BOOKS… Cars on Film, A Celebration of Cars at the Movies (2020) by Giles Chapman

 

Giles Chapman takes you on an exhilarating car trip with the movies in the back seat…

 

Journey with Chapman to those retro and classic, familiar and obscure cars (and a few buses!) from films of all sorts.

 

10 Greatest Movie Cars, Edmunds

 

Cars in films have often played an important part in movies. Their appearances are seen as essential or fleeting additions to the plot. These scenes include those Fast and Furious (2001-) street races or during the first minutes of The Shining (1980). Car scenes are also relevant in those final moments of those real-life bank robbers in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) or the fictional characters in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981).

Giles Chapman’s Cars on Film, A Celebration of Cars at the Movies is a wonderfully illustrated guide to both the cars and the movies they starred in. It is a coffee table book that will delight every car and film lover, or those with an interest in one or the other. This is not the first book on cars from Giles Chapman with his other History Press publications including the enigmatically titled Britain’s Toy Car Wars and Cars We Loved in the 1990s.

You can easily appreciate Chapman’s passion for this subject combination. His love for cars and movies is felt intensely throughout this book. Chapman’s often more diverse and unique film content differentiates it from the others of this type. But if you are expecting a written tribute to every car chase film ever, only a few are outlined. 

All the fantastic film stills, lush lobby cards and perfectly described pictures used with this book are from Chapman’s “rare and original” personal collection. When using these, he copyrights the film production companies as needed. Chapman selected these photographs – and all are from his 36 year collection – specifically for their  “car related element to the composition.” 

Chapman’s aunt worked in public relations and she organised film screenings in London. In his introduction, Chapman tells how his interest in cars in films was ignited after he attended her Press screenings where he obtained numerous Press Kits. Other photographs used in this book were obtained in conventional ways such as “flea markets” and online and by non-conventional means as he admits to “plundering skips”.

Chapman invites into this book content after this warm personal introduction. In one of the first entries, he recalls The Italian Job (1969). He describes this film plot engagingly and this a useful for every fan or if you are a newbie to the film. This shared knowledge strengthened my belief in the writer’s credibility easily in his touching tribute. I remembered this Michael Caine heist film from his charming description of this film, as one which featured a familiar British car, the Mini Cooper. 

However, Chapman makes this entry more relevant to this reader as he adds some more pertinent car-related trivia to his film description. He tells how Fiat offered their cars in the making of this movie, perhaps as it set in Turin, Italy. This fact and Chapman’s captivating descriptions of the film’s car-related stunt scenes were added passionately to his entry of this film. This to my joy was just one of several entries about Michael Caine films. 

Chapman’s obvious love for the James Bond films is also referred to throughout this book. His entries however take a surprising turn as this British spy, James Bond’s signature car – the Austin Martin DB5 – is not explored in great detail. However, lesser discussed cars used in films such as The World is not Enough (1999) – which “starred” a BMW Z8 – and Citreon 2CV6 in For Your Eyes Only (1981) make worthy appearances. These are accompanied by some great photographs and descriptions of some of those car relevant stunt scenes and plots.

Bond actors Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan also reappear in other later entries. These include the recognisable Ford Transit used in Brosnan (and Caine)’s film, The Fourth Protocol (1987). To his credit Chapman shares more intricate details that only a true car aficionado would note telling that Brosnan drove a Ford Escort xr3i in this film. 

This book discusses a wide range of films in many genres. These genres including Stephen King horror films such as Christine (1983) and British comedies such as Clockwise (1986) and Bless This House (1972). There are even mentions of cars used in films as made in countries as far apart as Italy and Finland. Movies from every decade are examined with stunning car-themed black and white and colour photographs and plots.

These photographs and / or plots describe films such as An Alligator named Daisy (1955), La Belle Américaine, (1961), Scream and Scream Again (1970), BMX Bandits (1983) and more. He also briefly mentions a film this 80s soap fan has yet to see, with a dream cast headed by Dynasty lovely Joan Collins and Dallas star, Larry Hagman starring in Up in the Cellar (1970). Other stars mentioned include Jessica Tandy, Grace Kelly and Nicholas Parsons.

Each of these film’s descriptions shows the deep depth of Chapman’s knowledge of cars, as he adds car makes and models (and sometimes their customisations!) to every entry. These brands and car names are blended effortlessly into the short outline of the film which also includes the plot, year of release and cast.  Chapman vividly describes all those cars and their pertinent scenes, as if they are a character in the movie.

As well as cars playing an important role in this book, I really enjoyed looking at these films through the eyes of the author His descriptions of the plots of these films are just as entertaining as those descriptions of the cars. Chapman also adds convincing descriptions of the cast members, which capture them perfectly such as Donald Sinden as the “rich toned luvvie from Spitting Image”.

The captivating stills and photographs used evoked warm feelings as I remembered many film moments. Through his descriptions, I was both keen to watch new films and rewatch old favourites. I’ve now added a few movies to my to watch list and these include Villain (1971) and Corvette Summer (1978).

So expect the unexpected in this book, as this book journeys through the movies and takes erratic but pleasing non-linear turns. This made it an always compelling and interesting route through Chapman’s convincing and enthusiastic writing on every entry. Chapman’s descriptions beautifully conveyed the cars unique role in a film which always added to rather than detract from those rare and unique photographs.

Thanks to Chapman for sharing just this small part of his collection of photographs where the cars of all colours, models and types were seen in a leading role or a supporting part in a movie. One can only hope there will be a follow-up book with more of this collection, and going down the same route, but where this car travels in some new and exciting directions. 

 

A disclaimer and personal thank you to NetGalley and The History Press for giving me an Advance Reader Copy of Cars on Film, A Celebration of Cars at the Movies by Giles Chapman. Financial compensation was not received, however, I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own. If you would like your book to be featured or promoted here, please drop a line to me via my Contact Me Page.

 

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