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Car Wash (Blu-ray Review)

While Michael Schultz’s comedy film Car Wash has had the legacy of a cult classic (Deeming it a perfect match for a distributor like Shout! Factory), the soundtrack from the film at the time of release was anything but. The 1976 movie’s songs got lots of spins on the radio, sold plenty of records and won a Grammy award (among others) for the music featured in the film.  Of course, everyone knows the Disco/Funk era staple title track.  Hell, just seeing the word “car wash” might have it play in your head or have you clapping your hands.  Mediocre reviews for the film itself didn’t stop people from revisiting it or it finding itself a solid fan base that grew over the years. On June 20th, Shout! Factory is finally getting it to make the jump to Blu-ray. You can get your car washed today or pre-order it by clicking the Amazon link below.

Film 

Everybody is cleaning up and getting down in this classic comedy from the decade that brought you the tube top, the polyester suit and lots of good times! It’s just a typical day in the lives of the employees, customers and passersby of a Los Angeles car wash. There’s a would-be robbery… an assembly line of the weirdest, baddest, shadiest characters you’ve ever met… and lots of ‘70s music to pass the hours till quitting time.

First off, one of the funniest bits about Car Wash since its initial release, is how it was marketed when it came to home video. The VHS boxes, DVD cases and now this Blu-ray case all highlight comedians Richard Pryor and George Carlin. They both are pretty much cameos in the film. Carlin’s got a fun little recurring role that he absolutely brings some unique crazy energy in a committed piece of taxi driver thespianism. Pryor, well, he’s great, but he’s in one scene in the whole movie and its about 1/3 of the way in.

What Car Wash is, is pretty much that “day in the life” kinda movie with an ensemble cast, playing even parts with stories coming in and out and passing characters back and forth. Its pretty much the formula for what would later be a lot of college and high school movies in the 90s and early 2000s. What this allows is for constant momentum, energy and you never growing tired of any of the characters. Its a lot of fun and offers many different aspects of comedy. Some bits play around for the whole movie, some are like a quick joke, there are sketches and just silly slapstick moments. Its really the whole deal in this 97 minute bit of fun.

What keeps things going is the soundtrack. You’ll hear “Car Wash” like 8 or 9 times before the film is over, but there are other great tunes mixed in too. The music really helps move and push this movie along, having not just the characters, but yourself bopping in your seat. They actually finished the soundtrack before they even shot the movie. It was done by design as Schultz wanted to have the characters hearing the actually songs where they were planned to be in the movie. One other bit of fun is the DJ’s you hear between the songs. These people drop some fun little bits of nonchalant comedy too, if you’re paying attention.

Overall, Car Wash is hard not to like. Roger Ebert really loved it even. Oh, and did you know Joel Schumacher wrote it? Yeah, crazy. Its just basically a fun party movie. It juggles many arcs, handles a lot of different comedic styles and actor personas at once. Plus, it’ll just make you want to dance. Yeah, some of its dated, but that adds to some fun as well. Get your Car Wash (Blu-ray) today!

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Car Wash translates to Blu-ray with a rather clean transfer to the format. Colors come on strong with a nice 70s style palette. Details on clothing like patterns and textures are impressive. The uniforms look plenty worn and used as they appear wrinkles, worn and used just by any glance of it. The individual suds look neatly defined as well. You can even make out brush strokes and the need for another coat of paint on the sign for the car wash in the film. Overall, Shout! Factory has produced as terrific looking presentation of the 1976 cult classic comedy from Michael Schultz.

Depth:  Dimensional works is about average. A camera pan here or there proves interesting, but the static shots are rather “okay” in appearance. Movements a cinematic and have no real issues with blurring or jittering with feistier motions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and hold on to plenty of detail. The film is rather well lit, so dark stuff like hair or clothes still shows through on follicles and texture.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong, and keep in a good bold tone with the era and strength. Oranges look plenty gorgeous here. Reds and blues all come through very good, too.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from the beginning to the end of the film. Wrinkles, freckles, facial lines, make-up and stubble all come through quite nicely from good, reasonable distances.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a some grain as well as some dirt/specs on this print. During the open with the credits on screen, the condition is a little rougher than the rest of it.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: When it comes to Car Wash coming to Blu-ray, the soundtrack is important and this Mono lossless track delivers. For a little track, it really does bump. Each song, when shown the center of the stage, comes alive and grooves. Vocals, by nature of the source can sound a hair dated her or there. Effects are woven in and out quite well in this balanced presentation.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are nice and clean, plenty audible at all times. There is a lot of ADR in the film, which you can tell when it is just by using your ears. Analog his is very minimal.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Michael Schultz

Workin’ At The Car Wash With Otis Day (HD, 12:13) – The actor wishes he could’ve shared a moment with George Carlin, but overall loved the shoot. He claims no primadonnas were on set and that Michael Schultz was the ideal director to work with.

Car Wash From Start To Finish With Gary Stromberg (HD, 34:22) – The producer for the film starts with talking about how he was down and out and then started playing his hand in show biz. He actually gives a really detailed account of how the film came to be and the sort of attitude and mentality of Universal Studios during the making of it.

Radio Spots (HD, 2:59) 

Trailer (SD, 2:21)

Summary 

Car Wash holds on nicely to some good humor and fun, while having some nice poignant political offerings as well. This Blu-ray offers a very solid video transfer and audio performance in its Blu-ray debut. The extras aren’t too shabby as well, being pretty informative and adding on to the experience. Those interested should be plenty satisfied with this release.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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