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Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo
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Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo

" and I did not come out of mothballs to be the laughingstock of the continent."
Dean Jones to Herbie, the Love Bug in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo

Herbie generated laughs without necessarily becoming a laughing stock in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), the third film in Disney's most successful live action franchise. Made nine years after the original 1968 The Love Bug, this 1977 re-united original star Dean Jones with the magical Volkswagen that had turned him into a champion racer. For this film, set 12 years after their first success, the two come out of retirement to enter the Trans-France Race from Paris to Monte Carlo only to have their chances compromised when Herbie falls in love with a rival car, a powder-blue Lancia named Giselle, and thieves plant a stolen diamond in his gas tank.

Herbie had been born in the 1961 novel Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford. Walt Disney himself had bought the film rights, though he passed away in 1966, before the first film was made. Jones had been a natural choice for racer Jim Douglas, since he was one of Disney's most popular actors during the 1960s. With the film's success, a sequel was inevitable, but the only actor to reprise his role in the 1974 Herbie Rides Again was Keenan Wynn, cast as villain Alonzo Hawk. Jones would later say that he might have been passed over because he told producers the script was much weaker than that of the original film. As a result, Jim was sent to Europe, and the car passed into the hands of an elderly woman played by Helen Hayes (in Herbie Rides Again).

Jones and Herbie were the only figures returning for the third film. Director Vincent McEveety, a Disney regular best known for his television work, took over for Robert Stevenson, who had helmed the first two films. Another television stalwart, writer Arthur Alsberg, took over scripting chores from Bill Walsh, who had written the first two films (the first in collaboration with Don DaGradi). Also new to the series was Don Knotts, who had revived his film career in Disney's The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) after winning five Emmies as Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. Rounding out the supporting cast were Bernard Fox, who played Dr. Bombay on 19 episodes of Bewitched, as one of the jewel thieves, and Eric Braeden who has played tycoon Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless since 1980, as a rival racer.

The real star of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, of course, was Herbie, a 1963 Volkswagen bug. Actually, there were several Herbies, with modified 1959, 1962 and 1977 models appearing in several scenes. The white car (Volkswagen L87 pearl white, to be exact) should have had a white interior, but it had to be painted with a non-reflective grey paint for filming purposes. The original white would have reflected the studio lights. Even though the series clearly established that Herbie's gas cap was under the hood, for Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo it had to be moved to an exterior position so the jewel thieves could dump the stolen diamond in the tank quickly. It returned to its original position in Herbie's later film and television incarnations.

The film shot on location in Paris and Monte Carlo, but also included interiors shot at the Disney Studios in Burbank. The qualifying races were also shot closer to home, at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Southern California. Jones did some stunt driving for the film himself, though at one point he didn't realize how dangerous the stunts really were. He was supposed to drive Herbie across a piazza in Paris on the way to the qualifying races. When he got the signal to start, he drove out into what he thought was a street filled with stunt drivers working on the film. Some of them got closer than he had expected, a fact he pointed out to McEveety once he finished the scene. At that point, the director informed him that they hadn't been stunt drivers. He had been driving in actual Parisian traffic.

Although not up to the level of the original The Love Bug, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo did a respectable $28 million at the box office. That was enough to inspire one more cinematic sequel, Herbie Goes Bananas (1980). Herbie then moved to television for a short-lived 1982 series Herbie the Matchmaker, with Jones' Jim Douglas now working as a driving teacher, and a 1997 television movie entitled The Love Bug. The latter featured Jones in a cameo. Herbie would return to the big screen in 2005, this time owned by Lindsay Lohan in Herbie: Fully Loaded. For that film he would mirror a stunt from Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. In the earlier film, Herbie had gotten past a rival car in a narrow tunnel by driving on the tunnel's roof. In the sequel, he would round corners by driving up onto the fences.

Producer: Ron Miller
Director: Vincent McEveety
Screenplay: Arthur Alsberg, Don Nelson
Based on characters created by Gordon Buford
Cinematography: Leonard J. South
Art Direction: John B. Mansbridge, Perry Ferguson Music: Frank De Vol
Cast: Dean Jones (Jim Douglas), Don Knotts (Wheely Applegate), Julie Sommars (Diane Darcy), Jacques Marin (Inspector Bouchet), Roy Kinnear (Quincey), Bernard Fox (Max), Eric Braeden (Bruno Von Stickle), Alan Caillou (Emile). C-105m.

by Frank Miller