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THE CAR

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    Posted: September 05 2006 at 2:05pm

FROM THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE® MOVIE GUIDE by Head RAZZberry John Wilson -- available from Amazon.com

THE CAR (1977/Universal)


WHO’S TO BLAME: CAST: James Brolin (Wade Parent); Kathleen Lloyd (Lauren); John Marley (Everett); R. G. Armstrong (Amos Clements); John Rubinstein (John Morris); Ronny Cox (Luke)
CREW: Directed by Elliot Silverstein, Screenplay by Dennis Shryack, Michael Butler and Lane Slate, Story by Shryack and Butler


RAVE REVIEWS: 

“Unintentional laughs highlight this ‘thriller’ patterned after JAWS”
     Michael Weldon / PSYCHOTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM 

“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.


 “Let us all see what a lunatic son-of-a-bitch you are!” schoolteacher Lauren yells at the car after it’s chased her school’s marching band into the local cemetery. “You know what you are? You’re a chicken!” When the car finally withdraws (because, we’re told later, it can’t enter the “hallowed ground” of the cemetery) Lauren’s fellow teacher yells one last, odd epithet at it for good measure: “Tad Pole!!”


 But once they’ve accepted that it’s “an evil spirit” behind the wheel of the car, how do they get rid of it once and for all??  Do they call Max von Sydow?  Cut  up its gasoline credit cards?? Ask General Motors to do a recall??? What they come up with is even sillier: Sheriff Brolin and his surviving cohorts lure the car up a mountain road, where they entice it over a cliff and simply…blow it up with dynamite. If it was that easy, why didn’t anyone think of it days ago?


 Possibly because the citizens of Santa Ynez have less brains than your average Detroit-made lemon. And by putting their idiocy on display in THE CAR, they helped create one of the all-time funniest “The Devil Made Me Do It” movies. Seriously, if Satan were going to possess an automobile, don’t you think he’d go for something a little more stylish than THE CAR? About the only upside is that THE CAR does get very high mileage…for something that runs on laughing gas.

DIPPY DIALOGUE: 

Old Woman: “Do you think it’s healthy for a 13-year-old boy to imagine
his teacher naked?”
    The Teacher (Kathleen Lloyd): “Absolutely!”


CHOICE CHAPTER STOP: 

Chapter 18 (“Wade’s Confrontation”):  In which Sheriff Brolin confronts
 The Car with his pistol on a desert road…and is outsmarted by it.

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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