Before Stephen King ran the evil-car sub-genre into the ground with the 1980s one-two punch of John Carpenter’s Christine and the King directed Maximum Overdrive, there was a comparably minor and decidedly more conservative entry into the rather small possessed vehicle slate of films. That would be 1977’s aptly titled The Car, directed by Cat Ballou‘s Elliot Silverstein. Releasing only a mere couple of years after Steven Spielberg’s Jaws– who also gave us vehicular horror in the form of his TV movie Duel – it shouldn’t be too surprising that the advertising and subsequent reviews for Silverstein’s film compare the titular car with the shark for Spielberg’s film. And, to be honest, that’s not where the similarities stop.
The Car isn’t a great film, and it doesn’t really need to be. The car in question is ultra sleek, looking like a cross between a hearse and the car that Machine Gun Joe Viterbo wields in Death Race 2000. It’s, naturally, black and has tinted windows that allow no driver to be seen. But, of course, there isn’t a driver. This car is driven by pure evil. Like the shark in Jaws, it seems to target people at random, not necessarily focusing on any type of main character but, rather, anyone (or thing) that comes in its path. Nothing is safe; children, horn playing hitchhikers, James Brolin, fences. There isn’t a lot in the way of on-screen death and/or gore though. This isn’t Maximum Overdrive. Or even Jaws for that matter. The blood runs about as dry as the desert locations here.
What The Car may lack in viscera or even flat out scares, it makes up for in being unabashedly entertaining. This is really silly stuff and your suspension of disbelief will have to be firmly in place to best enjoy it. There’s no true explanation for the car and, in the end, do we really need one? As it stands, we get a solid 90+ minutes of a black car revving its engine and frightening up a desert town with all sorts of menace. It’s good, lean genre fun that wears its inspirations with, if not pride, humility. It may not be as excessive as Maximum Overdrive, as canonical as Christine or as dread inducing as Duel but it works well for what it is. And the showdown at the racetrack is Pit Stop level awesomeness.
Scream Factory have brought The Car to Blu-ray in the US (it was released overseas by Arrow prior) and it doesn’t look bad. I never saw the Arrow disc so I can’t offer up any sort of comparison, but this looks better than I’ve seen it before on home video. Grain is organic and inherent throughout, with colors appearing bright and those blacks black (after all, the car itself is black). I didn’t notice any problematic damage or deterioration here. Solid work. Audio comes with 5.1 and 2.0 DTS HD MA tracks. Considering that this was initially released in 2.0, that’s what I stuck with and the results were very good. This is a loud movie and the soundtrack doesn’t disappoint, with the engine revving being particularly bassy and the score coming through really well. One of the better presentations I’ve seen from Scream Factory in a while.
Supplements are primarily in the form of interviews, with three included here. Silverstein chats for about ten minutes about the film and seems happy with how it came out, though he remains humble knowing good and well what it is. Next up is actress Geraldine Keams who talks for twelve minutes, mostly about her role in the film but also about her career in general. Lastly, we get ten minutes with actress Melody Thomas Scott which is primarily anecdotal and the most fun of the interviews. Rounding the package out, there’s a stills gallery, a trailer, TV spot and some radio spots.
The Car is no masterpiece and your enjoyment of it will likely depend on what you bring into it. Everyone involved seems to have their hearts in the right place and the end result is a sincere attempt at B-movie horror with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s hard to take seriously, but some great set-pieces and a fun cast make it work. Scream Factory offers up a great presentation and a few worthwhile supplements to make it a package fans should consider getting. Recommended.