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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

The Car  (1977)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: December 15, 2015) – Before Stephen King published his killer-Plymouth novel "Christine" in 1983, the conceptually reminiscent "The Car" roared into theaters and beat the best-selling author to the punch by six years. Viewed at the time of release as a dry-land knockoff of Steven Spielberg's 1975 blockbuster "Jaws," the film in 2015 works on its own terms as a lean, mean, certainly silly but nevertheless slickly photographed thriller. The title villain—a dark nondescript car without door handles, license plates, or a driver behind the wheel—is pure evil, appearing out of nowhere one day to run a pair of bicyclists off the rocky mountain cliffs in the rural desert town of Santa Ynez. Chief Deputy Wade Parents (James Brolin) is hot on the case, presuming a human maniac is on the loose. As the car continues to target the town, it places everyone in Wade's life—including schoolteacher girlfriend Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd, a dead ringer for Sarah Silverman) and his young daughters Lynn Marie (Kim Richards) and Debbie (Kyle Richards)—in immediate jeopardy. While its premise is simplistic in the extreme, "The Car" works up plenty of tautly conceived tension. Director Elliot Silverstein delivers a handful of memorable set-pieces (one taking place during a parade practice and another in which Lauren is stalked by the car in her home), his filmmaking prowess going a long way to smooth out the thin script and underutilized characters. "Jaws" ripoff or not, "The Car" succeeds at making a vehicle just as threatening as any psychopath or killer shark. It's no "Duel," to be sure, but it's pretty solid all the same.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"The Car" zooms onto Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory with a sterling 1080p transfer. Looking as fresh as if it had been made yesterday rather than over 38 years ago, the picture displays lively dimensionality and often dazzling image detail and clarity. Much of the film is set in the daytime and takes advantage of its open desert vistas, but nighttime scenes are just as strong, with deep blacks and no signs of crush or fading. Indeed, the print used for this transfer was clearly in top-notch shape, with not even any hints of age-related dirt or damage. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is surprisingly effective as well, every encroaching rev of the devil car's engine sounding vital and full-bodied. The same goes for the music score, the dialogue, and peripheral sounds like the gusts of wind which act as harbingers of looming danger. Back channels are used smartly, never overshadowing the integrity of the mix. A 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also offered.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Mystery of the Car: An Interview with Producer/Director Elliot Silverstein" Featurette (9:16, HD)
  • "The Navajo Connection: An Interview with Actress Geraldine Kearns" Featurette (12:10, HD)
  • "Just Like Riding a Bike: An Interview with Actress Melody Thomas Scott" Featurette (9:52, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:15, HD)
  • TV Spot (0:34, HD)
  • Radio Spots (3:09, HD)
  • Still Gallery (10:32, HD)
Bottom Line
"The Car" has flown under the radar for decades, earning a small, affectionate cult following since its release—most notably on VHS. With any luck, Scream Factory's excellent Blu-ray release will assist in introducing this film to modern audiences who may not be aware of its existence. Well shot and pleasingly suspenseful, "The Car" has never looked better than it does on this high-definition format. Recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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