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THE FILM  3/5

“Well, the old lady… she said there was no driver in the car.”

Fasten your seatbelts for the terrifying thrill ride that has become a cult classic! The peaceful tranquility of a small Western town is disturbed when a murderous car wreaks havoc by viciously mowing down innocent victims. The new sheriff, Wade Parent (James Brolin, The Amityville Horror), may be the only one who can stop this menace in its tracks. But what Wade Parent doesn’t realize is that the driver of this indestructible vehicle is far more dangerous than any man… because it is driven by pure evil. This high-octane thriller has an all-star genre cast including John Marley (Deathdream), Ronny Cox (RoboCop), Kathleen Lloyd (It Lives Again), R.G. Armstrong (Race with the Devil, Evilspeak), Roy Jenson (Soylent Green), Melody Thomas Scott (Piranha, The Fury), Kim Richards (Assault on Precinct 13) and Kyle Richards (Halloween).

It sounds a little funny to call The Car, about a black you-know-what terrorizing citizens within a dusty, barren, sandy landscape, a rip-off of Jaws, but…that’s exactly what it is. Adding to the irony, in that everything about The Car is as opposite to Jaws as you can get, is that Spielberg’s previous film to Jaws was Duel, about an ominous black truck terrorizing one particular unfortunate man across a dusty, barren, sandy landscape. Much in the same way the shark of Jaws cruised the waters of Amity Island, the black demonized Lincoln of The Car cruises the sandy roads of a Santa Fe-ish town – both relentlessly looking for victims, both of a scope never before seen, and both announcing their presences with a fin and a horn, respectively. And meanwhile, two sheriffs dealing with their own shortcomings (a fear of the water and a desire to live up to a law-enforcement father) find themselves contending with the monstrous force that’s come to plague their homes.

But where Jaws was a high concept, philosophical audience favorite, The Car is just dumb, lacking emotion, philosophy, or anything toward which other films wishing to make more than a visceral impact strive. But, that’s okay. There’s an undeniable enjoyment that derives from watching The Car. That it never reveals who or what it is behind the wheel adds to that enjoyment, leaving that bit of mystery to embolden the idea that whatever’s driving the car is something unnatural and evil. And once the film achieves its highest Blues Brothers level of absurdity by having the titular force impossibly roll, sideways, over the two patrol cruisers pursuing it, clearly destroying itself in the process only to touch back down on the ground without a mark in the paint or some soot on the previously blazing grill, well, by now you’re either fully on board with The Car or not.

THE PICTURE  4/5

For a film of The Car‘s age and, uh, reputation, this video presentation actually looks pretty tremendous. Opening moments of screen wobble cause a little worry, but that fades pretty quick and leaves behind a solid and stable image free of blemishes or damage. Detail is very fine with only a few soft moments. Flesh tones look accurate and textures look defined. The final act of the film doesn’t look nearly as good as everything that came before, likely a result of the source material, which employed the use of some pretty dodge day-for-night shooting, but it’s not the fault of this transfer.

THE SOUND 3.5/5

That damned horn. The audio presentation for The Car fares mostly well, despite its age. The Car contains a lot of characters, and not all of their dialogue is as equally understandable, but there are never any moments of outright incoherence. Foley sounds mostly full, but at times can come off somewhat flat and hollow. The musical score by Leonard Rosenman can come off a little irritating and indulgent, but if you’re into that kind of thing, it marries well into the rest of the audioscape.

THE SUPPLEMENTS 3.5/5

“Mystery of the Car” is an interview with producer/director Elliot Silverstein, who is very frank about the whole “Jaws rip-off” thing as well as what he wanted The Car to be versus what it ended up being. “The Navajo Connection” and “Just Like Riding a Bike” are interviews with actresses Gerladine Keams (the police station dispatcher) and Melody Thomas Scott (the opening biker victim), the latter of whom has some candid but honest memories of the shoot and of its “gruff” director.

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Mystery Of The Car – An Interview With Producer/Director Elliot Silverstein
  • The Navajo Connection – An Interview With Actress Geraldine Keams
  • Just Like Riding A Bike – An Interview With Actress Melody Thomas Scott
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery

TECH SPECS

STUDIO: Universal Studios
DISTRIBUTOR:
 Shout! Factory
GENRE:
 Horror/Thriller/Action
RATING:
R
THEATRICAL DATE: May 13, 1977
VIDEO STREET DATE: December 5, 2015
VIDEO:
MPEG-4 AVC; 1080p; 2.39:1
AUDIO: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH
RUN TIME: 95 mins
DVD COPY: N/A
DIGITAL DOWNLOAD: N/A
REGION: A

OVERALL 3.5/5

The Car is dumb but absolutely entertaining. A breezy 90 mins filled with car-nage (get it?), half-baked ideas, and moments of nonsense even more silly than the nonsense surrounding it (how’s a car drive itself into a garage and then lock itself in?), it’s a clever-enough spin on the killer-car sub-genre and an unlikely but wholly watchable Jaws rip-off. This new release by Shout! Factory showcases great picture and solid audio. Though the supplements on hand are running low on gas, this is one release you won’t want to put in your rear-view. And other metaphors about cars.

(Thanks to Digital Dingus for the screen grabs.)

ABOUT

Shout!/Scream Factory, LLC is a diversified multi-platform media company devoted to producing, uncovering, preserving and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. Shout! Factory’s DVD and Blu-Ray™ offerings serve up feature films, classic and contemporary TV series, animation, live music and comedy specials in lavish packages crammed with extras. Shout! Factory also owns and operates Westchester Films, Inc., Timeless Media Group, Biograph Records, Majordomo Records, HighTone Records and Video Time Machine. These riches are the result of a creative acquisition mandate that has established the company as a hotbed of cultural preservation and commercial reinvention. 

Buy The Car from Shout! Factory.

 

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Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

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