|Directed by||Elliot Silverstein|
|Music by||Leonard Rosenman|
|Edited by||Michael McCroskey|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
The Car is a 1977 American thriller film directed by Elliot Silverstein and written by Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack and Lane Slate. The film stars James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, and Ronny Cox, and tells the story of a mysterious car which goes on a murderous rampage, terrorizing the residents of a small town.
The film was produced and distributed by Universal Studios, and was influenced by numerous "road movies" of the 1970s including Steven Spielberg's 1971 thriller Duel and Roger Corman's Death Race 2000.
Two bicyclists cycling on a canyon are followed by a mysterious black car down the road. At the bridge, the car proceeds to crush one cyclist against the wall, and ram the other from behind, causing him to fall off the bridge. A hitchhiker, hoping to get a ride, encounters the car and insults it after it purposefully tries to run him down. In response, the car runs over him and leaves. The local sheriff's office, called to the first of a series of hit and run deaths, get a lead on the car that appears heavily customized and has no license plate, as pointed out by Amos Clemens (R. G. Armstrong) after he sees it run over the hitchhiker.
That night, in an apparent bid to kill Amos, the car instead runs over the sheriff, leaving Chief Deputy Wade Parent (James Brolin) in charge. During the resulting investigation, an eyewitness to the accident states that there was no driver inside the car, furthering Wade's confusion. Wade asks his girlfriend, Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd), who is a teacher at the local school, to cancel the upcoming marching band rehearsals for their safety. Lauren and her friend, who is Wade's deputy Luke Johnson's (Ronny Cox) wife, ask him to let them rehearse, to which Luke unwittingly agrees.
The car enters the town and attacks the school marching band as it rehearses at the local show ground. It chases the group of teachers and students into a cemetery. Curiously enough, the machine will not enter onto the consecrated ground as Lauren taunts the purported driver that any of the townsfolk have yet to see. Seemingly in anger, the car destroys a brick gate post and leaves. The police chase the automobile along highways throughout the desert before it turns on them, destroying several squad cars and killing five of Wade's deputies in the process. Wade confronts the vehicle and is surprised to see that none of his bullets put a dent on the car's windshield or tires. After trying to open the door (when it is revealed that the car has no door handles), Wade is knocked out and the car escapes.
That evening, Lauren, on her way home to pick up her things, is killed when the car jumps driving straight through her house and rams her, right when she is speaking to Wade over the phone. Luke puts forward to a grief stricken and maddened Wade the theory that it acted in revenge for the insults hurled on it by Lauren and notes it cannot enter hallowed ground. Wade concocts a plan to stop the car by burying it beneath a controlled explosion in the canyons that lie outside of town. After discovering it waiting for him in his own garage, he is forced to carry out his plans post haste. He is pursued by the car into a mountainous canyon area where his remaining deputies have set a trap for the machine.In a final confrontation, Wade and Luke, at the edge of a cliff, bait the car into running straight at them, then jump aside as it goes over the cliff. With the dynamite detonated and the rubble falling on it, a monstrous demonic visage appears in the smoke and fire of the explosion, shocking the deputies.
The final scenes show Wade refusing to believe what the group saw in the flames, despite Luke's insistence about what he saw. The film concludes, in some cuts, with the car prowling the streets of downtown Los Angeles, clearly having survived.
- James Brolin as Captain Wade Parent
- Kathleen Lloyd as Lauren Humphries
- John Marley as Sheriff Everett Peck
- Elizabeth Thompson as Margie
- Ronny Cox as Deputy Luke Johnson
- R. G. Armstrong as Amos Clemens
- John Rubinstein as John Morris
- Kim Richards as Lynn Marie Parent
- Kyle Richards as Debbie Parent
- Roy Jenson as Ray Mott
- Kate Murtagh as Miss McDonald
- Doris Dowling as Bertha Clemens
- Eddie Little Sky as Denson
- Lee McLaughlin as Marvin Fats
The "evil" black car in the film was a customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III designed by famed Hollywood car customizer George Barris. There were four cars built for the film in six weeks. Three were used for stunt work – the fourth was for closeups, etc. The stunt cars were destroyed during production – the fourth is now in a private collection.
The late Church of Satan leader Anton LaVey was given a "Technical Advisor" credit on the film. His quote: "Oh great brothers of the night who rideth upon the hot winds of hell, who dwelleth in the Devil's lair; move and appear," is given in the opening credits and is taken from the "Invocation of Destruction" in The Satanic Bible.
The film's main theme, heard predominantly throughout, is a reworked, orchestral version of the Dies Irae, also used in "The Screaming Skull" (1958).
Release and reception
The film was panned by critics, citing poor dialogue and acting. The film received an 18% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel gave the film one star and his headline referred to this film as "The Cinematic Turkey of 1977". The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.
- Similar titles
- Killdozer!, a 1974 film about a possessed bulldozer.
- The Hearse, a 1980 horror movie about a possessed hearse.
- Christine, a 1983 horror film inspired by Stephen King's novel of the same name.
- Nightmares, a 1983 movie made up of four separate story segments; the third, "The Benediction", features a traveling priest attacked on the highway by a demonic 4x4.
- Maximum Overdrive, a 1986 horror movie, based on the short story "Trucks" by Stephen King.
- Trucks, a more faithful 1997 made-for-TV film based on the King short story.
- Wheels of Terror, a 1990 made-for-TV film about a driverless car terrorizing a small Arizona community.
- Black Cadillac, a 2003 film about a mysterious black Cadillac that stalks three young men as they make their way through the virtually deserted mountain roads of Wisconsin.
- Phantom Racer, a 2009 Syfy movie about a possessed race car.
- Super Hybrid, a 2011 film about a shape shifting monster that transforms into cars.
- "The Honking", Futurama episode where Bender transforms into a similar looking demonic car.
- "THE CAR (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. May 16, 1977. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- "The Car Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
- Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.