Monday February 12, 2018
On the 23rd January, the nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced, which prompted me to think of the many cinematic greats and near-misses with the name of the car in the titles. From the UK there is The Fast Lady, The Yellow Rolls-Royce (that staple of Sunday afternoon BBC1 during the 1970s) and the relentlessly unfunny Car Trouble. For those with a taste for the obscure, how about Weekend with Lulu, a farce starring Bob Monkhouse, Leslie Phillips and the titular caravan, although of course this is not a motor vehicle per se - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zfkLit7C7Y Across the Pond we have such titles as The Car, a horror classic of sorts about an irate 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III with George Barris coachwork - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6-yVoJTCo8
Yes, The Car was unjustly neglected for acting and scripting honours but the Oscar for the “Best Picture Named After A Car” should be awarded to either Genevieve or Christine. We will come to the former this November while the latter is both an utterly entertaining Stephen King adaptation and an Awful Warning about the perils of becoming a car obsessive. The film entered production even before the publication of the original novel, with over 10 per cent of the budget allotted to the 23 Plymouths required for shooting; seven for spare parts and 16 film cars. As any US automobile enthusiast will tell you, not all of the on screen vehicles are the Fury as various Belvederes and Savoys had their appearances doctored. As for the coachwork, the standard colour for the 1958 Fury was “Buckskin Beige” but “Ford Red” is far more suitable for a Plymouth that is a) possessed by evil and b) has an excellent taste in rock and roll records. King himself chose the model as ‘I didn’t want a car that already had a legend attached to it like the ’50s Thunderbird’.
Nearly all of us are familiar with the plot; mild-mannered Arnie Cunningham buys a Plymouth of dubious provenance and gradually transforms into a form of psychotic 1950s throwback - the actor Keith Gordon noted that ‘It’s almost like the character starts becoming part of the era of the car’. Christine also has the power of self-regeneration, which does come in handy in minimalizing those restoration bills. Our anti-hero eventually becomes so devoted to his project that he spends all of his free time in scrapyards – ‘You better watch what you say about my car. She's real sensitive’. At night the Fury stalks the streets of Los Angeles – and woe betide any vandal named Moochie - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrO8AQ4CrKk Sharp eared viewers will observe that the Plymouth does appear to have a Ford engine note – the sounds were overdubbed from recordings of a 1970 Mustang 428 SC.
Being a Stephen King adaptation, Christine does not end well for either car or owner. Arnie had taken to Brylcreeming his hair and ranting along the lines of ‘It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything-- friendship, family. It kills me how much it eats. But I'll tell you something else. You feed it right, and it can be a beautiful thing, and that's what we have’. Several fine machines are destroyed, including a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro and a US specification Ford Cortina GT Mk. II, before the Plymouth meets with a bulldozer. Detective Junkins (the great Harry Dean Stanton) thinks that this is the end of tail-finned mayhem – but is it? And with scenes such as this one, who would dare deny Christine an Oscar. -