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Topic: THE CAR
Posted: September 05 2006 at 2:05pm
THE CAR (1977/Universal)
“Unintentional laughs highlight this ‘thriller’ patterned after JAWS”
“The audience starts laughing even before the titles…and the laughter never subsides.” New West Magazine
“Dumb story, poor acting, bad direction…THE CAR is a total wreck!” VARIETY
PLOT, WHAT PLOT? You’d think after the box office bomb GABLE AND LOMBARD, in which he impersonated Clark Gable by squinting one eye and sporting an eyebrow pencil mustache, James Brolin’s career had nowhere to go but up. You’d be wrong, though, because the next picture starring the future Mr. Barbra Streisand was an even bigger flop: THE CAR.
Whoever convinced Brolin to make THE CAR probably sold it to him as a cross between JAWS and Steven Spielberg’s classic TV movie, DUEL. What it turned out to be was a bad rip-off of both THE EXORCIST and the talking-car TV series MY MOTHER THE CAR, with touches of MISTER ED thrown in for bad measure. The central character isn’t Brolin’s laid-back small town sheriff, but a chromium and deep black automobile that deliberately starts running down cyclists, hitch-hikers, pedestrians and members of a school band for the simple reason that…it’s possessed by the devil. Call it a Cadillac DeVil, Satan’s Saturn, whatever – THE CAR was supposed to be one Hell of a terrifying ride. Instead, it’s one Hell of a funny accidental comedy.
For such an uninspired idea to work at all, the film would have to be perfectly done. Unfortunately, like the idea itself, THE CAR turned out to be…perfectly dumb. The title automobile, styled like a cartoon limo Bruce Wayne might drive, is a big, long and, thanks to it’s too-often-tooted horn, overloud vehicle that’s no more terrifying than your average road hog. About the most threatening things it’s capable of doing before going for the kill are revving its engine and throwing road dust in people’s faces. That it manages to terrorize an entire town for several days speaks more about the townsfolk (and the filmmakers) than it does about Beelzebub’s Buick. But watching people cower in fear from an automobile, or conjecture if it might be “Satan himself” who’s possessed (or is it “repossessed”) this vehicle, is a big part of this film’s amusement quotient. And when various characters begin conversing with the car in the film’s second half, you’ll begin to understand why it was laughed off the screen at a 1977 press screening.
Old Woman: “Do you think it’s healthy for a 13-year-old boy to imagine
Chapter 18 (“Wade’s Confrontation”): In which Sheriff Brolin confronts
HOW TO SEE IT: THE CAR is available on both DVD and VHS, and will air at 3am/EST (Midnight/PST) Thursday, September 7, 2006 on Sci-Fi Channel.
FUN FOOTNOTE: The title role in THE CAR was played by a Lincoln Mark III, customized for the film by George Barris, who also created TV’s Bat Mobile, Monkeemobile and Munster Koach.
Ye Olde Head RAZZberry
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