Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Car"(1977)d/Elliot Silverstein

There have been a lot of comprehensive comparisons drawn between tonight's review and Spielberg's Duel(1971) or even Jaws(1975), but I'm gonna have to step in at this point and close the case.Elliot Silverstein's 1977 stab at horror is pretty much "My Mother, The Car", only instead of Jerry Van Dyke's deceased mother, you get Satan.That's right, the dark lord and master has given up the little horns, red pajamas, and trident in favor of a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III, as customized by none other than George Barris whose vehicles graced the sets of The Munsters and Batman television series, copping out of possessing little kiddies and breaking the spirit of fallen priests to instead play 'hogs of the road' somewhere in Utah with James Brolin, a guy who's apparently been making bad career decisions for over thirty years.Streisand...coughcough...sextape...coughcoughcough.Now, Satan doesn't possess the admittedly very pimpodocious coupe, mind you, he is the coupe.I can only imagine the quaalude/cocaine intake that must have gone down when this project was dreamed up, adapted from a story by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack.I'm sure there were a few dead rat-gnawed hookers with broken necks fished outta the dumpster behind Studio 54 that could tell you some stories...or something.It would seem that the only actors that looked favorably at the hellish script on wheels were also the cast that could never pull it off for a minute, despite marquee names like John Marley, Ronny Cox, and R.G. Amstrong at the hub.I'm gonna take this opportunity to say that, when I dragged my poor old man off to see this one in the theaters way back then, as a seven year old kid, I thought it was the most amazing movie ever least for the two weeks until Star Wars came out.That must count for something, I guess.Let's head on out to the highway then, we've got nothing to lose, afterall...
Gas, grass, or your soul burning in the abyss for all eternity.Nobody rides free.
Judging by the unimpressive LaVey quote that kicks off our feature("Oh great brothers of the night, who rideth out upon the hot winds of hell, who dwelleth in the Devil's lair; move and appear." Huh? Whaaaat the fucketh is that gibberish supposed to meaneth, anyway...eth?), it seems the fictional town of Santa Ynez has become the preferred stomping grounds for the Devil himself, shrouded in metal and rubber and disguised as a sleek black custom coupe that's quick to murder the shit out of any luckless fool that happens to venture out on its roads, as two bikers soon find out when it pushes them off a high bridge.The local constabulary make the scene and have very little to go on, with the hit and run driver at the wheel of an unidentifiable car, customized to the gills, with no visible license plate.Next to be transformed into a road pizza is a french horn-tooting hitchhiker(John Rubenstein) after being scolded by local wife abusing explosives peddler(!) Amos Clements(R.G. Armstrong) who warns the unappreciated troubadour: "If I hear another sound out of that thing, I'll ram it so far up your ass you'll be farting music for a year."(Possibly the best line of dialogue of 1977)He doesn't get the chance though, as the coupe rolls up, and after barely missing the hitcher, who flips the mysterious black vehicle the bird, it backs into him, then serves up a Pasolini treatment to the downed traveler, running him over back and forth several times before speeding off and triumphantly laying on its signature horn.Bah-bah-bah-baaaaaah.Yeah, that's gonna get old in a hurry.Enter Deputy Wade Parent(James Brolin), the porn-stachioed single father of two young girls(as portrayed by the wee Richards sisters, Kyle("Halloween") and Kim("Escape to Witch Mountain")), who's duking a modern young educator named Lauren(Kathleen Lloyd) whose groovy hip huggers are so tight, I swear I can see her urethral meatus in there.Lauren's a modern gal whose thirteen year old music students are drawing cartoons of her teaching in the buff(I blame the hip huggers).She just happens to be rehearsing her marching band for an upcoming parade.You know, I'll bet any money that damned car is gonna show up and ruin everyone's good time...
Teen angst '76:Blowing into a stupid trombone all afternoon,instead of staring at the Tiger Beat centerfold of Shaun Cassidy on her bedroom wall.
Meanwhile, the sheriff(John Marley) gets mowed down in the street while sorting out some wholesome family abuse between the Clements, and a Navajo woman sees the whole thing.It's a damn fine thing there happens to be a Navajo deputy to translate her experience for the targeted pale faces.Isn't there always some all-knowing Indian or two standing in the wings in these movies?The titular ride rumbles up and pisses all over the town parade, sending groovy citizens scattering into the nearest cemetery, which the Car won't enter, as it's hallowed ground, giving Lauren the opportunity to curse the vehicle six ways from Sunday, effectively sending the eight cylindered Satan on an angry bender of bloody retribution; pushing one of the deputies off the edge of a steep mesa(cue:seventies exploding car sequence), and in the movie's "Fuuuuuck, that was tits!" moment, turns sideways at high speed into a barrel roll of destruction, killing several roadblocked officers and ending up wheels down, driving off afterwards.Wade squares off against the Car, only to realize his bullets have no effect on the windshield or the tires, and when he tries to open the car door, he gets kayed the eff out by the door, which opens by itself.Bah-bah-bah-baaaaaah.Then it stalks Lauren(Ronny Cox later straightfacedly suggests that the car is evil, and targets Wade's squeeze for the earlier verbal diarrhea she unloaded on it.His character's also a sauce fiend.) and stunt jumps through one of her walls to mow her down where she stands.While Amos and company rush to set up an explosive trap around the rim of a box canyon, the Car sneaks up Speed Buggy style on Wade and traps him in his garage until he manages to dive out a window.Cue:Not so epic car-motorcycle chase through the canyon, where the dynamite hasn't all been set yet.Wade and Luke(Cox) manage to pull a toreador pass on the unholy wheels that sends it plummetting over the cliff.Amos pushes his plunger, setting off enough dynamite to get me off my lethargic ass on Sunday...or something like that.The ensuing mushroom cloud has a momentary scary devil face and roars menacingly before dissipating into the smoke.The end.Cut to familiar unearthly driver's eye-view of the Car, now speeding through the streets of a big city...
Do you remember where you were when you first heard they'd cancelled 'Welcome Back, Kotter"?
Brolin is recognizable in genre hits like The Amityville Horror and Night of the Juggler.The utterly loverly Kyle Richards, who'd appeared a year earlier in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive, would also play little Lindsay Wallace in Carpenter's Halloween a year later, even acting along side grand dame, Bette Davis in Disney's Watcher in the Woods in 1983.Genre vet R.G. Armstrong was in everything from Devil Dog: Hound of Hell to Evilspeak and The Beast Within, later scoring a role on Millenium, one of my favorite recent tv shows.Despite the utterly preposterous premise and the unconvincing execution of such by all involved, there are unintentional laughs a' plenty, and even a moment or two of un-PG technicolor stage grue that might leave you snickering, as well.I have a soft spot for this particular crap-garbage after my theatrical experience, followed shortly after by about thirty more viewings in the cable box days.On the scale, Car stalls out, its self-sealing tires mostly flat out of the starting gate, with a single wop.
"I shall return, you puny, worthless mortals, and next time, I'll be a Monza Spyder Hatchback.Fuckin' bet on it."


kenyon said...

the car was hilarious. i think the car's purpose was to kill all those bad actors. sincerely, kenyon of

beedubelhue said...

Thanks, Kenyon!


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