DT Moviehouse Reviews: The Car

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. Today, in keeping with the Halloween season, I review 1977’s The Car.

Screenplay by Dennis Shryack, Michael Butler

Directed by Elliot Silverstein

Tagline: What Evil Drives….The Car?


What It’s About:

When a string of hit and run killings by a mysterious and apparently driverless black car plague a desert community, Sherriff Wade Parent (James Brolin) and his deputies are baffled. When the killings escalate, Wade’s girlfriend, plucky schoolteacher Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd) becomes the Car’s next target.


Why I Bought It:

I saw The Car on TV as a kid so young I couldn’t remember the name of it (duh!) or much of anything about it except that it was an evil car, all black. In later years, hearing about Stephen King’s Christine, I sought out the John Carpenter movie thinking it had to be it, because how many killer car movies could there possibly be?

But nope.

So The Car led me to my OTHER favorite killer car movie, Christine.

vlcsnap-2011-08-19-15h25m30s2131But this is the original, and after finally rediscovering it a couple years ago, I had to add it to my collection. I love this movie. I love the singular design of the vehicle. It’s up there with Mad Max’s Interceptor, the General Lee, Zebra 3, KITT, and the ’66 Batmobile in terms of iconic movie and TV vehicles for me. The big hooptie Cadillac styling, the gnashing teeth grill and goggle eye headlights that look like the staring eyes of a psychopath. Imagine Darth Vader was a car. That Guillermo Del Toro is driving around in a replica of this thing makes me extremely happy.

But more than the look of the car itself, everything in this flick works for me. It’s a perfect storm that takes me all the way back to the barely remembered 1970’s of my youth. Yeah, it’s just Jaws with a car. Yeah the premise is crazy. But so what? It’s a blast to watch, very well made, with a great cast of supporting actors and a proto Bakshi Lord of The Rings score by Leonard Rosenman.

The leads are an appealing couple. Brolin is suitably masculine and charming, sort of a second tier Burt Reynolds with kids. Kathleen Lloyd is pretty sexy, a more wholesome version of Sarah Silverman. Part of what’s interesting about The Car to me is how destructive the monster is on the lives of the protagonists. The movie’s so fast paced you barely have time to consider where the characters all end up by the time the credits role. It’s actually a pretty tragic movie if you consider the butcher’s bill.

the-car-6Every member of the cast portrays an interesting, believable individual. I like that there’s a kind of love triangle going on between the wife beating RG Armstrong’s Amos, his wife Margie (Elizabeth Thompson), and Deputy Everett (The Godfather’s John Marley) that never gets resolved because the Car has little regard for human relationships and isn’t concerned with plot points. Then you’ve got Robocop’s Ronny Cox as a deputy who falls off the wagon when he learns of the death of a kid he knew, and John Rubinstein in a quick bit as a French horn playing hitchhiker dreaming of getting picked up by a hot older woman who’ll take him water skiing. There’s tough Navajo cop Denson (Eddie Little Sky) and Donna the dispatcher (Geraldine Keams –Little Moonlight from The Outlaw Josey Wales), all memorable, well realized characters, called to mind all off the top of my head, proving what a fine job all the actors and writers did, bringing their A game to a B picture.

7-the-car-1977-george-barrisThen there’s the biggest selling point. The stunts. I don’t know how many cars they went through to film this movie, but there are definitely more than a few scenes where the Car gets trashed. In one of my favorites, it roars headlong at a pair of squad cars only to veer hard and go rolling across the tops of the police, totaling them in a fireball and speeding off unscathed.  It drives off a cliff, it blows through a living room, it smashes into a cemetery gate post, announcing its presence with an air horn blast as distinctive in its way as the notes of the Jaws theme.

What the heck is it? Possessed by Satan? Why the heck does the Devil strike this little town in the form of a car? What is the impetus? Amos abusing his wife? Yet he’s one of the only characters to come out OK in the end.

I don’t know. Probably best not to dwell too deeply on it. It’s an entertaining movie. My son and I love to watch this thing and then re-enact every crack up with his Matchbox cars.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe Satan’s just playing with his Matchbox car.

Best Dialogue/Line:

Best Scene:

Would I Buy It Again: You bet.

Next In The Queue: (probably in time for Spectre) Casino Royale

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