DEATH CAR ON THE FREEWAY (1979)
Article 4967 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Hal Needham
Featuring Shelley Hack, Frank Gorshin, Peter Graves
What it is: TV-Movie thriller
A maniac is loose on the freeway, forcing cars being driven by beautiful women into having accidents. An ambitious female reporter tries to get to the bottom of it.
Hal Needham was a stunt man turned director who specialized in light-hearted action fare with lots of stunts and car crashes and usually starring Burt Reynolds. As a director, I’ve only encountered him once before in this series with the dismal MEGAFORCE; if this movie is better than that one, bear in mind that it didn’t take much to be so. Actually, it’s interesting to see him try for a straightforward thriller rather than a comic one, and if there’s one thing the movie does well, it’s the car-driving stunt work on display here. Most of the rest of the movie is pretty bad; there’s a lot of name stars in forgettable cameos and a lot of tiresome time is spent on the reporter’s relationship with her sexist ex-lover/husband (I’m not sure which) played by George Hamilton. He’s so obnoxious that I found myself wondering whether he would end up to be the killer; as it is, you never see the latter’s face. Technically, the movie should be called DEATH VAN ON THE FREEWAY, but then, I would have had real trouble identifying the killer’s trademark music as “bluegrass” or even that it was being played on a fiddle; it almost sounds like avant-garde electronic garble. Nevertheless, the movie does hold the interest and is fairly exciting, and it also features a memorable cameo from Sid Haig. Actually, it’s not too bad for a TV-Movie. The movie’s fantastic content is that it is, of course, a variation on the serial killer theme.