Two bicyclists on a winding road outside the town of Santa Ynez are rundown by a black sedan. Later a hitchhiker in front of Amos Clements’ (R.G. Armstrong) house is purposely run over by the same black sedan. The car backs over him and then runs over the young man, repeatedly. Later that night the same car tries to run down Amos in town. Amos jumps out of the way but Everett Peck (John Marley), the town sheriff, gets run down instead.
With the sheriff dead, Chief Deputy Wade Parent (James Brolin) is now in charge. Wade’s girlfriend Lauren Humphries (Kathleen Lloyd) is a teacher at the local school. The next day the school’s marching band is having practice at the fairgrounds. During practice a strong wind comes up and the car rushes down on the marchers. It kills the deputy assigned to watch over the students. The kids and teachers run into a near-by cemetery. Although the fence around the cemetery is flimsy the car makes no attempt to enter. Lauren taunts the car, to distract it, as another teacher Margie Johnson (Elizabeth Thompson) makes a run for the patrol car to call for the police. The car spins around as if it is having a temper tantrum.
At the sound of approaching sirens fills the air the car speeds off. The entire county police force converges on the town. The police begin chasing the car over the desert roads. The car turns and begins a cat and mouse game with the police killing whoever it comes across.
That night the car crashes through Lauren’s house killing her. That’s when Luke Johnson (Ronnie Cox) offers the theory that the car is possessed. He believes it wouldn’t go through the cemetery because it was hallowed ground. It sought revenge on Lauren for taunting it. Wade tries to absorb this theory as he tries to find a way to destroy the car. A machine that may be possessed with supernatural powers. Of course, he never thought it would follow him home.
“The Car” was released in 1977 and was directed by Elliot Silverstein. Man’s love for the automobile is not always returned. There have been several movies where vehicles both gas and diesel powered have turned on their creators for various reasons. In “The Car” the said vehicle is possessed by a demon. Of course anything that happens in the desert is creepy. If you’ve ever seen “Them” or “Tarantula” you know what I mean.
The movie is a good example of modern suspense horror. It is intense and scary. It’s not just a horror movie but a supernatural thriller. The acting is decent the cinematography great. It has some really great desert shadowing that added to the supernatural feel. The view from inside the car looking through the amber shaded windshield is a nice touch. The music score is just as frightening as the demon car.
The star of the film is, of course, the car. It was plain but menacing. Made from a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III, it supposedly cost $84,000.00 to build. There were four made. Three for stunt work and one for close ups. The car’s trademark horn blasts spells out the letter X in Morse code. The car was customized to give it an evil appearance. The roof was lowered three inches and some alterations were also done to the car’s fenders. The paint on the car was a black matte finish. The windows were smoked on the inside and amber on the outside. This prevented anyone from seeing in but the stunt driver could see out.
Customization was done by George Barris. He is credited with creating various vehicles for film and TV including the Batmobile for the Batman TV series, the Munster Koach, the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty, even the Beverly Hillbillies Truck. He is also known for customizing cars for celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Eviel Knievel, Liberace and Frank Sinatra.