The Devil on Wheels

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The Devil on Wheels
Directed by Crane Wilbur
Produced by Benjamin Stoloff
Written by Crane Wilbur
Tony Sargent
Starring Noreen Nash
Darryl Hickman
Terry Moore
Music by Emil Cadkin
Irving Friedman
Cinematography L. Wm. O'Connell
Edited by Alexander Troffey
Distributed by Producers Releasing Corporation
Release dates
March 2, 1947
Running time
67 min
Language English

The Devil On Wheels is a 1947 drama directed by Crane Wilbur and starring Darryl Hickman.[1]

In addition to being the first film about street racing youth, it is also notable for being one of the first films to feature actresses (Terry Moore & Noreen Nash) wearing bikini tops.

A few scenes from one of the street races depicted were later reused in the opening of the 1950 film Hot Rod, also about street racing in Southern California.


The film is an early morality play on the dangers of speeding behind the wheel.


The film begins with main character Michael 'Micky' Clark (Darryl Hickman) tuning his late-1920s/early-1930s era Ford roadster into a hot rod with his friend Todd (Robert Arthur), based on the advice of Michael's older brother Jeff (James Cardwell), who learned about engines while serving as a navy pilot during WW2. Todd (who already has his own custom Ford hot rod) is critical of Michael for talking about his brother too much, but encouraging to Michael towards the idea of souping up his car. Meanwhile, across town, Michael/Jeff's father John is on his way home in a brand new convertible when he witnesses a fatal car accident on the highway, caused by reckless driving. Arriving home with the car to show his family (and friends who happen to be at the house), Todd comments with enthusiasm about how the car's speedometer goes up to 120MPH, which in turn causes John to give a lecture to the teenage boys about the dangers of street racing, and warns his son Michael to be safe behind the wheel. Despite the lecture however, John himself has his own reckless driving habits (which he refuses to admit to). John's "need for speed" is put on full display to the family when he gives them a ride in the new car. Later on, Michael's plans of being a safe driver change when girlfriend Peggy (Sue England), his friend Todd, & Todd's girlfriend Rusty (Terry Moore) all make fun of Michael for wanting to be cautious behind the wheel. Upset by this, Michael decides to participate in a street race with Todd. Despite the police intervening in the race, Michael does not seem phased to give up reckless driving, and later on takes Todd for a ride in his father's new convertible, driving recklessly through the streets & evading the police.[2][3]

Despite Michael and Todd's luck in these last two encounters with police as well as the death of a fellow racer, they continue driving recklessly, in part because of the encouragement they receive from their girlfriends, who like it when they ride fast. However, Michael and Todd eventually push their luck to the point of fatal consequences. Throughout the film, county judges, police investigators, and newsmen continuously warn about the dangers of street racing. In the final scene in the film, Michael's father John still possesses hotheaded driving habits, though when he hears a police siren he appears to instantly cool down and lose his interest in driving fast & reckless.