Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cars With Charisma

As I was writing my post the other day about cartoons and animated movies I mentioned the movie Cars. It occurred to me then that there are an awful lot of TV shows and movies out there in which cars have been given distinct personalities. I'm not talking about the General Lee, though some might argue that car has personality. No, I mean cars with actual consciousness. Probably the first TV show that featured the kind of cars I'm talking about was 1965's My Mother the Car. This show was comedy starring Jerry Van Dyke (brother to Dick) as David Crabtree. He hears his mother talking to him through the radio of an old 1928 Porter and realizes that his Mother has been reincarnated into the car. No one else can hear her, so of course most everyone thinks he's crazy. This show came out at a time when a lot of other shows featured supernatural storylines, like Bewitched and My Favorite Martian. And though at the time it was widely panned as one of the worst shows on TV, it has become a kind of sentimental favorite to many. Steven King wrote of a possessed car as well, though of a much more malevolent kind in Christine, which was later turned into a movie directed by John Carpenter. The book describes the car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury (appropriate car wouldn't you say) as having been possessed by the spirit of a guy named Roland LeBay, though the movie portrays the car as simply evil. I also remember a movie that was similar to Christine that I saw as a kid that scared the crap out of me called simply The Car. There's very little to this movie other than it's a customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III that runs people down for no apparent reason. The movie never specifies why the car is evil, if it's possessed or otherwise. Though I believe this was meant to be based on the movie The Duel by Stephen Spielberg, that time with an inexplicably evil Peterbilt Truck. Disney took the idea of a car with a mind of its own and made it into a kid friendly franchise with the Herbie movies of the late 60's through the early 80's and the most recent incarnation with Lindsay Lohan in Herbie Fully Loaded. Herbie, as you all probably remember, was the lovable Volkswagen Bug that had it's own personality and abilities far beyond that of a regular Bug. I've never heard that any kind of "possession" was attributed to Herbie, he just simply was a car with its own consciousness. Another family friendly magical car was featured in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang based on a book written by James Bond author Ian Flemming for his son. The movie starred Dick Van Dyke and had many fantasy sequences in which the car flew. I haven't seen it in so long I can't remember if the car was actually supposed to be able to fly or if it was merely imaginary. Hopefully someone can enlighten me. One of my all time cheesy favorites was the 80's classic Knight Rider; another David Hasselhoff masterpiece. The car in Knight Rider was known as Kitt, or the Knight Industries Two Thousand. Kitt was given its somewhat sarcastic personality through Artificial Intelligence and was used as a crime fighting weapon of sorts. I really did love Knight Rider, I think the car's sarcasm appealed to me even then. After all, who doesn't want to give "The Hoff" a verbal smackdown now and then? Cars are often a big part of film and TV, from The Dukes of Hazzard to movies like Bullitt we've always had a love affair with cars. But there is something a little extra special about movies and TV shows that have cars with animated personalities. At least I've always thought so. ;) As always, tell me what you think.

10 comments:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I think I remember 'The Car'. 'Duel was really ground-breaking.

How did 'The General Lee' stay together? How did the Duke boys afford to keep it running?

Crunchy Carpets said...

I love Chitty Chitty...the book is great. The idea is that the story the dad tells about the car makes the car able to do almost anything...but it really is just a story.

SQT said...

We actually watched the "Dukes of Hazzard" movie (not that great)and there were so many scenes where the car would land after some crazy jump and you just knew the rims and the front end were toast. I guess you're just supposed to 'suspend disbelief' for the duration of the show, but it's a little tough...

The Curmudgeon said...

I liked "My Mother the Car" when it was on.

However, I may have been the entire audience during part of its brief run.

People anthropomorphize their cars all the time -- thus the current commercial for the Japanese carmaker with people talking, yelling, crying in/to their cars -- then saying things like, "I'm sorry, it's not your fault" or "Do you want to get something to eat?"

My wife anthropomorphizes cars and other machinery -- computers, for one.

And, to think, they used to make fun of the 'simple savages' who thought spirits inhabited rocks or streams....

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Don't forget about Maximum Overdrive, where alien meteor spores grant the world's machines with evil life, most notibaly the semi truck with the Green Goblin's face on the front.

Transformers could also be included, though I would say that they would be the next step, going from living cars to robots that transform into cars.

Hey there, Skippy said...

This may be unpopular, but I bloody hate Herbie the Love Bug. And not just the godawful Lindsey "I forgot my pants" Lohan movie, but the entire franchise. It just creeps me out.

On the upside, Kit from Nightrider was so camp it was just awesome.

DesLily said...

argh! this blog was not loading for 2 days!.. now it's hit and miss.

I still love chitty chitty bang bang!

and i'll admit it.. i did watch my mother the car.. there I said it!

SQT said...

Sorry for the loading problems Deslily, I don't really know what's causing it. Blogger had been annoying me too, it's dumped comments on me arbitrarily and I have to re-type and re-post. Annoying as Hell.

I'll send a note to blogger. I don't know if it'll do any good though...

Stewart Sternberg said...

Chitty was exceptional. It also had the distinction of being written by Ian Fleming. And Curmudgeon, there were at least two of us watching My Mother The Car. I used to know the theme song.

Talking about cars and Ian Fleming, what about the cars that populated the James Bond films. Cars that could travel under water. Cars that could be driven by remote control. Cars that were capable of shooting missles, machine guns. Cars that had oil slicks, that shot out spikes, that chewed up the wheels of the car next to you, that had ejector seats.

And who can forget the invisible car from Die Another Day? Imagine trying to drive that puppy in bad traffic.

And if we continue this little dip on cars..can we pause and give tribute to THE BATMOBILE????HELLYES.

SQT said...

I think a separate post is in order for the likes of the batmobile. I thought about it as I was writing, but I thought I stick to the cars that were supposed to have a consciousness of sorts.

Next time I'll concentrate on the Bond cars and the Batmobile and the like.