OSTED: September 7, 2008 13:31 | By: Carol Borden
Australian super-director Peter Weir (Master and Commander) is one of the featured directors in Not Quite Hollywood. I have some non Gallipoli, non-The Year of Living Dangerously memories of his work. I was all about titles when I was a kid and his 1974 exploitation movie, The Cars that Eat People (aka, The Cars that Ate Paris) sounded great. I mean, cars eating people. What could be be better? But the thing is they don’t. They don’t eat people. They don’t eat Paris. They don’t even sort of guiltily gnaw at people. Not even one person. They just sort of growl, but then that might be their engines. It turns out that the eating is metaphorical and people drive the cars.
The Cars that Eat People are actually people squealing their tires in customized cars. And they’re tormenting the chief parking enforcer, a Brooklynite with what the Mayor of this small town considers a pathological fear of cars, though it seems more like the guy doesn’t want to drive anymore because he was in a terrible accident. I’m not sure what the accident was because it happened at night and the night scenes were really shot at night. Anyway, there’s a lot of tension built around confronting people about bad parking practices and there’s a lot of crashing cars.
So I learned a few things from this film. Things that are very helpful with movies from all over.
- The title might be great but don’t take it literally. Cars don’t always eat people.
- Cars don’t always eat people because effects and especially monsters are expensive. This is why so many vampires are invisible or possess people.
- Dubbing is cheaper (and safer) than recording sound on location so sound effects can spice things up. Listen to those cars growl!
- Don’t ever let anyone criticize directors for shooting night scenes in the day t ime with a blue filter. Screw realism. Blue filters are your friend. Blue filters are trying to help you out.
- Sometimes exploitation and b-movies have really interesting characters or weird psychological things going on in them precisely because they are low budget. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have liked to have seen some cars eat people, but I did get some growling cars?and one hedgehog car?mixed in with a psychological thriller.