Tuesday, December 15, 2015

THE CAR (1977) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

THE CAR (1977) 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English, DTS-HD MA 5.1, DTS-HD 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Elliot Silverstein
Cast: Elizabeth Thompson, James Brolin, Doris Dowling, John Marley, John Rubinstein, Kathleen Lloyd, Kim Richards, Kyle Richards, R.G. Armstrong, Ronny Cox, Dennis Shryack

Synopsis: Fasten your seatbelts for the terrifying thrill ride that has become a cult classic! The peaceful tranquility of a small Western town is disturbed when a murderous car wreaks havoc by viciously mowing down innocent victims. The new sheriff, Wade Parent (James Brolin, The Amityville Horror), may be the only one who can stop this menace in its tracks. But what Wade Parent doesn't realize is that the driver of this indestructible vehicle is far more dangerous than any man... because it is driven by pure evil.

I have always loved this movie, a classic Jaws knock-off full of piss and vinegar, in it we have a souped up black car menacing a small desert town without any sort of rhyme or reason to it. It emerges from the desert with a plume of dust behind it, the first victims are young lovers on a bicycle ride whom are run off the road by the menacing black car. The next to taste it's wrath is a horn-playing hitchhiker who is viciously run over again and again. The local cops don't know what's happening but when the sheriff (John Marley, Deathdream) is run down in the street Deputy Wade Parent (James Brolin) is out for vengeance

While the titular car is not explained in anyway shape or form it does have a demonic presence about it, a nameless killer with no motive, no other explanation is necessary. Occasionally we get some yellow-tinted POV shots from inside the car through the windshield, it ominously blasts its nerve-shattering horn when it's on the prowl for victims. The 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III black coupe was modified by the legendary George Barris and it is a thing of menacing beauty, the exaggerated front bumpers and bumper forming an evil face and it sounds terrific when it revs up the engine and those open pipes let loose the fury, sweet stuff. 

There's not a great deal of deaths but they are set-up nicely, though most are bloodless affairs with no actual car to victim contact, you never do see the car hit anyone, shot with some clever editing it does the trick nicely. In one of the more memorable scenes the car actually tears straight through a house to tag one of the victims, and most will remember the scene of the car menacing a group of middle school band members who are chased into a cemetery, it's a bit on the corny side of things but it works fro me time and time again, I love it. 

The movie is populated with some decent small town characters, we have a wonderfully moustached James Brolin (The Amityville Horror) bringing some nice intensity to his role as the determined Deputy. TV actress Kathleen Lloyd brings a lot of spunk to her role as Laura, the girlfriend of Brolin's character. She has some great energy and brings a palpable sense of fear to the movie, she's also a victim of one of the most memorable death scenes in the movie. Another familiar face is that of R. G. Armstrong (Evilspeak) as a curmudgeonly wife-beater, who might seem an unlikely hero but he's pretty handy with a stick of dynamite. 

TV director Elliot Silverstein does a great job ratcheting up the tension on this one with some fun gimmicks to enhance the mood of the movie, it's not a flashy production but it does the job nicely. Why this demonic-car chooses this sleepy desert town to  terrorize is never answered but the desert locations make for a great backdrop to the movie, it also isolates the characters to a degree, making this a fun watch.

Audio/Video: The Blu-ray from Scream Factory looks and sounds great, the 1080p HD transfer presents the movie in the proper scope aspect ratio. I have the Region B Blu-ray from Arrow Video and comparing the two they look like they may have been sourced from the same Universal HD source, they're very close in appearance, with the Scream Factory Blu looking a tad brighter in certain spots. The grain has been nicely managed offering a crisp and clean image with some nice depth and clarity, this look great. Audio options include the choice of English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 or DTS-HD Surround 5.1 with optional English subtitles. There's some good meaty depth to the surround sound, when the car revs the engine you can feel the bass kick in and that ominous horn from the car sounds menacing. 

Onto the special features we have new interviews with Producer/Director Elliot Silverstein and Actresses Geraldine Keams and Melody Thomas Scott. They're short but informative and loaded with some great info, director Silverstein seems overly apologetic about the movie, apparently not a fan of his own movie, pointing out numerous times that it was a Jaws knock-off. I grew up watching actress Melody Thomas Scott as the character Nikii Newman on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, she is only in the movie for a few fleeting moments but I loved seeing her here, still a cutey! There's also a selection of trailers, TV and radio spots, plus a gallery of images from the movie. 

The Arrow Blu-ray has a leg up on this release in my opinion, with a very similar technical presentation, but they push it over the edge with a more robust set of a extras, beginning with an audio commentary with director Elliot Silverstein. They also have a half-hour interview with  Special Effects Artist William Alridge, a ten-minute interview with actor John Rubinstein who played the unfortunate hitchhiker, plus the Trailer From Hell commentary with John Landis, plus a hidden away Easter Egg, an interview with Elliot Silverstein. Arrow als offer a reversible sleeve of artwork plus a 40 page booklet with new writing on the film from Cullen Gallgher and an interview with co-writer Michael Butler. 

Scream Factory's new Blu-ray is great, but I will say that if you are a serious collector with a NEED for the most complete package available I do give the edge to the Arrow Blu-ray - which is Region B locked - but if you're just looking to chill with a fun movie and aren't concerned with extras the Scream Factory release has the marginally more pleasing A/V presentation and a fine set of extras.  

Special Features:
- NEW Mystery Of The Car – Interview With Producer/Director Elliot Silverstein (9 Mins) HD
- NEW The Navajo Connection – Interview With Actress Geraldine Keams (12 Mins) HD
- NEW Just Like Riding A Bike - Interview With Actress Melody Thomas Scott (12 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- TV Spot (1 Mins)
- Radio Spots (3 Mins) HD
- Still Gallery (125 Images) HD

Often described as 'Jaws on land' the description is both apt and short shrift in my opinion, The Car is a wildly entertaining slice of '70s b-movie cinema. It may not get the accolades of Steven Spielberg's Duel (1971) or John Carpenter's Christine (1983) but it has made a mark on popular culture, if you need proof just watch the were-car episode of Futurama. 3.5/5