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TCM Imports - June 2019
Remind Me

The Cars That Ate Paris

Australian filmmaker Peter Weir's satiric first feature is streets away from the quiet intensity of his moody Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and the hushed apocalyptica of The Last Wave (1977). Beating George Miller's Mad Max (1979) to the punch as a reflection of the Aussie mania for motor vehicles and open road, The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) reboots the legends of coastal wreckers of past centuries, who lured merchant ships to their doom in order to plunder their cargos for profit. In the antipodean backwater of Paris, Australia, the locals (led by Crocodile Dundee's [1986] John Meillon, subbing for Weir's first choice, Donald Pleasence) deal with economic blight by causing horrific road accidents, from which they salvage not only luxury items and car parts but the lobotomized survivors, whom they warehouse in an area hospital for future medical experimentation (a plot point apace with Roland West's 1925 Lon Chaney silent The Monster). Australian cinema's first film shot in anamorphic widescreen garnered international recognition at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened out of competition due to its violent content. Weir's use of automobiles retrofitted with cartoonish spikes and animal fangs inspired Roger Corman to produce Death Race 2000 (1975) while The Cars That Ate Paris was distributed in the United States in 1977 as The Cars That Eat People.

By Richard Harland Smith