Rev Up Your Engines for Carsploitation Comedies

Dateline: September 16, 1908. The General Motors Corporation is founded. And in the process, although it was not known and could not possibly have been foreseen at the time, so is a genre of movie that will come to be known as carsploitation. Carsploitation is a fairly nebulous genre that covers pretty much any movie that tests the patience of an audience relative to how many cars they are willing to watch being raced and/or crashed before anything else of any interest at all happens in the movie. A great many movies that fall into the carsploitation genre are action films that want to be viewed more dramatically they actually deserve, but a number of comedies fit into the category as well. Generally speaking, carsploitation comedies are a bit easier to handle among those with a low tolerance of the number of cars they are willing to watch be damaged before something else of interest happens on the screen.

The Gumball Rally

What Burt Reynolds got all his famous friends together to attempt in the overly budgeted “Cannonball Run” had already been done much more cheaply and more entertainingly in “The Gumball Rally.” What we have here is the template for a sub-sub-genre of carsploitation. Those movies that feature an unofficial race across the country by your average car owners who fancy themselves kings of the road. The most famous face in the cast is Raul Julia, but as in all examples of carsploitation, the real stars are the cars. Lots of slapstick comedy takes place in between the racing scenes and it’s one you can watch with the kids.

The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow

Wow, talk about a sub-sub-sub-genre of carsploitation! Here we have a comedy horror carsploitation movie. The movie is a sequel of sorts to the deliriously weird carsploitation rock musical “Hot Rod Gang” that you have to see to believe. “The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow” features the same sort of clean-cut juvenile delinquent characters from a world that probably never existed in real life and adds a supposedly haunted house into the world of drag racing in the 1950s. Very fun and enjoyable and, sadly, provides more three-dimensionality in characterization than almost any of the much more famous dramatic examples of carsploitation movies.

The Blues Brothers

When it comes to carsploitation comedy movies, the king of them all may well be “The Blues Brothers.” Director John Landis seems to love few things more than destroying large pieces of machinery and the sheer number of cars that take a big hit in “The Blues Brothers” defies the film from belonging more specifically to the genre of musical comedy. “The Blues Brothers” does have music and it does have comedy, but more than anything else it seems to have cars flying through the air. A great indie director could probably make an entire career’s worth of films out of just the money that Landis spent on cars in “The Blues Brothers.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide which would have been the better use of that money.