*½/ **** Image B+ Sound B Extras B
starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Ronny Cox
screenplay by Dennis Shryack & Michael Butler and Lane Slate
directed by Elliot Silverstein
by Bryant Frazer America's love of the open road collided with its suspicion of out-of-state license plates in The Car, a risible 1977 thriller about a muscle car on a killing spree. The Car was conceived as a cash-in--an easy riff on Jaws with the working title Wheels(!)--but it earned a reputation for genre silliness that made it a staple of late-night TV line-ups in the 1980s. Shot mostly in the Utah desert, The Car follows sheriff's deputy Wade Parent (James Brolin) as he investigates a series of mysterious hit-and-run killings involving bicyclists, a hitchhiker, and a mean-looking, black Lincoln Continental. It's a low-octane concept even for genre knock-offs, and despite the traditional framing of organized law enforcement as the heroes of the piece, there's not a lot of detective work required. The Car shows up; the Car runs someone over; the Car drives away, blasting its horn triumphantly. It's not until it takes a special interest in Wade and his schoolteacher girlfriend, Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd), that the deputies concoct a plan to lure it out of town and into a trap, using Wade as bait.