1977’s “The Car” is very much a product of its decade. It’s a silly tale with a narrative involving something about Satanism or pure Evil, while fancying itself as something of a different take on “Jaws.” Rather than Roy Scheider as a small town sheriff and his allies trying to take down a giant shark with almost supernatural predatory abilities, this time we have James Brolin as a small town sheriff who is facing off against a giant black Sedan with the supernatural abilities to hunt down and murder people on the roads and on highways.
Unlike predecessor “Duel,” director Elliot Silverstein focuses on a vehicle that’s supernatural, and downright states it from the moment we see it incapable of crossing over in to a cemetery. While “Duel” relied on the ambiguity of the truck being supernatural or not, the villain in “The Car” is an evil Sedan that murders people left and right and is very cognizant of what it’s trying to accomplish. In the first five minutes, it brutally runs down a pair of bikers on the road knocking them off a bridge to their deaths.
Brolin plays Sheriff Wade Parents, the enforcer of a small town in Utah who begins investigating the mysterious hit and runs along the town. When Wade’s deputy Everett is viciously murdered by the car, Wade begins to investigate the likelihood that the hit and runs aren’t a serial killer, but are the result of a sentient car with demonic powers. While the premise sounds silly (and can occasionally b so), “The Car” is surprisingly solid and entertaining. It moves at a brisk and welcome pace, with interesting characters and some unique heroes leading the narrative including Brolin, Ronnie Cox, and Eddie Little Sky.
Director Silverstein is able to derive some surprisingly exciting moments with the car, including my favorite moment when the car tries to mow down a local town parade, prompting the teachers and students to hide in a local cemetery. It takes courageous teacher Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd) to taunt the car and inevitably figure out that it can’t cross in to hallowed grounds. I won’t be quick to deem “The Car” a horror masterpiece, but it watches quite well as a fun, entertaining, schlocky seventies horror film you can sit down and blow through with a few beers and some snacks.
The Blu-Ray from Scream Factory includes an interview with director Elliot Silverstein who gives a very good commentary about his work on the film, and is very honest about “The Car,” insisting that audiences shouldn’t go in with expectations set very high. There’s an interview with actress Geraldine Keams, clocking in at twelve minutes, who discusses her personal history, her career, and her work on the film. There’s an interview with Melody Thomas Scott, a nine minute interview who approaches the interview with a mischievous attitude, discussing her confrontations with Silverstein, and some pranks she played on Utah tourists while shooting the film. Finally, there’s the original theatrical trailer, a TV spot, Radio Spots, and a still gallery.