The Car

James Brolin in The Car (dir. Elliot Silverstein, 1977).

Kathleen Lloyd.

R.G. Armstrong.

There are (at least) two kinds of classic 1970s low-budget B-grade horror movies. This is the other kind.

Slightly adjust the hairstyles and clothes, and take away just a smidgen of the camera's sophisticated swoop-capacity, and so forth, and you could be looking at a film by John Sturges or Nicholas Ray from the mid-50s. Everything is framed in excellent rectangular narrativity-vision, the technicolor finely coordinated at the level of things like how the short-sleeve shirts and topographical wall maps match at the police station. I appreciate that stuff, dammit!

Further, James Brolin's Sheriff Wade Parent (who is, indeed, a parent) is the perfect protagonist for this kind of gritty little fish story. His Viking-like moustache alone registers shades of emotion and befuddled heroism too subtle for today's actors (though his son Josh has some of his presence). When Parent faces down the diabolical car that is terrorizing his small southwestern town, he is a study in courage mixed with helpless confusion. His bullets do nothing to the tires or windshield--it's like they evaporate before they even reach their target. It's downright chilling. The car is chilling. It's a black 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III rebuilt to look like a cross between a coffin and a deathwatch beetle. Everything about it is freaky: its hoarse honk, its handle-less doors, its nearly opaque windshield, the way it scurries around in half-circles like something poisonous from under a rock. I want it. If I drove something like that, no one would screw with me ever.

Also featuring Ronny Cox, Kathleen Lloyd (who had previously done The Missouri Breaks), and a host of great character actors, like R.G. Armstrong and John Marley.

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