The Nitro Joint w / "Chicago Jon" Hoffman

It’s Not a Car Movie…Or Is It?

Ah, sweet summertime, the time of the year to pile into the car and head to the drive-in theater and check out a movie. Remember, my loyal readers (yeah, both of you) that I got my start here at the venerable Phlegm Building doing reviews OF car movies. The Editor, 'Grand Pooh-Bah', and spiritual Guiding Light of Drag Racing Online, The Burkster and I were talking a while back, about movies that were NOT car movies yet afterwards you were talking about the scenes WITH CARS. So, if it's a car movie or NOT a car movie … is this like the deal where, what's that thing about sounds in the forest, uhmm ... if a husband speaks in the forest and his wife isn't around to hear it, is he still wrong? (Anyone who's been married for longer than five minutes KNOWS the answer to that one!) Whatever, let’s just hop into the Griswold’s Wagon Queen Family Truckster (metallic pea!) and head over to the ghost of the Sky Vue Drive In, for some 'not car movies', shall we?


We've got five films on the marque tonight, and we'll start with the 1974 cult classic MR. MAJESTYK with tough-as-leather (and sometimes CONFUSED with leather) Charlie Bronson. In this flick, he's a weary former Viet Nam veteran, who simply wants to work on his melon farm, but a bunch of mob bad guys are having none of that. The "Bullitt-moment" of this flick is a nine-minute chase through the desert and mountains, between the mob guys in various Ford sedans, and Chuck and his woman in a 1969 Ford F-series pickup truck. Actually, in an early nod to empowered women, Charlie’s squeeze drives the first half of the chase! Reportedly the truck was un-modified, and I remember this scene being used BY FORD in commercials for their truck line. My favorite part is when Bronson manages to sneak up behind an LTD full of hoods, and he "Earnhardts them" off the edge of a cliff, and yes, of COURSE the car pointlessly explodes at the bottom!


"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." Everybody knows the line that Richard Castellano as Clemenza reportedly ad-libbed in 1972’s epic THE GODFATHER. Said line was voted #31 in a list of top 100 movie quotes by the Hollywood Reporter. What a lot of people don't know, or no-TICE, is the attention to detail said film paid to the automobiles in the film. The car in that scene, a 1941 Packard Super 8-1, sports a gas-rationing sticker on its windshield. Several car-themed websites also claim that there are cars in the film with wooden bumpers, also a part of the war effort. Personally, I didn't have time to re-watch the thing before this column, and all the Corleone cars are stock and beautiful, a nod to the power and influence of the mob family.

Oh, the 1941 Lincoln Continental Coupe that Santino drove into his massacre at the toll booth on the Long Island Parkway went to auction in 2013, and no, it was not riddled with bullet holes.

From one Jimmy Caan movie to another, up next on the big screen is 1990’s Rob Reiner classic MISERY. I cannot hear Junior Walker’s 'ShotGun', without immediately thinking of Sonny Corleone, errrr Paul SHELDON, spinning and sliding down a mountain road in his 1966 Mustang. Watch that one next time closely and see how the continuity editors stunk up the joint, as icicles come and go on the car from shot to shot. (Unrelated to cars, or movies - you take Junior Walker’s sax solo out of Foreigners over-played URGENT, and that turd-in-the-punchbowl would have never had a second playing on the air)


You have to love a science fiction piece where they describe a grim, apocalyptic future...and then you live to see that day pass by! John Carpenter’s 1981 jewel ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, which depicts the City of Dreams as a total NIGHTMARE -- in 1997! Walled off and turned into a kind of feral-prison we get my MAIN man Kurt Russell, channeling Clint Eastwood alongside Lee Van Cleef (Eastwood’s nemesis in several spaghetti westerns).

But, at center stage for this exercise, is the 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood, in all its "pimp-mobile-glory" and used by 'The Duke Of New York', played by Isaac Hayes. When a car has CHANDELIERS on its front fenders, you KNOW it is ON! And a little 'Hollywood-stuff' for you, aside from the fact that the film was done down in Bret Kepner’s area of St. Louis, a young unknown guy did the matte paintings for this film, a dude named James Cameron. I think he did that movie about the boat or whatever....

The year 1978 brought us the comic wonder that is ANIMAL HOUSE. It also brings us 'Flounder’s brother’s car', and the filmmakers have a "little 'SPLAINING to do", as we are on campus at Faber University in 1962, with a 1964 Lincoln Continental. Hey, it's not the truck tire-prints in the dirt during the chariot race in Ben Hur, but it bears mentioning. (Would chariots count as 'cars'? Never mind) The trashing of the car on the road trip takes a back seat to its evolution into the...(sinister Elmer Bernstein music) DEATHMOBILE!!! You want to talk about the most replicated thing EVER? Go and google 'images of Deathmobile' and see what surfaces. Pinewood derby cars, die-o-ramas, parade floats, origami kits.... I always thought it'd be cool to try and put one together for the HOT ROD Power Tour. If you have two hundred bucks, you can get a diecast one over at 'LongJungleRiver.com'. A true American classic.

I was going to finish with another 1978 film, and I have to break out the snarky "finger-quotes" for the word FILM, but it actually is, or TRIES to be about cars, but it is HARDLY FILM! And as such, we will have to pound THE BETSY some other day. From a Harold Robbins pile of dreck, we got a wealth of fine and talented actors, in the biggest waste of time ever! AND, it was shot entirely on location. This means when said actors were chewing the scenery, it was ACTUAL wallboard and plaster, which is a little tough on the colon. Not even a nude scene with Kathleen Beller could save this mess. (Her first Hollywood film. Ever notice how many times an actress's first movie has her doing a nude scene?)


Well, if we actually WERE at the Sky Vue of Lames, Texas, it would be a fine time to head over to the concession stand and feast on a heap of legendary Chihuahua Sandwiches, but sadly, said iconic establishment burned down in 2015. Those legendary concoctions actually SAVED the Sky Vue when the tides were turning against drive-ins. The owners expanded the kitchen after seeing that people would buy movie tickets, load up on 20 or 30 sandwiches and then LEAVE. I cannot tell you how much money I've thrown at the kitchen wall trying to replicate this masterpiece of heart-clogging wonder, but never having had an ORIGINAL, I never knew if I was on the right track or not. Is it a sandwich, or not? Is it a CAR MOVIE, or not? The debate rages on, as do I, after all…I AM Chicago Jon. Time again to say...CCC-YYYAAAAAAAA



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