The motion picture industry has been making movies about cars and car racing since the silent film era. After all, they’re called “motion” pictures, and race cars certainly do move. Racing has other elements, as well, that provide for dramatic and entertaining stories, not the least of which is life-or-death danger.
In many cases, though, racing movies have disappointed either car enthusiasts for their lack of realism, or their financial backers for their less-than-blockbuster ticket sales. Now and then, however, a gifted director gets the budget, the actors, the story, and the technical wherewithal to make a film that resonates with both knowledgeable enthusiasts and the general public.
This post started, as some of mine do, with a question about cars from my brother Jeff.
He texted me from Jerusalem, Israel, wanting to know whether the Porsche in a 1981 movie titled “The Last Chase,” starring Lee Majors, was a real Porsche or a replica.
Not knowing anything about the movie, I told him it was likely to be a real 911, since they weren’t that expensive then, so nobody would have bothered making a replica. He texted back that it wasn’t a 911, but something that looked “more like a Chaparral.”
Intrigued, I did an image search and he’s correct. While it’s easy to tell a Porsche 917 from one of Jim Hall’s racers, the 917 in The Last Chase does indeed look more like a Chaparral than like Porsche’s iconic 911 road car.
My brother’s question answered, I proceeded to watch the film, which is posted in its entirety on YouTube (you can watch it below the jump).
My next thought: how did I not know about this movie?
Of all the Bond movies, there’s no doubt Goldfinger is the most iconic. Glamorous women, exotic locales, evil (and expendable) henchmen, nifty gadgets galore, and cars, cars, cars.
The 1964 film created the template for the movie franchise, and provided us with timeless images of vehicles we’ll probably never own in places we’ll probably never drive.
The man behind the movie, director Guy Hamilton, shuffled off this mortal coil yesterday at the age of 93. Though his career includes such classics as The Third Man, we can’t remember that film containing an ejection seat-equipped Aston Martin.
We had a 1970s movie-car QOTD last week, and that was so much fun we’re doing it again! So, here we go: in the beginning of Smokey and the Bandit, when Big Enos challenges The Bandit to fetch 400 cases of that Colorado Kool-Aid, a wad of cash of unspecified thickness gets handed over for expenses, including a “speedy car.” As we all know, The Bandit headed straight to the nearest Pontiac showroom and bought himself a brand-new 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. In the film, that car seemed to be the fastest imaginable motor vehicle (thanks to the magic of engine swaps, stunt drivers, and special effects). In reality, however, the ’77 Trans Am was kind of a bloated Malaise Era slug, and The Bandit probably had a lot of better escape-the-smokeys car choices available.
So, in his shoes and with a ’77 Trans Am-sized stack of C-notes, what car would you have bought for that run to Texarkana and back?
Some might tell you that Cheech & Chong’s 1978 movie, Up In Smoke, was about Malaise Era drug culture, or Los Angeles, or California punk rock, but in fact it is one of the greatest car movies in cinematic history. For this reason, I have used my Svengali-like powers to convince the management of the Denver Alamo Drafthouse theater to include this fine automotive film as part of the Murilee Martin Presents series. Yes, on Monday, which just happens to be April 20, we’ll roll Up In Smoke starting at 7:30 PM.
Because the power of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™ is so extreme, the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Denver has fallen under my spell and allowed me to select and introduce four car films, to be shown each Monday during their “Alamo Takes the Wheel” month of April (actually, it was the endorsement of Repo Man director Alex Cox, who teaches at the University of Colorado, that convinced the Alamo management that this idea wasn’t completely stupid). The first of those films is the amazing Duel, an all-time-great Malaise Era car movie that shouldn’t need any introduction for TTAC readers.
Let’s face it, most of what you read at car related sites, just like you do at sites for other interests, industries and hobbies, talks about the same usual topics. In the case of car enthusiast sites, the same cars, the same commercials, the same companies. Maybe that’s why it’s exciting when I’m ranging far afield of the automotive realm on the web and I come across something that I’m pretty sure will be of interest to TTAC readers and it also happens to be something that you probably haven’t seen anyplace else. In this case I was doing my rounds of some of the non-automotive sites I link to from Cars In Depth and I came across a brand new short dramatic film called The Sunday Morning Drive about a beautiful woman in a 430 horsepower Audi R8 racing more than 3 dozen sportbikes up a winding and treacherous 14 mile stretch of California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
Was I correct about it being of interest to you?
Before the Clint Eastwood film (but after the cheezoid TV show), the most well-known Ford Gran Torino in cinema history was the beater ’73 sedan driven by Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. This film, which took quite a while to go from box-office dud to sacred document of the Lebowski Jihad, was released in 1998 and was set in late 1990 or early 1991 (a period during which I was also in Southern California and living a fairly Dude-ish lifestyle myself). The choice of a ’73 Gran Torino by the Coen Brothers makes some interesting statements for those who obsess about movie cars, and Monday is always the best day to discuss such things.