Car Movie Enthusiast Reviews

Ranking

Title and Review
California Kid, The: 1974.

Martin Sheen, Vic Morrow (a sad role for him at this point in his career), Nick Nolte.

Martin Sheen is a speeder, whose brother was run off the road by a sadistic small town sheriff (Vic) who has his own "special solution" to the speeding problem.

This one would be worth having, if only because everyone has met similar small town sheriffs (nowadays they just play with their radar guns and hand out tickets to fund the local town projects).

Cannonball Run: 1981.

Terrible, absolutely terrible! But at least it's loaded with cameos, although apparently all the actors are all in tax situations and needed the work. Many of the actors and actresses appear to be drunk during the filming! Sammy David, Dean Martin, Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, Dom De Luise, Jacky Chan, Peter Fonda, Terry Bradshaw, and even more.  Burt Reynolds has center screen here, as you'd expect.

The definitive movie of the actual Cannonball is The Gumball Rally. Brock Yates won't admit this, and there has been a controversy running for 20 years on this topic...


Brock Yates writes a helluva good C&D magazine column (or did, before he was recently fired), but a helluva bad movie script! Better, though, is his book on the original Cannonball.

One of my favorite memories from many years ago was the day the annual issue of Car & Driver came that covered the infamous Cannonball race. Car & Driver was my favorite magazine, it started me going in this hobby. I also soon became a subscriber of AutoWeek (in the original "newspaper" format). Motor Trend was pretty much the same mixed bag back then as it is now, and Road & Track was something I hadn't yet fully learned to appreciate.

I wasn't even driving when the Cannonball races started... but they were definitely a bad influence on me later. When I did finally get my license, I took up TSD rallying.. and once I learned to drive them at proper speed (and not to a replay of the Cannonball) I did fairly well.

All true automotive enthusiasts know a little something about this legendary race. When friends gather to talk about the greatest things in the car hobby, this is inevitably one of the topics.

 

If you've never heard of the real Cannonball, you've got some reading to do. The Cannonball was a flat-out wide-open road race on public roads - from New York City to Los Angeles. There were no rules, except that you couldn't board a plane! You, and whomever else could fit into the vehicle, had to drive coast-to-coast with only gas and pit stops - and maybe not even those! Top competitors completed the drive in 30+ hours in specially prepared cars - cars that had a high top end or where specially prepared in some other way (enormous gas tanks, painted to resemble cop cars, even an ambulance). This was serious stuff, and it was totally illegal.

Brock tells us that the race was originally conceived to make a point against raising government levels of interference, specifically on the highways. But, when the race was first run, as Brock points out in the book, traffic radar was experimental,  the insurance companies hadn't yet figured out how to screw you over for infractions outside of your home state, and the highways themselves were fundamentally more isolated and wide open than they are today. Those were the days!

As Brock sadly reminds us, there is no possible way you could do something like this today, indeed even when the last one was run in 1979 it was entirely clear that an era was over. And that's the way I look back at a lot of stuff from the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. Much of it predated me, nearly all of it predated my involvement in this hobby ()other than waiting for that magic day every month when Car & Driver would arrive in the mail - as I still do). That was a special and unique time, there will never be anything like that again. There won't ever again be an idea as original as a Shelby Cobra, as the original Mustang, or as the Cannonball.

The book itself is an absolute requirement for the library of all automotive enthusiasts. It's a bit rambling at times, but it's also filled with reprints from the best of the Car & Driver articles of that time, along with commentary and stories by Brock that have never been told before. Just as good are the stories of some of the most famous drivers of these events - such as Dan Gurney. Dan tells his story in his own words - and he is as much a classic of that era (one never to be duplicated) as is the race itself.  Dan and Brock were co-drivers of a Ferrari Daytona, arguably the most famous of all the cars that competed.

One of the later drivers was Hal Needham, and that was the beginning of the end. If traffic laws and enormously increased police presence didn't kill this era, then Hal Needham's Cannonball Run movies certainly did. Those were the end of the road for these films, satirizing them and making them out to be something that was nothing more than a clown event. To his credit, Hal did co-drive with Brock - in the infamous ambulance with Brock's wife Pam playing the "victim".

If ever there was a reasonably honest depiction of the Cannonball races in film, it was "The Gumball Rally". It's one of my favorite movies. Unfortunately, Brock was on a (thankfully temporary) downhill slide back then and his response to that film was to look into suing it's makers. In the end, he has refused to see it - ever. The 15 minutes of fame of the movies are long over, but the race itself will always be here. And, this excellent book is the insider story of it.

 

Cannonball Run II. 1984.

Nauseating! Who did they ever talk into giving them the money for this one?

Even more cameos: Dean Martin (notable as his last appearance),  Marilu Henner, Frank Sinatra, Catherine Bach, and more.

So bad that even Brock Yates didn't show up to this one!

  Captured. 1998.

A car thief tries to steel a Porsche Turbo, which the psychotic owner has jury-rigged as a torture chamber to ward off theft.. Absolutely terrible, sick, pointless film.

Car 54, Where Are You? 1994.

A very weak remake of the original 50's classic television show that originally stared Al Lewis and Fred Gwynne as police officer partners. Too bad, because the original show was one of the best from the classic years of television.

Car, The: 1977.

Starring James Brolin (pre-Bar).

Demonic car chases people who get in it's way. We would like to find out what actual car was used for the "Car"... we seem to remember seeing an article on that years ago. It's apparently some sort of one-off custom for the movie, clearly fiberglass.

Fun film, worth seeing. Becoming a cult classic, you'll see it on TV often.

Car Trouble. 1985.

A UK film, where the husband buys the car of his dreams and the wife goes for a fateful first drive in it. Sounds funny.

Car Wash. 1976.

Musical centered around a car wash and the lives of the people who work there.

  Casino Royale. 2006.

Daniel Craig reinvents the Bond film and character, along with the Bond car. That car, a 2007 Aston Martin DBS V-12, brings the film series back to Aston, where it started (although the original books had him in a 1933 Bentley convertible). And this is one of the very few times a Bond car is destroyed - get ready for a shocker and it's not CGI!

This 2007 Aston Martin DBS, along with it's stunt double (rolled in the film), was shown in 2012 at the "Bond in Motion" exhibit at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Great Britain:

 

  Catch me if you Can. 1989.

"B" film about a high school that will close unless the students raise money to keep it open. The money is raised by drag racing. Good cars, and some 60's Chevelle action.

  The Challengers. 1970. (TV Movie originally scheduled for 1969). Released internationally in various languages and titles such as Herausforderung zum Grand-Prix in Germany.

Very obscure and rare TV movie about Grand Prix racing. With some big names like Richard Conte and Farley Granger, this should have done better.

Not particularly notable for anything of interest to car movie enthusiasts. Also not available - and releasing this in a dozen different titles makes it that much harder to find.

Checkered Flag or Crash. 1977.

Off road racing thru the Philippines. Nothing unique here...Joe Don Baker is his usual self. Also starring Susan Sarandon (her 10th film, but before her serious stardom) & Larry Hagman (right after his successful Mother, Jugs, and Speed but pre-Dallas).

Christine: 1983.

If you like old Chryslers. Stephen King novel. Really a historical flick about the way all old Chryslers used to be.

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: 1968.

Dick Van Dyke. Benny Hill makes an appearance - but not in  his usual character! You'll remember also seeing Benny Hill in original The Italian Job, playing a character not unlike his comedy persona.

Chopper Chicks in Zombietown. 1991.

It's a bike film, and has nothing to do with cars, but it's part of the overall genre. A strictly-by-the-formula B-film, although some of the "chicks" are a bit unusual...

Chrome and Hot Leather. 1971.

Another motorcycle gang film, with the bikers terrorizing poor innocent cars in California. When one goes over an inconvenient cliff, her Green Beret fiancÚ wipes them out.

Cobra: 1986.

Sylvester Stallone. TERRIBLE - one of the worst car films ever made. The only worse car film is Days of Thunder.

Collision Course. 1989.

Jay Leno and Pat Morita team up to recover a stolen turbocharger. So bad it's only available on VHS! We think this is the stinker Jay makes fun of every once in a while on his show.

Jay's previous movie role was a character named "Poopy Butt". I think that says it all about his movie career. At least he can kid about it on his show, and he of course is is the ultimate car enthusiast.

Convoy: 1978.

Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine. A historical drama of the 70s and of CB radios.

Corvette Summer: 1978.

Mark Hamill, Annie Potts, Danny Bonaduce. This apparently is what Corvette owners are all about: hookers, Vegas, high school shop class, and a relentless chase for "something missing" they can't put in words. Mark Hamill has graduated from high school, and must find his stolen Corvette. Annie Potts is a teenage prostitute in training, if you can believe it. Really poor, not even drive-in quality.

Odd that Mark Hamill was in post-Star Wars years disfigured in a car accident.

2nd Tier! Crash: 1997.

From the J.G. Ballard novel. This is not the Crash film you may be thinking of... this was a 1996 Cannes Winner, and very widely reviewed when it came out.  This will be one of the most unusual car movies you've ever seen.

This movie is the story of married couple James and Holly, who are bored with their life. When James has a car crash, he searches out and beds his crash-disabled victim (Rosanna Arquette, in a variety of clanking metal braces). It gets worse from there when Elias Koteas comes along in his classic '62 Lincoln Continental convertible. He seeks out sadomasochistic sex with car crash victims, living or otherwise. And his dream is to recreate one of the most famous celebrity car crashes ever: James Dean.

Little redeeming value, but we'll leave it in our 2nd Tier because Cannes did highly recognize it - and it is a highly unique storyline (to say the least). We don't like James Spader in anything, and I know Holly Hunter can and has done much better. And if t=you think the movie is sicko, the book is ten times worse.

We believe this was filmed in Toronto, but can't verify it. Some scenes appeared to be set on the QEW, 401, and Young Street.

  • Starring: James Spader, Holly Hunter
  • Label: Newline Home Video
  • Year: 1996
  • Color, 100 min
  • Format: VHS - NTSC, DVD l.
  • Available: yes

 

  Crash Drive: 1959.

Not to be confused with Crash Dive, the Tyrone Power submarine movie. Depressing story about a race car driver who crashes and gets crippled for life. Further bad things happen. I haven't seen it, although I tried - it was advertised on the station schedule with this description but they accidentally showed "Crash Dive" instead. Even the channel guide and description shows "Crash Drive". I'll keep looking for this..

1st Tier! Crowd Roars, The: 1932.

Directed by Howard Hawks. This is a classic, with James Cagney (and his usual style) as a racer at an early Indianapolis race and Joan Blondell. The movie was also remade in 1939 as "Indianapolis Speedway" (which reused some of the same footage), but wasn't as good. The origins of the screenplay lie in the 1917 play "The Barker: A Play of Carnival Life", adapted by 4 screenwriters to auto racing.

The film is well-done and technically unprecedented for it's time. The final racing scenes, where Cagney presses on with a tire going bad, has some incredible and unprecedented (for it's time) photography by Sid Hickox. Racing scenes were filmed at three actual racetracks of the time: Indianapolis, Ventura, and Ascot. Race car designer Augie Dusenbery provided a special tow bar that enabled stunts where a car would loose a wheel at high speed.

Cagney and Blondell are very hot together, but for auto enthusiasts the scenes off track confuse the film. In this sense it is a very typical film for the 30s, and Cagney's character doesn't break any new ground here, although he isn't a psychotic gangster for a change. Ignore the melodrama. Focus instead on the on-track scenes, which you'll find unique and worthwhile.

This film is on our "A" list because of it's very accurate portrayal of early racing (terrible tires, mechanic on board, etc). The film should not be confused with a 1938 film of the same name with Robert Taylor. You will find it on television once in a long while, and it's worth watching.