In the 1970’s the flip side to the primal ‘revolt of nature’ film heralded in by the blockbuster success of Jaws (1975) was a series of films that sought to interrogate questions of technology and the machines created by capitalist and industrial endeavour. Although these ‘revolt of technology’ films functioned within the parameters of the horror and science-fiction genres they also owed a great deal to the paranoid thrillers that arose in the wake of the Watergate scandal. In this respect they can be seen as the fantastical flip side to such thrillers as The Parallax View (1974) and All the President’s Men (1976). In those films and many others of that form an emphasis was placed on a shadowy and terrifying superpower manipulating events in order to maintain the status quo and whilst films of the ‘revolt of technology’ form reduced the emphasis on these qualities there was still the sense that they possessed a subtext which depicted the government and the scientific institutions in an unsavoury light. The automobile is so central to conceptions of the American dream that it only seems natural in an uncertain 1970’s that saw fundamental challenges to freedom and democracy that it too would become a device of subversion and fear. The screenplay of The Car by Michael Butler and Dennis Shyrack opts to relieve itself of much of the baggage of paranoid thrillers in favour of the supernatural, but the symbolic resonance of an automobile as a weapon of death feeds strongly into the fears of the day. Despite this The Car was a commercial (somewhat surprising) and critical (no surprise at all) failure. The spectacle this film offered simply paled in a year that saw Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo begin their adventures in a war torn galaxy far far away!
© Shaun Anderson 2010