The Car (1977)

PG | 96 mins | Allegory, Horror | 13 May 1977

Director:

Elliot Silverstein

Cinematographer:

Gerald Hirschfeld

Production Designer:

Loyd S. Papez

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
Full page view
HISTORY

The Car begins with a quote from the satanist Anton La Vey: "Oh great brothers of the night, who rideth out upon the hot winds of Hell, who dwelleth in the devil's lair; move and appear!"
       The 5 Nov 1975 Var mentioned that First Artists Productions had bid up the price of an original script called Wheels, by two relatively unknown writers, Dennis Shryack and Michael Butler, to $300,000. Though Universal Pictures won the bidding contest, the smaller company’s aggressiveness showed that original scripts were in demand.
       A 27 Feb 1976 DV news item announced that Universal changed the title Wheels to The Car because United Artists owned the rights to Arthur Hailey’s best-selling novel, also titled Wheels.
       The 16 Aug 1976 Box reported that The Car began filming 28 Jul 1976 in Kanab, UT. In a follow-up, the 20 Sep 1976 Box reported that the filmmakers began shooting interiors at Universal Studios on 8 Sep 1976 after five weeks of shooting in St. George and Kanab, UT.
       Auto customizer George Barris built the black car, according to the 18 Oct 1976 HR. Barris and stunt coordinator Everett Creach designed the vehicle to be “flexible but heavy, huge, dark and aggressive.” "The car” was not one vehicle but rather three separate customized Lincoln Mark III cars with 455-cubic-inch engines, each costing $20,000. Barris and Creach used 18-gauge steel, painted the cars charcoal gray, and laminated the windows so that the drivers could see out but nobody could see in. Each car weighed 5,550 pounds. Universal’s production notes ...

More Less

The Car begins with a quote from the satanist Anton La Vey: "Oh great brothers of the night, who rideth out upon the hot winds of Hell, who dwelleth in the devil's lair; move and appear!"
       The 5 Nov 1975 Var mentioned that First Artists Productions had bid up the price of an original script called Wheels, by two relatively unknown writers, Dennis Shryack and Michael Butler, to $300,000. Though Universal Pictures won the bidding contest, the smaller company’s aggressiveness showed that original scripts were in demand.
       A 27 Feb 1976 DV news item announced that Universal changed the title Wheels to The Car because United Artists owned the rights to Arthur Hailey’s best-selling novel, also titled Wheels.
       The 16 Aug 1976 Box reported that The Car began filming 28 Jul 1976 in Kanab, UT. In a follow-up, the 20 Sep 1976 Box reported that the filmmakers began shooting interiors at Universal Studios on 8 Sep 1976 after five weeks of shooting in St. George and Kanab, UT.
       Auto customizer George Barris built the black car, according to the 18 Oct 1976 HR. Barris and stunt coordinator Everett Creach designed the vehicle to be “flexible but heavy, huge, dark and aggressive.” "The car” was not one vehicle but rather three separate customized Lincoln Mark III cars with 455-cubic-inch engines, each costing $20,000. Barris and Creach used 18-gauge steel, painted the cars charcoal gray, and laminated the windows so that the drivers could see out but nobody could see in. Each car weighed 5,550 pounds. Universal’s production notes for The Car added that the designers lowered the Lincoln’s roof and raised its side fenders to enhance its “sinister nature,” and put in special safety devices to protect the drivers. In addition to supervising all the car stunts, Creach directed stuntman A. J. Bakunas’s 196-foot fall from a bridge into a large nylon bag below. Many of the citizens of St. George, UT, turned out to watch the plunge. Other UT locations included Zion National Park and Hurricane.
       Director-producer Elliot Silverstein told the 4 May 1977 LAT that he trimmed a few lines of dialogue that elicited “guffaws” from preview audiences of high school and college students. The cuts reduced the film’s running time by only a minute or so, Silverstein said.

Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Aug 1976
---
Box Office
20 Sep 1976
---
Daily Variety
27 Feb 1976
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 1976
p. 1, 5
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1977
p. 3, 15
Los Angeles Times
4 May 1977
---
New York Times
14 May 1977
p. 14
Variety
5 Nov 1975
p. 3, 30
Variety
11 May 1977
p. 79
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Unit prod mgr
PRODUCERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
SET DECORATOR
John McCarthy
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Titles & opt eff
MAKEUP
Make-up
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Transportation mgr
Car customizing by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
SOURCES
SONGS
"Mule Skinner Blues," words and music by Jimmie Rodgers and George Vaughn, published by APRS/Peer Music, sung by James Brolin; "Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun," music by Claude Debussy; "The Stars And Stripes Forever," music by John Philip Sousa.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Wheels
Release Date:
13 May 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 May 1977
Production Date:
began 28 Jul 1976 in Utah
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Universal City Studios, LLP
13 May 1977
LP49092
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
96
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24760
SYNOPSIS

The devil comes to the small desert town of Santa Inez, Utah, in the form of a black muscle car. Its first victims are teenagers Suzie Pullbrook and Pete Keil bicycling on a mountain road. The car hits Suzie, sending her over a cliff, and then knocks Pete off a high bridge. Deputy sheriff Wade Parent wakes up that morning with a kiss from his girlfriend, Lauren Humphries, a teacher at the town school. While Wade and Lauren wrestle and joke around, Wade’s daughters, Deborah and Lynn Marie, giggle outside his bedroom door. Meanwhile, college student Johnny Norris is hitchhiking on the edge of town when he hears a nearby resident, Amos Clemens, hitting and screaming at his wife, Bertha, as she tries to flee the house. Johnny asks if Bertha needs help, but Amos threatens him and drags his wife back inside. At that moment, the black car approaches and almost hits Johnny. The car stops, backs up, knocks Johnny down, repeatedly runs over him, and speeds away blaring its air horn. When Wade and Everett, the sheriff, later question Amos about the car, he says there was too much dust to get a good description, and he didn’t think it had a license plate. A call comes in that a girl’s body has been found. Wade and another deputy, Luke, drive to the location and identify Suzie Pullbrook, daughter of the town doctor. There is talk that Suzie was running away with Pete Keil, but nobody knows where Pete is. Luke doesn’t believe the rumor because he is Pete’s Bible class counselor and he believes the boy would have told him the truth. Later that night, however, ...

More Less

The devil comes to the small desert town of Santa Inez, Utah, in the form of a black muscle car. Its first victims are teenagers Suzie Pullbrook and Pete Keil bicycling on a mountain road. The car hits Suzie, sending her over a cliff, and then knocks Pete off a high bridge. Deputy sheriff Wade Parent wakes up that morning with a kiss from his girlfriend, Lauren Humphries, a teacher at the town school. While Wade and Lauren wrestle and joke around, Wade’s daughters, Deborah and Lynn Marie, giggle outside his bedroom door. Meanwhile, college student Johnny Norris is hitchhiking on the edge of town when he hears a nearby resident, Amos Clemens, hitting and screaming at his wife, Bertha, as she tries to flee the house. Johnny asks if Bertha needs help, but Amos threatens him and drags his wife back inside. At that moment, the black car approaches and almost hits Johnny. The car stops, backs up, knocks Johnny down, repeatedly runs over him, and speeds away blaring its air horn. When Wade and Everett, the sheriff, later question Amos about the car, he says there was too much dust to get a good description, and he didn’t think it had a license plate. A call comes in that a girl’s body has been found. Wade and another deputy, Luke, drive to the location and identify Suzie Pullbrook, daughter of the town doctor. There is talk that Suzie was running away with Pete Keil, but nobody knows where Pete is. Luke doesn’t believe the rumor because he is Pete’s Bible class counselor and he believes the boy would have told him the truth. Later that night, however, when Luke realizes that Pete probably lied to him, he feels personally betrayed. Meanwhile, Everett tries to get Bertha to sign a complaint against her husband, but she refuses, forcing him to let Amos out of jail. Everett steps outside as Amos puts Bertha in their truck and tells her to go home. As Amos walks toward a bar across the street, a car suddenly turns on its lights, revs, veers around him and fatally runs down the sheriff. An old Navajo woman who witnessed the accident tells Chas, a Navajo deputy, that the car swerved around Amos and went directly for the sheriff. She adds another comment that makes Chas uncomfortable, and Wade pointedly asks Chas what she said. Chas brushes off her comment as Indian superstition and translates it as “bad things come in with the wind.” The next day, the dispatcher, Donna, also Navajo, tells Wade that Chas’s translation wasn’t accurate; the old woman had said that there was no driver in the car. The school’s principal, Miss McDonald, asks Wade if it is okay for the school band to practice at the town racetrack that morning, but he tells her afternoon would be better. Luke, sensing a sinister power behind the recent murders, suggests they cancel the parade altogether. A call comes in that a fisherman has found Pete’s body below a bridge, down the road from where Suzie was found the day before. Luke breaks down, so Wade drives out to the bridge alone and confirms the identity of the victim. Meanwhile, the school’s marching band, led by Lauren and her friend Margie, has begun its rehearsal at the racetrack. A dust storm sweeps through the teenagers. The black car appears out of the dust, blowing its air horn and scattering the students. They run to a nearby cemetery behind a stone gate. The car stops outside the gate and idles as Lauren stands just inside, taunting the driver. The car revs as if it’s angry, and skids in a circle. Finally, when Lauren throws a tree limb against the windshield, the car slams the gate, knocking part of it down, and speeds away. Parked down the road, Deputy Ray sees the vehicle coming. He stands behind his car and aims his shotgun. When the car stops a few feet away, Ray fires his shotgun, but apparently misses. The car turns and speeds off. Ray jumps in his cruiser and gives chase. The car leads him up a narrow, hilly road, and when it rounds a blind curve the car spins around, and as Ray comes around the curve, he has to swerve to avoid it. The black car pushes Ray over a steep embankment, and the cruiser explodes in flames. The car blares its air horn in triumph, and as it drives away, two other sheriff’s cruisers rush toward it, side by side, in a game of chicken. The black car turns sharply, flips sideways in the air, rolls over the tops of the two police cars and crushes them, then lands on all four wheels. Down the road, Wade stops his motorcycle and shouts at the car as it approaches. The car stops only a few feet away. Wade fires his pistol at both front tires and at the windshield, but his shots appear to miss. He walks to the car and notices the door has no handle. The window comes down an inch, and the door opens slightly. As Wade grabs it, the door swings violently and knocks him unconscious, then the car roars away. That night at the hospital, Dr. Pullbrook tells Wade he wants to keep him overnight. Lauren agrees to look after Wade’s children, so Chas drives Lauren home for a change of clothes, then leaves to check on his own family before returning to Lauren. As Lauren turns on the lights, she hears the wind outside and recognizes that she’s in danger. She calls Wade at the hospital to tell him about that “crazy wind,” but Wade is helpless as he hears the roar of the car’s engine on the phone. The car flies through Lauren’s front window, kills her, and rams its way out of the back. While the deputies, including Wade, are investigating the crime scene, Luke says he knows why the car didn’t go after Lauren yesterday while she was cursing it; she was standing in the cemetery, which is hallowed ground. But tonight it went after Lauren with a vengeance. Wade calls all the deputies to meet at the station. He also gets Amos, who is the town’s explosive expert, to help them. Wade points to a box canyon on the office’s topographic map and tells the deputies to gather boxes of dynamite and blasting caps and get there as soon as possible. Wade stops at his house to say goodnight to his children and get his motorcycle. When he goes to his garage, the black car is waiting for him. It purrs at first, until Wade challenges it, and then revs, filling the garage with carbon monoxide. Blaring its air horn, the car smashes through the door. Wade jumps on his motorcycle and radios ahead to the other deputies. Inside the box canyon, Wade lets the car trap him, but his deputies above toss him a rope and he climbs up, as the car smashes into the rock below his feet. Then it turns around and drives up the winding road leading to the top of the hill. When the car tries to run down Wade and Luke, they leap away at the last moment, and the black car flies into the canyon as the other deputies set off the dynamite. As the rocks tumble into the canyon and cover the car, a roiling flame shoots into the air taking a vague human form, and then dies out. The deputies gather, satisfied that the car is buried forever, but the car appears again, this time in downtown Los Angeles.

Less

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.