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April 1 Weekly Open Thread: Don't Open That Door!

We've all seen it played over and over in hundreds of movies and TV shows: The hero or heroine is trying to escape from the bad guy, monster, zombie, alien, TV critic, etc. They rush to a car -- either theirs or any random car sitting nearby which miraculously almost always has the key left in the ignition -- and start it up. . . .only to find it won't start! After thumping the steering wheel and looking at the approaching fiend a couple of times, the car miraculously starts just as the bad guy reaches it! Saved! (loud clip, btw)

I'm not entirely certain when this particular cliché got started. Some have argued that it all began with Double Indemnity when the director, after his personal car didn't start on the set, decided that a little more drama was required and had the actors pretend to have difficulty starting the car a couple of times before really turning it over for real and speeding away. This made sense to me growing up because, let's face it, anyone over the age of 30 or so remembers when cars quite often did have trouble starting. This scenario has gradually changed as cars have become far more reliable and the idea of, say, a Honda not starting up is kind of unthinkable.

I noticed this phenomenon a few years ago and have been keeping mental notes since then. What's replaced the Car Not Starting cliché? Most often, I think, filmmakers have resorted to the Wheels Stuck in Mud/Sand cliché; they always seem to get traction at just the right moment, of course. Then there's the Dropping the Keys cliché, where the hero or damsel in distress spends several crucial seconds fumbling with the keys before finally -- and just in time! -- putting them in the ignition and making a getaway. This also works when hot-wiring a car: it doesn't turn over until the last possible second (and everyone, it seems, miraculously knows how to do it). Then again, they sometimes cheat a bit and use an old car so it not starting seems perfectly normal.

I wonder what they did before cars. Did they jump on a horse and it would refuse to go anywhere for a few seconds?

There are several other auto-related clichés, of course, such as their proclivity to explode on contact, but this one stuck out to me as it seems to reflect on real-world changes in car manufacturing. What other car themed cliches have changed over time? As always, use this to discuss anything else car-related.


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Let's see... run and get in your car, turn the key, spin the ignition, pump the pedal, flood the engine, and try to start it. Sounds easy enough on an older carbureted car... would that happen with today's fuel injection?

But next to the "Car not starting" sequence, a scary moment is the "Will my car make it?" scene. This may have been best played out in Steven Speilberg's "Duel" where Dennis Weaver's car all but disintegrates while going up a hill, then miraculously makes a full recovery as soon as the top of the hill is in sight.

Here is that sequence:

Hooray for Hollywood!

Bullet-prof cars. During a big shoot out bullets hit cars and all we see are sparks when the bullets hit the sheet metal.
Likewise, windshield that stop bullets.

Of course when a good guy shots a bad guy's bullet in the rear and the fuel tank explodes.

Oh yeah, bullet-proof cars. I remember once that Mythbusters did a test on that and almost everything they tried would pass easily through nearly every part of the car save for the engine block. Maybe the axels would stop it if you were in the right pace. Even sitting outside on the opposite side of the car from a gunman you'd still be hit by bullets passing through both doors.

Actually, this was amply demonstrated in the Bonnie and Clyde execution way back in the 1930s.

Ever since then I've cringed at scenes where high-powered rifles were shooting the heck out of a car and the people inside just ducked down a bit and are saved by a couple millimeters of steel and some insulation in the doors.

With all the celebrity rehab running amok these days, sooner or later some inebriated national treasure is going to run hyperventilating into their escape vehicle perused by a fan-crazed killer & be unable to properly blow into their court-mandated ignition interlock device leaving them stranded sitting ducks.Once the dismembered remains are eaten & sold on eBay or gruesomely discovered by authorities, these devices will be forever vilified and outlawed

Anthony, A beautiful Cadillac gave its life in that episode. It had a nickname and everything! R.I.P, Earl the Cadillac...

A couple of years ago, in a copy of Mad magazine I was looking while waiting at the drug store, I found a list of disastrous situations in movies that technology killed.
The one's I remember were the auto-pilot killed the whole "some random person has to fly the plane!" thing, and the easy accessibility to defibrillators killed the whole "how am I gonna save this person from the throes of heart illness?!" thing.
There was one with a cruise ship, but all I remember of that one was Owen Wilson's caricature.

As to Bonnie & Clyde- They HAD to use a BAR to stop them-handgun rounds were ineffectual with the heavy sheetmetal of the time.

I think the latest technological dodge is with the cell phone in horror movies.

Most horror movies would have been over in 15 minutes with modern telecommunications, so they have to come up with some way to keep the movie cell phones from getting a signal.

Not so much as a cliche, but a big pet peeve of mine is when they have the camera aimed at the driver and front seat passenger while they're "driving" and you can clearly see the column-mounted gear shifter still in PARK. Even if they weren't being towed on top of a filming rig, how hard would it be for the driver to put his foot on the brake and move the shifter into DRIVE???

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