Once upon a time, a mysterious black Sedan rolled into a small, desert based town to cause a mean ruckus. Many civilians got crushed or rammed off bridges and they all lived happily ever after in hell….THE END?
What EVIL drives... The Car?
The Car was rammed up the fender with negativety, critically and box office wise when it was initially released on the big screen in 1977. This was my first lap-dance with the film and I don’t really understand as to why it wasn’t a success, if not at least a moderate one! I had a joyride with this baby!
This genre hot-rod was a well paced, admirably shot and creepy exercise that granted, ripped off JAWS in more ways than one, but that still delivered the goods in spades. One of the aspects that I truly dug about this Pinto was its narrative simplicity which gave the whole an almost “raw” and “stripped down” feel. Here’s the deal; an evil black Sedan, without a driver rolls into town one day and proceeds to run people over in creative ways; that’s it…that’s the story. Where did the car come from? No mention. Why this town? No mention. Why James Brolin’s ridiculous moustache? No mention. The horror on this track was never explained, it just “was”. We took it or left it. Being the simpleton that I am, I gladly took it and had a blast! To be honest; I didn’t need an explanation or some silly back-story to justify the mayhem. I just assumed the car was possessed by Old Scratch and rolled with that. Hey, it worked for me!
I know what you’re thinking; how many times can one watch a car exterminate people before redundancy kicks in? Well in this case…MANY O TIMES! The Car thankfully kept it innovative throughout via: eerie car POV shots, sly ways of building tension, specially when announcing the “arrival” of the car (loved that glimmer of sunlight bit), some unexpected plot turns and a couple of baffling stunt set pieces that totally whip-lashed me in their outrageousness. You ever see a car flip over, fly in the air, roll on two cop cars, crush them to bits, to then land on its four wheels and drive away? Yes? No? Only when drinking turpentine after your Prom night? In any case, you will after seeing this film. WOW! And that was just the tip of the wrench; wait till you witness how the car wrangles a victim hiding “inside” a house! DAMN! THAT WAS NUTS!
Director Elliot Silverstein should be applauded as well! Even though the flick was mostly shot in the daytime; he still managed to infuse it with mucho suspense. Sure the desert location helped in maximizing the sense of isolation and chilling emptiness of the piece; but it was the way in which he built up and then fully delivered his fear scenarios that dragged my skull all over the pavement (loved that grave yard bit!). Oh and did I mention that the more the affair moved forward, the more the evil car’s personality shined through? For some reason I was able to tell when the automobile was happy, pissed off or in a taunting mood (I know, just say no to drugs). Props to the stuntmen who drove the car and the dudes who honked the horn, they made it all happen! Now that I think of it, the vehicle had more personality than half of the freaking cast!
Unfortunately; there was some sugar in this one’s gas tank. I personally didn’t care for the extensive exploration of some the side characters. Not only did I not give a shite about them as people (so the guy drinks…I’m already bored) but I also didn’t see the connection between they’re personal baggage and what was happening. The character layers felt trivial to me and only took away precious time from more happy road kills. The JAWS rips also got distracting in places. I mean; how many key moments and shots can a flick burglar from another one before being called on it? Let it go! Be yourself! Make your own film! Lastly, Kathleen Lloyd got on my nerves half the time with her “I’m a fun, quirky, girl so please love me” performance. It had the opposite effect on me; I was praying for her to kiss the front bumper of that car ASAP. Pipe down lady! PIPE DOWN!
All in all The Car semi played out like a fun CD Compilation of vehicular kill/stalk sequences. Sure there wasn’t much depth to the film and some might find it silly; but now that I think about it; anybody renting a horror film called The Car and expecting profundity and a high IQ should be run over. DERBY THIS ONE UP THE DERBY!
We don’t get anything too graphic but I didn’t need gore with this one. Seeing the car run over people, sometimes more than once per each individual victim, fulfilled my need for violence.
James Brolin (Wade Parent) was decent as the hero of the film. He did what he had to do and let his facial hair do the rest. Kathleen Lloyd (Lauren) had her shining moments but more often than none, she irritated me with her overzealous show. It was for me a treat to see a young Ronny Cox (Luke) do his thing; even though his role was “whatever”.
The ladies get a shirtless James Brolin (is that a good thing) and we get that Sedan looking mighty fine! You see the head-lights on that animal? YOWZER!
Elliot Silverstein aced his scary set pieces, did wonders with filters/POV shots and fully milked his desert location in the name of building anxiety. Sure, his “dramatic” scenes looked like typical TV Movie fodder in terms of shot composition but that didn’t bother me much.
While watching the film; I kept saying to myself; part of the score sounds so similar to the one in Kubrick’s The Shining! Well it winds up that Leonard Rosenman used the musical piece Symphony Fantastique which was the same amazing ditty that was used in Kubrick's The Shining. All that to say; the haunting score worked!
I wonder if Stephen King whose book “Christine” got released in 1983, drove The Car before putting fingers to typewriter. The same query goes for John Carpenter who directed the film version of King’s book in the same year! I assume one of them took a gander under this one’s hood because The Car had mucho “Christine” moments to it and it parked in the horror lot first! You looking for an in depth exploration of the human condition? Don’t rent a film called The Car man! But if it’s a frightening, clever, violent and surprising, shameless JAWS copycat you crave; highjack this ride; it’s murder!
George Barris who designed the Batmobile for the Batman TV show and Kitt for Knight Rider designed the car in…well…The Car!
Did you know that James Brolin did a screen test to play James Bond in Octopussy? Of course he didn’t get the gig; Roger Moore did.