Motoring Films – Introduction

There are a range of issues with the depiction of cars in films, not least that the film makers are not usually “car guys” so the resulting film does not hang together if one is a “car guy”. Unrealistic chases, with preposterous tyre squealing on desert surfaces and driving into oncoming traffic without the inevitable head on accident are the order of the Hollywood day. However the invention and development of film and photographic images parallels the twentieth century development of the automobile – arguably then, the very best way to talk about cars is through film and photography. Certainly, despite the unrealism, my taste and passion has been shaped enormously by film-makers work – and I bet if you stop and think, yours has too. It seems the images and ideas implanted into the mind as a result of good storytelling tend to really stick, long after the bad acting, improbable plot, and willing suspension of disbelief has been forgotten.

Highlighted below are the best motoring films, in no particular order. I will produce a full review of each in time. Missing here are some of the more comic strip films – the Cannonballs, the Smoky and the Bandits, the Roger Corman “Hot Rods From Hell” shockers and indeed my own perennial favourite, the Dukes of Hazzard – watch the films below and you will understand the distinction being drawn between film and comic strip.

Note that most of these films come from an age long before computer graphics – what you see on screen really took place, someone actually strapped themselves into an orange ’69 Charger bought off an LA used car lot, with some ballast in the trunk to keep the nose up in flight, and drove it at the ramp at 85mph….making watching the result as compelling now as it was when it was first shot – something somewhere between a traditional theatre prop and Jackass 😉

The 2007 Tarantino movie Deathproof is an explicit tribute to this age, featuring stuntmen in front of camera as actors ( Zoe Bell was Xena Warrior Princess’ double, and Uma Thurman’s double in Kill Bill ) with all the stunts being real, not computer generated.

The cars used are a tribute too – a ‘69 Charger, and a ’70 Challenger, the final touch being some purposely poor continuity, giving the impression the film might have been made in the seventies. I enjoyed some special insight into Death Proof, because the Fabricator was involved in the making of the film – the picture shows him at Tarantino’s house after the premier….

A word on Bullitt; this is a great film, but not a car movie. Bullitt introduced a new level of drama into the car chase ( just watch some fifties/early sixties car chases and you will see how unengaging, undramatic and generally lame they were ) and in so doing it made the car chase a Hollywood staple, something required in every action film. Steve McQueen, a “car guy” before he was an actor, would surely have approved of his legacy here.

The Films:
Grand Prix
– Le Mans
– Two Lane Blacktop
– Vanishing Point
– Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
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