The Car (1977)
By: Rip on May 26, 2010  | 
Anchor Bay | Region 1, NTSC | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 96 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Elliot Silverstein
Starring: James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, R.G. Armstrong, John Rubinstein
Screenplay: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack
Country: USA
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After the release of Jaws in 1976, all manner of 'killer animal' films began to surface and cash in at the cinemas, such as Grizzly, Orca - The Killer Whale, The Swarm, Pirahna, and so on and so on. After nature's fauna had a go at us, next up in the later 70's and early 80's it was time for vehicles and everyday machinery to run amok, with entries like Killdozer (still yet to find its way to dvd), Maximum Overdrive and several others. One of the best, and earliest, of these was the 'evil car' flick, entitled (funnily enough) The Car from 1977. And it even predated both the book and film of Stephen King's famous story, Christine. To my mind, it's also more entertaining, albeit in a somewhat cheesy fashion. Read on…

The Car opens with a quote spread across the screen from the late Anton Lavey, the infamous founder of the Church of Satan. And it's quite fitting, given what is about to transpire during the film, and what would otherwise be a somewhat silly concept. One lovely sun drenched day in a little American South Western town, a big black menacing car rolls in to town and begins bumping people off left right and centre. Then, in a cloud of dust and the roar of a V8 engine, it disappears into the distance as quickly as it came, blasting its horn in such a way that it almost sounds as though it's laughing. Enter Sheriff Wade Parent (James Brolin) and his fellow police colleagues, who after searching for and spotting it, chase the car, shoot at it, ram it and do just about anything else they can, but all to no avail. The car appears invincible, has no driver and seems to become increasingly agitated the more the authorities attempt to thwart it. It actually throws tantrums, which have to be seen to be believed. The car, coming and going as it pleases, striking at any given moment, appears to take on supernatural behavior…and then it gets personal. To quote the film's tagline, "What evil drives… The Car."

Of course, all of this sounds utterly laughable, but through some solid direction by Elliot Silverstein (who directed Cat Ballou and A Man Called Horse, of all things), beautiful cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld, great special effects by the legendary Albert Whitlock amongst others, and some absolutely spectacular driving and stuntwork, the film rises just that much above yet another Jaws rip-off. The casting and performances of the central cast also aid immeasurably, and feature such legendary character actors as RG Armstrong, Ronny Cox and regular Cassavettes player, John Marley. Unlike many films of this ilk, the characters here are given some depth through the thoughtful scripting and performances, which really help sell what becomes the tragedy that envelops the small town in which it's set.

But ultimately, it's the car itself that is the star of the show. If ever a car could look creepy, it's the big black sedan presented here. It's a customized Lincoln, crafted by George Barris who designed the famous 60's Batmobile and The Munsters' hot rod, amongst others. Sleeker than sleek and low to the ground, with tinted windows and no door handles, this vehicle really is something else and actually seems to possess a face of its own. If you're in to cars, you really need to see this wonderfully entertaining movie.

This out of print release from Anchor Bay is a duel layered job, featuring both a 2:35 anamorphic widescreen on one layer and an utterly pointless full frame version on the other. As to be expected, the full frame job severely compromises the beautiful panoramic cinematography that really showcases the open, mountainous vistas in which much of the action takes place. For a small film of its age, the transfer looks terrific, only showing a little grain here and there during moments where desert dust rises from the film's many chase sequences. The Car was recently re-released by Universal in R1 & R2 and does away with the full frame version of the film included here.
Unfortunately the re-release only has 2.0 mono sound and omits the 5.1 audio track which was specially done by Anchor Bay and presented here for this version. And that's a shame because it's pretty good, as the surrounds get a bit of a workout from the rumbling and roaring engine of the film's title character, as well as enhancing Leonard Rosenman's score. The 2.0 audio track is also presented here.
Extra Features
Pretty poor for a cult flick like this one. Just the original trailer and a couple of bios for James Brolin and director Elliot Silverstein, plus an insert with an essay from New York Press writer, Jim Knipfel. With a bit of luck, we might see a 'special edition' emerge some day, but somehow I doubt it.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
As silly as a two-bob watch, but more fun than a barrel of monkeys, this is Jaws on wheels and a blast all the way. The disc is barebones, as is the re-release, but the audio/visual aspects are well above average and the film is so much fun, that it simply doesn't matter. And it's available quite cheaply from R1 & R2, unless you try to get the AB disc, which is fetching quite a pretty penny these days. Sometimes cheesy, but with plenty of action, a great cast playing it straight and a very cool monster to boot, you can't go too wrong with The Car.

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