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Thread: Best ever car movies?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Best ever car movies?

    Best Car Movies
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    There are some films in which the human actors are merely peripheral and the cars are the stars. The people are there to fill things in, to provide a diversion from the important mechanical machinations being played out.

    There are maybe one or two exceptions to this rule (such as the brilliant portrayal by Jackie Gleason of the relentless redneck Sheriff Bueford T. Justice in "Smokey and the Bandit"), but they are few and far between. Can you remember even one of the actors from "Christine"?

    But I'll bet you can remember the jaunty jutting fins, the blood red paint -- the dual-quad ramcharger V-8 and rock and roll lyrics jamming from that '57 Fury's creepy radio.

    Right?

    "Body by Plymouth. Soul by Satan." A great marketing line that will never see the light of day. The flip side is that no one will ever convincingly impute demonic position to a Honda Civic CVCC. (It would be like a Richard Simmons impression of Dracula. )

    The movie itself -- with the exception of the opening scene on the Plymouth assembly line -- during which the car's hood slams down brutally, mangling a line worker's fingers into poor grade chuck accompanied by George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" -- well, it was pretty terrible.

    There was a moment when, after some high school punks smashed up the Plymouth with baseball bats and crow bars, it repaired itself at the behest of its possessed teenage owner. A barely noticeable crinkle sound. One of the outside mirrors pulls itself back together. It's the only straight piece of anything on the car. And it wasn't like that a moment before. "Show me," the creepy kid says, in the darkened garage where the ruined hulk sits. And Christine does. The bent sheetmetal unwrinkles itself; hood and doors pop back into shape. The twin air cleaners on the Ramcharger V-8 return to their proper place atop the Carter carburetors.

    Bubba-bubba-baaaad to the bone!

    In "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," Jeff Bridges gets things going by posing as a disabled Vietnam vet in order to steal a 1972 455-HO Pontiac Trans-Am from a low-grade used car lot.

    After trashing the Trans-Am, Bridges and accomplice Clint Eastwood are hoofing it along a very empty stretch of Midwest-looking highway when a big Dodge or Chrysler (not sure which) screeches to a stop, locking up the brakes and leaving rubber all over the road. Veteran character actor Bill McKinney -- who incidentally played one of the toothless, inbred hillbillies in "Deliverance" -- turns out to be the driver of the big Mopar. After another tear-'em-up sequence, crazy Bill skids to a stop, jumps out, throws open the trunk -- in which there are dozens and dozens of white rabbits. The rabbits scatter and the always rancid Bill McKinney starts blasting away at them with a 12-gauge. It's weirder than a Jim Jones picnic -- and the point of this scene is never made clear.

    Then there's "The Car" -- featuring a young James Brolin. It is among the all-time best low budget scary car movies ever made. The plot is similar to that of "Christine" -- and probably Stephen King, who wrote the book upon which the movie was based, got at least some of his inspiration from this flick. Anyway, the plot is as follows: A small town and its sheriff (Brolin) are besieged by a mysterious car that comes out of nowhere and starts lustily killing the townspeople. The Car is of indeterminate marque -- though it looks sort of like a customized Lincoln Mark III. Whoever did the custom job deserves plaudits. The car is remorseless and mean. It has a grinning gangster maw of death for a grille. But the horn is The Car's malevolent signature. It goes "brappa brappa brappa brappa!"-- revelling in its dark power, just before a kill.

    The 4-wheeled Beelzebub systematically runs people down, beginning with a nice young couple out riding their bicycles. The audience gets to see what's coming from the perspective of the car. . . as if you were behind the wheel, looking out through the red-tinted glass. But there is no one behind the wheel... .

    Honorable mention in this same category goes to the extra low buck horror flick, "Phantasm" -- a sci-fi/horror film which revolves around a funeral home where a 7-ft "Tall Man" turns corpses into zombie dwarves and ships them in what looks like spray painted beer kegs or propane cylinders to an alternate reality where they are put into service as slaves. The movie is actually not bad -- and even better are the action sequences featuring a black over black 1970 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda, complete with pistol grip shifted 4-speed. The soundtrack is worth the movie -- and there are some first-rate burnout scenes, too.

    Another classic is the first (and maybe second) "Cannonball Run" -- loosely based on a furtive early 1970s street race organized by famed automotive writer Brock Yates, in which a bunch of cars screamed out of an underground garage in New York City on their way to sunny California. Whoever gets there first wins. In the real race, Yates teamed up with legendary racer Dan Gurney in a Ferrari 365 Daytona for that oh-so-politically incorrect road trip. And the "Cannonball" movies are equally non-PC. Watching them today makes you reel at what was considered kosher before about 1985. For example, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. are obviously blotto at several points in the movie -- and frequently shown holding their drinks while in their car. Drinking and driving was considered just hilarious back in the day. . .

    Of course, the ultimate movie for no-holds-barred, flummox the law driving is the immortal, original "Smokey and the Bandit." No seatbelts are worn, no one dies (let alone gets hurt), and no feat is impossible for the black and gold 1977 Trans-Am piloted by Burt Reynolds.

    My favorite scene is the moment when Burt picks up Sally Field by the side of the road in her wedding dress. "Can this car move?" she asks? "Oh yeah," replies Burt -- who then executes a speed shift that leaves a nice double patch on the road as he goes from first to second. The problem with that scene, of course, is that the car is an automatic -- and as hardcore fans of Pontiacs of that era know, the 1977 Trans-Am, at 200-hp in ultimate form, did not have the beans to bark the tires like that on a 1-2 shift, even with a manual transmission. It turns out, movie fans, that the car used for that scene was actually a worked-up 455 car with a 4-speed -- not the 400/automatic equipped car Burt drives. Note also that the sound track is for a 4-speed car.

    "Smokey" required the sacrifice of at least a dozen brand new 1977 Special Edition Trans-Ams -- a record of destruction surpassed in quantity only by "The Blues Brothers." That movie remains after more than 20 years the unchallenged leader in crunched cars during a 90-minute film. "The Blues Brothers" also has some A-1 dialogue for motorheads, too. Elwood has just picked up Jake from his stint in the pokey -- in a cop car. He's driving an ex-highway patrol Plymouth sedan. To justify his purchase, Elwood explains that "It's got a 440 and cop tires and was made before catalytic converters, so it'll run good on regular gas. Is it the new Blues Mobile or what?" Then there's "Illinois Nazis. I hate Illinois Nazis!" -- whereupon Elwood floors the 440-equipped ex-cop car and runs the oafish Nazis, who are holding up traffic by their street protest, right off a bridge. It was a kodak moment.

    But when it comes to true-life chase scenes, the Steve McQueen classic "Bullitt" features the all-time high water mark for hardcore street driving. What makes the chase through San Francisco between the Charger and the Mustang so good is its absolute believability; you can readily imagine this happening -- because the cars get banged up and don't do implausible, ridiculous things (as is so often the case in modern movie car chases). McQueen also did a lot of the driving, too -- not a stunt double.

    "Mad Max" and its sequel, "The Road Warrior," are two great apocalyptic visions of a dark future in which the automobile (and "gazoline," as the Aussies say) are still the central organizing principles of society. Though it could never work in reality, the declutching supercharger on Mad Max's Interceptor (some say the car is a customized Holden; others an Australian Ford Falcon) is awesome. "Mad Max," of course, is the movie that made Mel Gibson a star.

    Another great one is "Death Race 2000" with David Carradine (of "Kung Fu" fame). The object is to kill as many bystanders as possible -- "euthanasia day" at a local hospital involves wheeling out the old folks into the path of the racing cars -- while at the same time treacherously killing your fellow drivers. The movie is supposed to be sinister but is so ridiculous that it becomes campy. Check out the carboard and papier-mache "special effects" used to customize the cars used in the film.
    Sly Stallone is in this one. A high cheese factor, but entertaining nonetheless.

    Obscurantists will want to get a copy of the recently re-released "Vanishing Point" and "Two Lane Blacktop" -- both awful movies with cool cars in them. "Vanishing Point" stars a Dodge Challenger; "Two Lane Blacktop" involves a GTO Judge with a 455 and a '55 Chevy. Singer James Taylor is one of the incidental humans in "Two Lane Blacktop." Absent the cars, these movies would not be worth the celluloid. With them, however, you sit transfixed for the duration. You lay out $20 for the DVD. And you know every line of dialogue.

    That's the mark of a true gearhead movie.


    END

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    Mad Max's Interceptor (some say the car is a customized Holden; others an Australian Ford Falcon)
    Definitely the latter
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  3. #3
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    Best Car Movies

    What about "the Italian Job" .....the original with the BMC Mini......somehow not sure the BMW mini has the same pizazz
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kwozzie1
    Best Car Movies

    What about "the Italian Job" .....the original with the BMC Mini......somehow not sure the BMW mini has the same pizazz
    It did - and you're right!

  5. #5
    JohnB
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    I'd say "Vanishing Point" ... Did you mention "Thelma and Luise"?

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    "Vanishing Point" is a great one; they just re-released the DVD. I have to get a copy... a must-have!

  7. #7
    JohnB
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    Ditto.

  8. #8
    Daine
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    In reading your text I was constantly wondering when you would get to Vanishing Point.
    Definitely one of the worst films ever and I remember it like it was yesterday, begging my dad to take me. I wanted a Challenger soooo bad after that, I could taste it.

    About the 4 speed in Cannonball... Actually just about every time you actually hear the car in many movies and most TV shows, it is a 4 speed "performance" car with manual transmission you hear and a suburban family sedan with automatic that you see. Drives me nuts...

    Daine

  9. #9
    jillsuncle
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    Re: Best ever car movies?

    Very similar to good sports moves - There are None! If someone put a gun to my head and said "choose", my choice would be he Horror Classic - Christine. :'(

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