet.
Getting Dorf into the seat is a struggle, and the crew fights over the steering wheel. Dorf fires the engine, but it sounds terrible. The steering wheel comes off. Dipstick radios Dorf stating “Dorf, come in.” Dorf pulls into pit lane, only to be told, I wanted to talk to you on the radio. Upon returning to pit lane a second time, Dorf finds his crew literally doing nothing. Dorf asks for water, Tony holds a stick that is too short for Dorf to reach. He leaves, telling Tony to “find a longer stick, I’ll be back.” Dorf comes back in a third time, and Tony spills the water in Dorf’s lap. Glad he didn’t order the hot soup, Dorf drives off.
A 4th pit stop occurs, with Dorf complaining he’s low on fuel, the tires are low, and the glove box door fell off. The classic Benny Hill jack gag, where the jack is under car, and lifts the driver as opposed to the car takes place, and all the air is let out of the tire. Dipstick climbs in the car, and Dorf is forced to make a pit stop, wheel the announcer quips that the crew is “the Keystone Cops of auto racing.” The car is refueled, using a 1950’s gas pump.
Dorf then somehow drives out of the track entirely, through a fast food restaurant, and is given directions back to the track from some cops. Boom Boom begins sunbathing, and slowly removes her jumpsuit. Dorf wrecks the two leaders, and the rest are distracted by Boom Boom, now down to her bikini top, leaving Dorf the leader. The flagman was going to throw the yellow, but Boom Boom, now only wearing a bikini distracts him, and he throws the checkered flag instead.
As Dorf celebrates in victory lane, an angry mob comes for Dorf. Dorf then grabs one of the mooring lines of the Goodyear blimp, and flies away, the end,
I will give this movie credit, for a direct to video release, they got cameos from some top NASCAR talent. Cameos included Harry Gant, Ken Schrader, Geoff Bodine, Michael Waltrip, Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip,and Ned Jarrett.
Also, the on-track announcing is really good, something that in movies and TV shows isn’t always the case. The Brady 500 has some of the worst racing announcing I have ever seen. In this movie, the announcer, Bruce Flanders did a great job. Flanders is a real announcer, and he made it work.
Sadly, Flanders’ announcing is one of the only things that did work. Much of the racing footage was shot during the 1989 Banquet Frozen Foods 300, and it looks good. However, aside from that, the movie is a flop. As much as I like Tim Conway, and as much as I like Dorf, the movie falls flat. Tim Conway must not understand that much about NASCAR, because most of the movie relies on willfull suspension of disbeleif, which at some points in this movie, is almost impossible. The chemestry he had with Carol Burnett isn’t present with any of the other actors. The cameos actually work well because the actors are clearly annoyed with the whole premise, and a couple are clearly doing it for some extra cash.
The humor doesn’t work on several levels. You have to be a NASCAR fan to get many of the jokes, so it doesn’t work for non-racing fans. Many of the in-jokes don’t work, since they are so over the top, they are just not good. Dorf as a character doesn’t fit in NASCAR, and the premise is so bad, it borders on absurdity. I’m going to give this movie an F. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.
Next week, I will start the month of February with some medical memorabilia.