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Anchor Bay presents
The Car (1977)

"Oh great brothers of the night, who rideth out upon the hot winds of hell, whodwelleth in the devil's lair; move and appear!"
- Anton Szander La Vey (opening text)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: July 28, 2000

Stars: James Brolin, John Marley, Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong, Henry O'Brien
Other Stars: Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, John Rubenstein
Director: Elliot Silverstein

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:36m:00s
Release Date: July 27, 1999
UPC: 013131086690
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B D+

DVD Review

Any movie that begins with a quotation from Church of Satan founder and classical organist, (the late) Anton La Vey, has to have something interesting going for it. In the case of The Car, the presence of a La Vey quote is extremely fitting, for the dark and demonic themes within might just get you thinking about the spiritual world. If anything, the film is an interesting and stylish attempt at taking a fairly laughable concept and making it more potent. It also predates both the book and film of Stephen King's famous "evil car" story Christine.

The Car is set in a rather non-descript Southwestern town called Santa Ynaz (filmed in Utah). One day, out of nowhere, a menacing, black car rolls into the town and starts killing people off left and right. Sheriff Wade Parent (James Brolin) finds himself desperately trying to figure out a way to stop the mysterious car, but every attempt to do anything about it results in disaster. The car seems completely invincible and able to do almost anything. It comes and goes as it pleases, never being spotted or seen until it's too late. Wade is a man on a mission, but his police officers keep being killed off and hope is diminishing. Though some people have supernatural explanations on their lips, no one really knows what drives the car.

The movie sounds kind of funny and probably not too impressive. In actuality, though, some skilled direction really turns this mediocre script into an above-average horror film. The central cast is filled with excellent dramatic actors like Ronny Cox, John Marly, and R.G. Armstrong, and some time is spent giving the characters some depth. We see little peeks into their personal lives, for good or for bad, and it helps to flesh out the dynamics of this small town. The enigmatic car itself is a cleverly customized Lincoln, crafted for the film by Barris Kustoms (who have done a good deal of custom film work), and certainly looks the part with heavily tinted windows and no visible door handles.

Rather than a wild horror film where people are being killed every 5 minutes, The Car is stylishly conservative. The deadly vehicle unleashes its powers in measured, controlled amounts. Every scene featuring the car wreaking havoc is just enough, but not too much. The movie actually compares a lot with Jaws. Like the giant shark, the car lurks about unseen until it suddenly pops up and kills. Though people try and hunt it, the sedan always seems just a tad bit smarter. The driving and stuntwork in the car sequences is top-notch, and adds a professional level of atmosphere to what might otherwise be some boring sub-quality picture. I will say this for The Car, where else are you going to see a big, black car try and mow down a school marching band? Now that's entertainment.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: The dual-layer disc features a widescreen version on one layer, and the full-screen version on the other. The full-screen version is, essentially, pointless to watch. The 2:35:1 aspect ratio is used extremely well and the full-frame cropping ruins just about everything in the film's best scenes. Quality-wise, the widescreen version is very good, but slightly flawed by the film's obvious age. Some scenes have grain and compression artifacts, which isn't helped by the level of smoke and dust in the picture. Despite those instances, the film does have excellent color level, detail, and black level. The washed out, ugly copies endlessly shown on television can't even compare to this new version. The full-screen version is basically the same, but almost impossible to watch because of the cropping problems. Too much of the image is compromised.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The new Dolby 5.1 audio track is a nice addition to the film. Although the center channel is a little muddy at times, especially dialogue, for the most part the new mix works. Directionality has been added (mostly in the car chase sequences) and the musical score has been beefed up a bit. Surrounds are used quite a bit for added imaging and enhancement. The LFE channel gets some great, throaty roars from the engine of the sinister car, as well as most the other motorized vehicles. Unfortunately, the original soundtrack didn't have much frequency range so the whole thing is harsh sounding at times.

The Dolby 2.0 Pro-Logic mix is decent overall, but it lacks the strength of the 5.1's bass. However, the front channels seem a slight bit better balanced with the center than the 5.1 version.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The disc features the original trailer as it's sole extra. The bios section is a little on the light side with bios for James Brolin and Elliot Silverstein only. The artwork on the keepcase is good, but not the original poster work. The insert features a short essay on the film by Jim Knipfel, writer for the New York Press. In general, this was a little disappointing considering the large cult-following the film has gained over the years.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

The Car is a great example of movie totally battered into obscurity, despite being critically praised. Many people argue this is because it released so close to Star Wars. I've seen a lot of bad-mouthing of this film, mostly comparing it to b-movie type stuff, but as someone whose seen hundreds (possibly thousands) of cheesy, low-budget horror films, I don't see the comparison. It has a great cast, excellent effects (some of which come from legendary effects artist Albert J. Whitlock), and very effective crafting. It was the last major film for director Silverstein, who had made such Hollywood staples as Cat Ballou and A Man Called Horse. I'll admit, the movie does have it's unintentional funny moments, but that's easily part of the charm. In a very intelligent move, the film also avoids any easy explanation of the situation. Why this film isn't a classic is beyond me. Maybe that theory about Star Wars is true. Having said all that, I'd still like to know exactly what Anton La Vey's role as the credited "creative advisor" was. I guess when you're making a movie about an inanimate object that kills people, it's just a good idea to have a Satanist on hand. Highly Recommended.

 


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