SIX years before John Carpenter elevated a ’58 Plymouth Fury to horror icon status in his 1983 film Christine, a murderous Lincoln Continental Mark III struck fear into American hearts in Elliot Silverstein’s The Car.
The film opens with a couple of unsuspecting teenage bike riders stalked by a blacked-out Lincoln Continental, before they are sent to their doom in spectacular fashion. Next on the kill list is John Morris (Rubinstein), an obnoxious hitchhiker who cracks the shits when the car fails to give him a ride. The murderous Linc swiftly dispatches him as well, all the while blaring its signature truck horn.
Enter smooth-talking divorced dad Wade Parent (played by one-time Nürburgring class winner Brolin), the deputy sheriff in the fictional small town of Santa Ynez, Utah. He spends his days riding motorbikes, writing parking tickets and canoodling with schoolteacher Lauren (Lloyd).
When Wade is alerted to the hitchhiker’s gruesome death, he gets to work identifying the offending vehicle.
“Convertible, sunroof, vinyl-top, landau-top?” he asks witness Amos Clemens (prolific Western performer Armstrong).
“The guy was getting ground into a hamburger; I wasn’t taking notes!” is all he gets in return.
The mysterious Lincoln continues to terrorise Santa Ynez, killing the sheriff and leaving Wade in charge of the investigation. Things become even more personal when five of Wade’s deputies, as well as Lauren, are butchered by the car during a vengeful killing spree. It’s up to Wade and his remaining men to stop the Lincoln, which seems to bring on paranormal effects whenever it appears. “That car was four feet off the ground when it went into the house – and how did it know where she lived?” observes a fear-stricken cop.
The Car is undeniably B-movie fare, but it’s a well-shot and edited production – aside from an overused fast-forward button in the action sequences. The titular, George Barris-customised Lincoln is usually obscured just enough to keep the menacing aura alive, especially for the first half of the film, while characters occasionally drop clues about the car’s demonic nature. The influence of 1975’s Jaws is clear, most noticeably during a frantic scene involving dozens of hapless children in a fairground. The terror is amplified through red-tinted perspective shots of the car hunting its next victim, backed by a tension-building orchestral soundtrack.
THOUGH writing and dialogue are far from this cult classic’s strong points, there are far worse ways to spend 90 minutes in front of a screen. Think Christine with most of the exposition stripped away but more automotive carnage. Is that really a bad thing?
- Customised 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III
- 1974 Plymouth Fury
- 1972 AMC Matador
- 1960 International Harvester B-120
- Suzuki TS400
- James Brolin
- Kathleen Lloyd
- John Marley
- Ronny Cox
- RG Armstrong
- John Rubinstein
A possessed Lincoln destroys everything in its path, crashing through homes, cars and people during numerous rampages. Car and bike chases follow, often with fiery ends
A small desert town is monstered by an evil Lincoln Continental
COOL FLICK FACT:
Legendary customiser George Barris created the deadly Lincoln for the film. Four were built in total, two of which were destroyed during production.