Review: The Car / Cert: 12 / Director: Elliot Silverstein / Screenplay: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack, Lane Slate / Starring: James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, R.G. Armstrong, John Rubinstein / Release Date: Out Now
Post-dating films like Duel, Killdozer and even Jaws but, oddly, pre-dating Stephen King’s more seminal, if similar, Christine, Elliot Silverstein’s lame 1977 thriller about a sinister demonic Lincoln Continental rampaging around a small community in Utah never really gets out of first gear, stalled by clumsy dialogue and underpowered acting. Not exactly a complete write-off, this is certainly very nearly car-crash movie making.
The Car is forced off the road, in the end, by a lousy script and worse acting. The usually-reliable James Brolin struggles to stay in control in his thankless role as Captain Wade Parent (what kind of a surname is that?) investigating a series of apparently motiveless hit-and-runs carried out by a driverless black car. As the death toll mounts things start to get personal – especially when the car strikes too close to home – and Wade finds himself locked into a battle of wits with an inanimate object which has a decidedly-devilish life of its own.
The Car remains watchable because of its stunning location photography (a highlight of the sharp Blu-ray transfer) and the genuine sense of threat engendered whenever the car itself appears and scenes of the vehicle in the distance, glinting in the dazzling sunlight as it roars towards its next target, are serviceable exercises in building dread and tension. But Silverstein’s attempts at creating a land-based car-centric Jaws are shafted by a leaden, clumsy script which does little to enamour the audience to Wade and his friends and acting which can perhaps best be described as deeply unsatisfactory. Wade’s deputy Luke Johnson (Ronny Cox) is worth looking out for as he becomes more and more melodramatically depressed and hangdog with each appearance by the murderous motor vehicle. At least he pulls himself together in time to participate in the final stand-off with the car which, in its final moments, reveals its supernatural colours. In the movie’s only really disturbing sequence (for all the wrong reasons) the final sequence suggests that the car has survived and is on its way to wreak havoc in Los Angeles; fortunately lousy contemporary reviews and a disinterested cinema audience spared us a conveyor-belt of The Car sequels.
Despite its derivative script and barely phoned-in performances, The Car is never bad enough to be detestable and never good enough to feel like a sensible way of spending a hundred minutes. It’s a film you’ll neither love nor hate; you’re most likely to be fairly neutral about it.
Extras: Moderated commentary with the director/ Special effects supervisor interview / Actor John Rubinstein interview / Trailer / Introduction and trailer commentary by John Landis