If you’re like me, you’d be aware of American drag racers Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme and Tom ‘The Mongoose’ McEwen, but I have to admit I didn’t know much about their life stories as they rose through the sport’s ranks in the latter half of the last century.
First published in the September 2023 issue of Street Machine
The pair were close mates and fierce rivals right from the get-go, and 2013’s Snake & Mongoose is a dramatised chronicle of their exploits between 1958 and 1978 – from Prudhomme (Jesse Williams) and McEwen’s (Richard Blake) humble beginnings in the sport in southern California, clawing their way to class wins despite almost insurmountable financial hurdles, through to Nationals wins and international acclaim.
The melding of Prudhomme’s staunch racing dedication with McEwen’s showmanship and promotional skills ultimately leads to the backing of Mattel big-wig Arthur Spear (Noah Wyle) and a lucrative Hot Wheels sponsorship in 1970. The deal – which includes the release of matching Hot Wheels cars – not only gives both drivers financial stability, it also thrusts drag racing into the mainstream and makes the pair household names.
While the racing is front and centre, the film leaves the track long enough to delve into the pair’s personal relationships with wives Lynn Prudhomme (Ashley Hinshaw) and Judy McEwen (Kim Shaw), and plenty of other legends of the sport are depicted, including Fred Dryer as engineering legend Ed Donovan, John Heard as NHRA founder Wally Parks, and Ian Ziering as engine guru Keith Black.
The whole thing flows like a dramatised documentary, and while the mismatch between modern film and archival racing footage might furrow your brow, it doesn’t cheapen the overall experience.
All in all, Snake & Mongoose is a pretty solid flick and is definitely worth a watch, whether you’re a drag racing tragic in general, a fan of Prudhomme and McEwen in particular, a history buff, or a combination of all three.
It may have tanked at the box office due to its rather specific subject matter, but don’t let that dissuade you; it’s an entertaining and educational film with family-friendly appeal.
- 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda funny car
- 1970 Plymouth Duster funny car
- 1967 Chevrolet Malibu
- 1967 Dodge D-700
- 1968 Dodge D-700
- 1964 GMC 1000
- 1965 Buick Sportwagon
- 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS
- 1979 Chevrolet C10
- 1966 Shelby GT350H
- 1965 Plymouth Fury
- 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
- 1967 Pontiac GTO
- 1977 Plymouth Arrow funny car
- 1978 Chevrolet Corvette funny car
- Jesse Williams
- Richard Blake
- Ashley Hinshaw
- Kim Shaw
- Noah Wyle
- Fred Dryer
- John Heard
- Tim Blake Nelson
- Leonardo Nam
- Ian Ziering
An abundance of historical drag racing footage spread across two decades.
The highs and lows of the racing, family and business lives of two of drag racing’s most famous and successful exponents.
YouTube, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming.
COOL FLICK FACT:
Keep an eye out for the real Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen, who make cameo appearances as pit bosses (above).