Wretched monster movies #15: The Car (1977)

OK, a car is not a “monster” technically, but it can be used as one and that was the case with the 1977 Horror flick The Car.

Here is the trailer. When I saw this commercial, I begged my Mom to take me to see it but when she saw it, she simply said, “Uh, no”.

The Car was no masterpiece, but it was pretty fun and let’s face it-if you saw a black,  menacing Lincoln Continental Mark III with no driver running over people with a car horn only Satan could love, wouldn’t you be scared?

“I can’t drive 66(6)”.

And, how can you not love the ominous (I say pretentious) intro, a quote from the leader of the Church Of Satan himself Anton La Vey?

Set in a Utah desert community, The Car begins with a couple riding their bikes (complete with awesome striped socks). They go through a tunnel leading to a bridge and then our car appears. Driving very fast and with that hideous-sounding horn, the car will succeed at killing both of these idiots by bumping them off the bridge to their bloody deaths. What’s really cool (and quite devilish) is the view from the “driver” tinted just a shade of hell.

One thing is for sure, is that the car has excellent taste after we see it destroy a douchebag hitchhiker that looks like Leo Sayer. This ass-clown is actually playing French horn on the side of the road and talking about getting laid. A French horn? Well, you’re not gettin’ laid dork, but you WILL get run over 4 times, so enjoy.

“You make me feel like dancin’! Will you blow my French horn please babe?”

As our vehicle from the dark side rolls into town, it kills more people who are not adept at getting out of the way, including our elderly sheriff played by John Marley (the same guy who found the horse’s head in his bed in The Godfather!).  Stepping up as the next sheriff is James Brolin (pre-hubby to Barbara Streisand) as Wade.

Brolin is fine here, moustache and all and he would soon star in The Amityville Horror. His girlfriend here is also a school teacher, and ripping off Jaws as virtually every movie I’ve reviewed has, The Car will put the children in peril with one of those oh-so-lame small town moments. Here it’s with a preparation for some awful parade or something in a lovely dirt field.

As soon as the dust and wind kick up (and it’s not a Kansas cover band), we know it’s time for some hell on wheels. Brolin’s girlfriend Lauren, played by Kathleen Lloyd is with the children, as well as another (hot for) teacher who does not believe in bras, and a crabby old woman. I wish I was making this up, but at one point the fat old broad yells “cat poo”! We had to rewind several times to confirm this, but that’s what she’s saying alright.

Actress: “Cat Poo!”. Director: “That’s a wrap people! We’ve captured that cinematic magic that only happens once in a blue moon!”.

As the car plows down a few dudes on horses trying to distract it (frustrated rodeo clowns?), the kids and teachers run into a nearby cemetery.

This is a pretty cool scene, as the car will not enter the cemetery. The vehicle constantly attempts by revving up, but always backs off because of the hallowed ground! It’s pretty obvious at this point that ol’ Beelzebub is responsible for this vehicular fiend.

Lloyd begins a most painful sequence insulting the car by yelling things like “You’re chicken”, and “Is that all ya got?”. She should’ve been run over just for bad lines like that.

Lame insult to follow: “You’re not so tough! You need a good wash you bad car, you!”.

I do give many props to director Elliot Silverstein for doing a really good job of shooting the action sequences in a way that we never see a driver of any kind. Maybe it was these guys?

Our evil automobile will leave in a fit of anger and heads out on the open road. The scenery is truly awesome as a setting with all the mountains as a backdrop. (The cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld is really well done throughout) to be chased by the inept police force who bumble along to predictable results of death and failure making you wonder why any police force is ever present in horror movies as they do the exact WRONG things each and every time.

“I really thought if I stood in its way, the Devil would stop”.

One really great scene has the car taunting a buffoonish cop on the edge of a canyon, ready to push him off to a grisly death. The cop slowly opens the door, pleading for his life and well, you know, Satan just doesn’t care so the poor bastard gets pushed over the edge and crushed like a deviled ham can.

When Brolin (or Mr. Streisand to you) confronts the vehicle, he slowly draws his weapon. He eventually shoots yet the bullets do nothing-not even to the tires. No driver is visible. This is creepy, and the fact that it takes place in daylight in isolation in the Utah desert is unique.

“No license plate Satan? Registration, please”.

Brolin gets close enough to approach the door, but all he will get is a car door to the McRibs.  Ouch. By the way-no door handles? Nice touch Devil!

Yet, he is spared for some reason as the car leaves a cloud of dust. Brolin awakens in the hospital and finds out how many officers died. It’s a good amount. And the total of possessed, evil cars remains at 1. Which is 1 too many.

Later, Brolin is conversing with his girlfriend (Lloyd) who is worried that the car is outside the house.  It’s dark, but the engine revs, there’s that evil horn and next thing you know, the car jumps up and through the house killing Lloyd as Brolin gets to listen on the phone. The house is destroyed as the car drives on through. Pretty nasty I must say.

Calling the car a chicken came back to haunt you, eh?

Brolin’s deputy played by Ronny Cox (yeah, he’s the police chief from Beverly Hills Cop) thinks the car hunted down Brolin’s girlfriend, and notes that it didn’t enter the graveyard as it was hallowed ground. Coincidence? Brolin dismisses this and plots to blow it up with dynamite in the canyon.

The man they enlist to save the day with his explosives is a town drunk who beats his wife up (yeah, there’s a real anti-hero if there ever was one). Anyway, before this can happen, Brolin (who is by now out of the hospital) goes into his garage and there’s the car! Naturally, Brolin jumps over it, rolls and hops on his cycle and gets the hell out of there.

And the chase begins…doesn’t this just somehow convey pure evil?

The plan almost fails, but eventually things lead to the canyon where the car takes the bait and hunts down Brolin and Cox who stand there holding hands waiting to jump until the last minute when the car attacks. They let go of one another and leap away at the last second. The car then descends into a Hell of it’s own and goes boom.

In one of those still talked about endings, as we see the fiery haze reach the skies, an image seems to appear that looks like a claw of some sort belonging to a creature of a devilish nature.

The last shot shows us something of a face and a tongue from this same force and it ain’t Gene Simmons!

I don’t care if you call it corny, because it’s a kick-ass ending. It scared the poop out of me when I was a little runt and after watching this last week we were still impressed with the effects and the overall feel of the ending. It’s Satan! And it came from an evil car that ran people over! How do you NOT like that?

After everyone gets up off of the ground and they look up at the clearing sky, Cox asks Brolin if he saw what nobody else wants to admit. Brolin won’t even let him discuss it, but that’s OK, because WE know it was the guy with the pitchfork himself!

And as the credits roll what do we see? The car is driving down a highway in L.A. searching out more victims!

The ending after the ending.

Is The Car a perfect film? Uh, no. What it is, is fun and entertaining. A mite creepy, but only truly “scary” to an 8 year old kid like me in 1977.  There is plenty to recommend here and the score by Leonard Rosenman is very effective (he also did a road thriller called Race With The Devil). Some of this music was absolutely used in The Shining a few years later.

The Car borrows heavily from Steven Spielberg’s first film Duel, not to mention his classic Jaws. The pacing at times is too sluggish and the acting goes from rather good to rather not so good (I’m looking at you old cat-poo lady).

Fun facts:

1. 4 of the “cars” were created for the film. 3 were destroyed in stunts, but the 4th exists and is now in a private collection.

2. The Car is spoofed in both Futurama and The Simpsons in “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” in the intro by awesome director Guillermo del Toro, who is a big fan of the film and rumored to be behind a possible remake.

3. The Car cost around $5 million and ended up with a gross of $36 million. Honk on that, Satan!

4. The car that was built for this film was designed by none other than George Barris who designed the Batmobile!

The Car  (1977):

2 beagles out of 4 for awfulness

Q: Should you see The Car?

A: It’s just what you needed-yes! (Get The Cars reference?)

About chudbeagle

My name is Pete Braidis and I'm in Haddon Heights, New Jersey and my goal is to point out how bad so many album and book covers are as well as review classic (usually awful) creature/monster flicks. I also have a book due out in June 2016 dedicated to guitar players I feel have never gotten their due. I interviewed 50 players from around the world and it took nearly 2 years to complete. It's called Unstrung Heroes: Fifty Guitar Players You Should Know and here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Unstrung-Heroes-Guitar-Greats-Should/dp/0764350889/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454387582&sr=1-2&keywords=unstrung+heroes Sometimes, I'll actually do something normal like a band history with album reviews but I try to do the funny stuff because it's my job to make anyone that bothered coming on here to laugh.
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