Film Review: The Car (1977)

Also known as: Wheels (working title)
Release Date: May 13th, 1977
Directed by: Elliot Silverstein
Written by: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack, Lane Slate
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Elizabeth Thompson, Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong

Universal Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“[addressing his officers] So look… I want everybody out on the streets. I want you to remember… a young man was killed today, passing through our town… and I don’t like it… I don’t like it at all. Goodbye.” – Everett

The Car is my favorite killer vehicle movie, as it just beats out Steven Spielberg’s early film, Duel. However, unlike Duel, this one has more in common with Christine and Maximum Overdrive in that it features a vehicle without a driver.

What I really like about the film is that it’s a mystery as to who or what is behind the wheel and by the end of it, it’s still unclear other than a demonic face appearing briefly within the smoke of the vehicle’s flaming wreckage.

This is a pretty badass movie, as the meanest looking car of all killer cars mows people down without any hesitation.

Now the only real negative about the film is that there isn’t any blood or even the slightest bit of gore. This is a horror film from the late ’70s, man! Take the kid gloves off and show us some vehicular splatter porn!

I guess that the televised version of this film was heavily edited down but I’m not sure why it needed to be? This is practically PG in how it alludes to violence and doesn’t show anyone actually getting the Gallagher watermelon treatment.

What makes this better than it should be is the fact that the car looks so damn menacing. Plus, it moves like a real predator because whoever was driving it and orchestrating how its movements needed to work within key shots and scenes knew exactly what the hell they were doing.

Sure, there are some cheesy and goofy bits, like the car barrel rolling over two cop cars and the weird French horn toting pothead in the beginning but that stuff works within the framework and tone of the picture.

The character development is also good and no one really seems disposable other than the two bicycle teens that meet their terrible fate in the opening sequence.

The Car introduces you to several characters and it does a superb job of giving them life, even with limited time. For instance, the cop who dies early on didn’t have much screen time but his death hits you in the feels because even with just two small scenes, he was shown to be a good, honorable man.

Additionally, Kathleen Lloyd’s death was a real punch in the nuts. She came off as really likable and she’s definitely one of the people you hoped would survive to the end. Sure, she talked shit to the demon car and some of her disses were corny but it really humanized her and showed her strength as she stood strong against a lethal predator despite showing that she knew she was vulnerable and was very frightened underneath it all. Her death is one of the coolest scenes in the movie though.

James Brolin, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong were all very good too. I’ve never seen Cox play a character that came off as kind of dopey and weak and it’s a real departure from his role as Dick Jones in RoboCop or as the police captain in the Beverly Hills Cop film series.

When I saw this for the first time, I was surprised by how good the main players in this film were. Especially for a late ’70s horror picture that seems like it’s mostly forgotten today.

I also dig the score to this film. The opening credits were eerie and ominous as hell, as they truly set the tone for something dark and brooding.

In a lot of ways, this film reminds me of Jaws, as a killer force of nature descends upon a small, quiet town and starts picking off its citizens one by one until it dies in a explosion caused by the town’s brave sheriff.

The Car is damn good. And it’s just one of those films that I can watch over and over and never get bored with it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other killer vehicle movies: Duel, Christine, Maximum Overdrive, etc.

Documentary Review: Spielberg (2017)

Release Date: October 5th, 2017 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Susan Lacy
Cast: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Richard Dreyfuss, John Williams, J.J. Abrams, James Brolin, Bob Balaban, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, Oprah Winfrey, Frank Marshall, Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Zemeckis, Cate Blanchett, Holly Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tom Cruise, Eric Bana, Daniel Craig

HBO Documentary Films, Pentimento Productions, 147 Minutes

Review:

This was a pretty stellar documentary for fans of not just Steven Spielberg but filmmaking and film history in general.

It reminded me a lot of the 2001 documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, in that this spent a lot of time breaking down most of the key movies in Spielberg’s oeuvre.

Every segment here was rich, detailed and featured interviews with some major directors, actors and producers. But the film also gets into Spielberg’s personal life and how real life experiences influenced his movies.

This was a lengthy documentary, just as the Kubrick one was and rightfully so. In fact, this could have been the length of a ten part, two hour apiece Ken Burns documentary and I still would have been fully engaged.

Spielberg’s career has been long and full of at least a dozen classic films that will be remembered forever. Each segment could’ve been it’s own documentary film and it actually kind of sucks that a few films were mentioned but not given as much detail, most notably A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the Jurassic Park sequels and some of his production work like Back to the Future.

Still, this is pretty thorough and there is so much to unpack and take away from this. It is one of the best documentaries on a filmmaker’s life and career.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on specific directors but this reminded me a lot of Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures.

Film Review: Westworld (1973)

Release Date: November 21st, 1973
Directed by: Michael Crichton
Written by: Michael Crichton
Music by: Fred Karlin
Cast: Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Dick Van Patten

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 88 Minutes

westworld_1973Review:

I haven’t seen Westworld since I was a kid. I vaguely remembered the plot but I do recall liking it overall. With HBO remaking it as a television series, I thought I’d revisit it before delving into the newer version.

The movie revolves around a company called Delos and their adult amusement park. They create a place with three different worlds that can be lived in: Roman World (based on Pompeii), Medieval World (self-explanatory) and Westworld (based on the American Old West). The two main characters, played by Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, go into Westworld to live out their cowboy fantasies from their youth. They immediately cross paths with the town villain, played by Yul Brynner. Brynner, like all the other characters in town, is an android that is programmed to play a specific role. As the film goes on, malfunctions start happening until the park gets completely out of control. The climax of the film sees Brynner stalking Benjamin in an effort to legitimately kill him.

Westworld has a pretty interesting premise and it all unfolds and plays out really well. It is always neat to see a science fiction western but this one also adds in elements of Medieval Europe and the Roman Empire. It is a strange bag but it creates some cool scenarios and visuals. Most notably, the scene with the predatory Brynner hunting his prey through Pompeii, as he is dressed in western garb. This movie had to be a fun change of pace for Brynner.

This is also the first film directed by novelist Michael Crichton. He would go on to write a slew of great books and screenplays. His most famous work being the creation of the Jurassic Park franchise. In fact, the amusement park scenario of this creation, may have inspired what would become Jurassic Park.

The special effects are pretty good for the time. This is also the first motion picture to feature digital image processing. It was used to pixelate the film in an effort to show the killer android’s point-of-view.

Even though he barely speaks, it is hard to think of Yul Brynner in a role more tailor-made for him than this. He would also reprise the role in the sequel Futureworld, which I will watch and review shortly.

Richard Benjamin and James Brolin did well enough in their roles too. They weren’t memorable or that interesting but they served their purpose.

Westworld is a unique picture and it is highly enjoyable to fans of the sci-fi and western genres.