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My Letterboxd Watchlist #1: The Car (1977)

Today I begin a daunting task: working through the 521 movies on my Letterboxd watchlist. (Sure, it’s not like I don’t already have enough going on, right?) I wish Letterboxd had a way for you to add films to your watchlist and tag who recommended them (I’ve heard they’re working on this), because I have no way of remembering those sources. So I have no one to thank or blame, which I suppose is as it should be.

These reviews will be short. No major credits, minimal research, no deep analysis; just my gut reactions to these films. Today I’ll begin by kicking the tires, getting behind the wheel, and taking a spin in The Car (1977).


The Set-Up

The Car is just that: a horror movie about a car that kills people in a small California town. That's it. The town’s Deputy Wade Parent (James Brolin) and the rest of his law enforcement pals (including Ronny Cox as an alcoholic deputy) try to stop it in some imaginative (and unimaginative) ways, but the car (a customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III) roars over a couple of teenagers on bicycles, a hitchhiker, and even tries to mow down a school marching band. (They should’ve had their clarinet section blast out some notes in the altissimo register. That’ll stop anything.)

Who’s Responsible for This?

I’m not sure. I may have read about it in Michael Vaughn’s book The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema, but I also think Brian Saur is a fan of this one, so I may have heard him praising it.

The Verdict

I remember when The Car was released in theaters. I avoided it, thinking it would be the height of stupidity, a 96-minute waste of time. (I’m sure I wasted plenty of other 96-minute-and-longer stretches of time with worse films, but that’s another story.) As I mentioned above, I’m not sure how this movie ended up on my watchlist, but I really enjoyed it. Sure, it’s obviously a rip-off of Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971) and the lesser-seen Killdozer! (1974), but it has a certain appeal. Although the film doesn’t even attempt to explore many of the character threads it sprinkles around (Wade’s new girlfriend and how it affects his two daughters, his deputy’s drinking problem, a local abusive husband [R.G. Armstrong]) or explain what’s behind the car, there are far worse ways to spend an evening.

Would I watch it again?

Yes, preferably late at night with some friends and some beers.

Where can I find it?

The Car is currently streaming on Netflix. It’s also available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory (Region A) and Arrow (Region B).

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