What do you get when you cross a demonically possessed car on a murderous rampage, a small quiet American town and an incredibly good-looking James Brolin? You get the very silly but fun 1977 cult horror feature The Car. Directed by Elliot Silverstein, The Car is often referred to as ‘Jaws on wheels’, and rightly so. Just like the giant shark, The Car stalks its prey, attacks and drives off leaving residents terrified. And thanks to our good friends at Arrow, the film is not only getting its first Blu-ray release, but a release containing extras.
The community of Santa Ynez is under threat… by a car. It kills two young cyclists (one being a stunt man who does an amazing hundred foot plus free jump), goes after a hitchhiker, and even gets the towns most beloved Sheriff. It’s up to Captain Wade Parent (a really, really yummy James Brolin, who looks a bit too much like Christian Bale at some moments, but is pretty hot and kind of makes you want him to turn up on his cop motorcycle and save you, or maybe that’s just me…) to stop The Car right in its tracks. Does he? You bet he does! Eventually. In one massive blazing fire-ball of revenge out in the dusty canyons. Is it the best film ever made? Of course not, but its an enjoyable ride (excuse the pun) none the less. The actors make the most of some wooden dialogue and do their best worried expressions and make it work pretty well. Brolin is good as the single daddy/hero of the piece (yes, I wasn’t just perving), as is Ronny Cox (Deliverence) as his emotionally conflicted co-worker, Kathleen Lloyd as Parent’s worried girlfriend Lauren, who tries to stand up to the automobile, and R.G. Armstrong as the towns big bully wife beater. Extra points also go to Kim Richards (Race To Witch Mountain, the little girl who gets shot in Assault From Precinct 13) for maintaining an adorable look in every scene she’s in, even when she’s meant to be terrified. That takes a lot of skill and she pulls it off all the time. Kudos.
If we’re really being honest, the cast don’t have anything on The Car. The actual car itself is, to put it bluntly, fucking awesome. A sleek, black customised Lincoln Continental Mark III with chrome metal work, it looks terrific, one of those cars you wouldn’t mind owning yourself. No wonder director Guillermo Del Toro spend thousands of dollars getting a custom-made identical working replica built for personal use. It’s bloody beautiful, and is the über stalk and kill machine. Faceless (there is no driver), nameless (there is no number plate) and absolutely full of blood lust (every POV shot from inside the car is tinted a red-orange), it is quite literally bad ass. Four were built for the film’s production, three of which were destroyed during stunts. The last, used mainly for close up shots, is now in the hands of a private collector. Am I jealous? Yes. As jealous as Del Toro? Probably not.
Re-mastered by Universal, the Blu-ray transfer does look beautiful, really doing the films shooting location of Utah justice. If it doesn’t make you want to go and visit American canyon towns then there really is something wrong with you. Every frame is beautifully composed too and whilst it does get quite dusty in certain scenes, the picture is pretty clear. The score is also great, with a very Jaws-esque two note theme featured at the films start. Aside from that, it really is just a film about a possessed car, much in the same way that Killdozer! made three years before was about a possessed bulldozer. Duel might be the better picture but when it comes to road movies, well, you just gotta include The Car. Even if for The Exorcist style exorcism-like destruction of the bad boy in the films final moments.
The extras on the release package are few but fun. A great commentary by director Elliot Silverstein is included, along with an interview with actor John Rubinstein (the hitchhiker victim of The Car), the original trailer and the Trailers From Hell commentary of the trailer by director John Landis (An American Werewolf In London, Blues Brothers). Also included, as beginning the standard norm for Arrow releases, is a detailed booklet containing essays and interviews. Best of them all though is a great thirty minute feature with Special Effects artist William Aldridge (Star Trek, Die Hard 2, 127 Hours) who goes through every effect in the movie and details how it was done, through the working process, who was involved and the differences between the special effects and stunt work. It’s a very interesting interview, and the type of extra I wish more distributors would try to include on DVD/Blu-ray releases. If, like me, you haven’t got a bloody clue how some departments work and find it amazing learning the mechanical process of physical effects – this extra is for you.
To sum up – a demonically possessed car that kills people ends up going up against a small town police squad. Do you need anymore convincing (other than mentioning that James Brolin is really hot in it, like let-me-peel-off-your-cop-uniform-and-sponge-you-down hot)? Of course not! Go and buy it folks!