Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Get Outta My Dreams....

The Car (1977, Elliot Silverstein)

I don't know what it is about THE CAR.  For some reason, I just love the movie. Also known as DEATHMOBILE, its' director Elliot Silverstein did such classics as Cat Ballou and A Man Called Horse. And though he did work on the original Twilight Zone TV series and The Naked City TV series(two obviously great shows), The Car is still my favorite thing he's done.  It's really quite a simple story.  Car, possessed by the devil wreaks havoc on a small town. 

It stars James Brolin(who also deserves a look in Westworld, Capricorn One, Skyjacked and Ted & Venus among many others) as the local sheriff forced to square off against the evil machine. On a tangential note, I just picked up a tv movie Brolin did called Night of the Juggler, which I've heard is quite good as well. The great Ronny Cox(I first remember seeing him as the uptight Police Captain in Beverly Hills Cop and a corporate baddie in Robocop) isn't given much to do but drink and be whiny, but it's still good to have him in the mix. You'll recognize R.G. Armstrong for sure as he's been in a ton of films and John Marley and Kathleen Lloyd have the distinct honor of having both starred in this horror classic AND It Lives Again with Freddy Forrest! I also just noticed that Lloyd starred in Arthur Penn's underrated western The Missouri Breaks the year before. 

Oh and I can't forget that it also features a young Kim Richards who I had first seen in Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain (and its very poor sequel). The year before THE CAR she had starred as Lance Kerwin's little sis in the criminally underseen tv series James at 15 (where's the dvd on this show!). She also had a small role in Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 (his most direct Rio Bravo ripoff) and would later show up with Spader and Iron Man himself in Tuff Turf in 1985 and Meatballs II before that. I was happy to see her get a small part in 2006's Black Snake Moan and just recently saw her listed in The Race To Witch Mountain (an apparent remake) , also featuring Dwayne Johnson, which is in production right now. 

Anyway, back to the THE CAR! It's really just a Jaws knockoff at its core, but there's a certain breeziness or something to it that keeps me coming back. Maybe its the time it was made, that makes it feel more stripped down than a lot of today's horror films. It's well shot and makes good use of the widescreen format in which it was shot. And let's face it, the car itself is just damned cool lookin! I guess it was designed by the guy who did cars for the original Batman series and the Munsters so there you go! I also have this fascination with films that came out in 1977 and have been subsequently dwarfed by the release of Star Wars that same year(in the case of this film it released a mere couple weeks before the Star Wars phenomenon hit). 

Universal just recently released a new dvd of the film with a better looking widescreen transfer than the former Anchor Bay release(which had gotten quite pricey since going out of print) and it's well worth picking up. Amazon has the new dvd bundled with Spielberg's fantastic Duel, which would actually fill out an enjoyable double bill with this movie.
(thanks to moviegoods for the pic)

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