Car, The (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus watches the car verion of Jaws but it's not as good as Duel...
When two teenage cyclists and a hitch-hiking musician are killed in apparently deliberate hit-and-runs, the police department of Santa Ynez investigates. Despite it being an almost unbelievable prospect, the mysterious car is seemingly driverless and when the car strikes too close to Captain Wade Parent's (James Brolin) family, he vows to stop at nothing to defeat it.
Given the 1977 release, it’s no surprise that The Car feels like a movie trying to replicate something akin to Duel crossed with Jaws and even more so it feels very much like it’s trying the key into the growing Spielberg style of hit making movies that was fast becoming an audience pleaser at the close of the seventies.
The cast are all pretty likable in a classic small town way and their lives are shown in a light and warm set up with Captain Wade and his family at the core of it all. There’s lots of silly jokes between them and a genuine sense of fun and outside of the family there’s a real world sense of friendship between most of the characters, which makes this demon car terrorising their town feel more devastating. Of course, and as I mentioned before this is very much in the same vein as the set up in Jaws but hey, if you're going to copy something, copying one of the best films ever seems a good route right?
The Car itself is played like a demon. A force that's all about rage, terrorism and death and a general dislike of all things roadside. This all counters the happy-go-lucky nature of most of the characters in the film and give The Car a genuine presence of fear.
Director Elliot Silverstein isn't shy in wanting to present The Car like the shark in Jaws or the lorry in Duel and for the most part it works. I have to say on a purely personal view, I found The Car is sometimes played a little cartoony. Of course the demon car concept is ridiculous in itself but its more the way its shot. Also the design of the car is obviously aggressive but i don't think its entirely successful. Some of its rounder edges gives it an animated movie kind of feel and takes away a little bit of its menace in some scenes. It’s almost like a caricature of a classic American car but doesn't quite capture the menacing presence a slicker design might have generated. In fact, I’d go as far as to describe some of its features as that akin to a leather sofa with wheels but that doesn't mean it doesn't get the job done.
James Brolin, father of Josh Brolin and he looks a lot like his son here (there’s also an uncanny resemblance to Christian Bale in some instances) keeps this whole demon car prospect afloat and for the most part this is played totally straight. The final face off with the car is exciting stuff but the weirdly shot destruction of the car, that serves up a very demonic visual of fire, drops the flick into B-movie territory and for the most part the rest of the film seemed to be trying to avoid such goofy tricks. Anyway, The Car is one of those pretty good bad movies that came to our screens after Jaws and like many a thriller with an unrelenting evil presence never quite manages to capture what it’s trying to emulate from the shark film that has it all.
The extremely impressive 1080p video presentation here is quite the wonder to look at in HD. Colours are bright and the lighting is wonderfully natural. Edges are extremely sharp with the absolute minimum amount of soft elements and grain and all this from a relatively low key and all but forgotten 1976 movie. It’s a rare treat that such cult hits look this great but The Car really does show off what a good HD restoration can achieve.
The film doesn't really deal in darker elements until the end of the film and they hold up very well but with the majority of the runtime is locked in a daytime setting and it’s all bright sunlight and summer colours in amongst the dusty locations. Shadowing is very good under the natural light and even the lower lit overcast scenes in the film come with a great looking HD pop to everything. This is a highlight that not even a lot of modern films manage to achieve, so for such an old movie to be handling it all this well and with it still managing to look so natural was noticeably great.
Everything here quite literally shines. Sunlit reflections off of police cars, the glints in characters eyes, the bright blue sky and the wall of dust that spews out from behind The Car. This is a cult favourite that has been treated very well in 1080p and fans of the film should be very pleased indeed.
The LPCM stereo track here is pretty central and fairly hollow in place but very it’s still very good for the era it was made in. Roaring engines widen the track a fair bit and they come with a solid rumble, crashes and yells can feel a bit pitchy and raised voices in arguments can lose a bit of clarity but all of this is a minor issue in an otherwise all round well balanced track.
The sound design for the car, with its almost sonic waves of engine roar holds a solid presence in the audio track and holds some of the more aggressive and impressive elements of the entire track. It could maybe do with being a little more on the overbearing side, to really sell the demonic car but even so, there’s a real boost when it comes to The Car’s big moments.
The commentary with director Elliot Silverstein along with a host presenting questions is okay but it's sometimes a bit of a struggle. Silverstein is slow talking and many of his answers have to be lured out of him as opposed to him being forthright with his input. He seems quite vague with his details from time to time but he still paints a good picture of the behind the scenes process for The Car. It’s an informative track but its can be a little frustrating from time to time.
'Making A Mechanical Monster' (27:32 HD) covers the creation of The Car and the importance of getting it right. It also covers the special effects business of the era as a whole and how it's changed over the years.
'Hitchhike to Hell' (10:16 HD) is an interview with John Rubinstein (the hitchhiker in the movie who has a nasty face off with the car) and talks about his career and his experience on the film.
Last up there’s a trailer and an additional John Landis trailer commentary (02:56) which has the director put the film’s release in context and mentions that he thinks it’s a dumb movie he enjoys watching. He also mentions that Guillermo del Toro has a replica of the car that he drives around because he loves the movie. Landis gives a pretty funny and honest short commentary about how stupid the film is and how anything with demonic themes was much celebrated in 1976 so Universal Pictures thought this one might be a hit.
The Car is either Jaws-lite or Duel-extreme really, but either way it never really captures what makes either of those Spielberg classics so damn good, while still managing to entertain on its own demonic killer car basis. The Blu-ray look absolutely incredible for it’s age, and just for HD presentations in general and the extras are enough to make this another all round great release from Arrow, who treat these cult movies better than most big studios seem to treat mega hits. All in all fans of The Car should be pretty happy with hi one!
* Note: The images on this page are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 15th July 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 English
Subtitles: ENglish SDH
Extras: COmmentary, Featureetes, Trailer, Trailer Commentary with John Landis
Easter Egg: No
Director: Elliot Silverstein
Cast: James Brolin Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Ronny Cox, R. G. Armstrong
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 96 minutes
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