Riddle me this: when is a car movie not a car movie? The answer? When the film has nothing to do with cars, per se, but virtually every frame of it is littered with a collection of amazing muscle cars. And that’s the reason why I have chosen Dazed and Confused (1993) as the subject of this month’s installment of Rob’s Car Movie Review!
Released in 1993 by Universal Pictures and produced by Gramercy Pictures, Dazed and Confused was the third feature-length movie from director Richard Linklater, one of the leading Generation-X filmmakers to emerge during the American independent film renaissance of the early 1990s.
Starring an ensemble cast of young, up-and-coming future stars such as Jason London, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Joey Lauren Adams, Sasha Jenson, Milla Jovovich, Adam Goldberg, Parker Posey, Nicky Katt, and Wiley Wiggens; Dazed and Confused follows a bunch of teenagers on the last day of school in an unnamed Texas town in 1976, as they set out to blow off their books and classes, and take in some parties, booze, weed, and sex. Along the way, they also deal with a variety of teen-aged problems, hang-ups, and insecurities.
Randall “Pink” Floyd (London) is the quarterback of the high-school football team, who is torn between his love for the game and his predilection for 1970s style partying. When his coach demands that he sign a release stipulating that he will abstain from drugs and alcohol over the summer so that he will be in good shape for the fall football season, Pink has to decide what is more important to him.
Meanwhile, freshman Mitch (Wiggens) and his friends try to escape the wrath of a pack of seniors, led by O’Bannion (Affleck), who are hell-bent on doling out a hazing paddling to each of them. The female protagonists, Simone (Adams), Michelle (Jovovich) and Darla (Posey) have catty rivalries with one another, and deal with the romantic aspirations they have with some of the boys.
All the while, existential worries plague Wooderson (McConaughey), Mike (Goldberg) and other characters, as they ponder their future, be it going off to college or staying in the backwater Texas enclave they live in.
In lieu of a standard, linear, cause-and-effect type plot, the film instead vacillates between characters and groups of characters in a stream of consciousness fashion, and often cross-cuts between simultaneous situations. This is all done in an easy, laid back fashion that engages the viewer and offers plenty of comedic moments. Further enhancing the film is an absolutely simmering 1970s rock soundtrack with songs by Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Peter Frampton, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Foghat, War, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others.
In addition to the film being a thoroughly enjoyable comedy with eminently likeable characters and actors, Dazed and Confused has an added gift for the certified car nut, in the form of a dizzying array of the finest muscle cars from the era being depicted.
Wooderson drives a gorgeous, black 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454, mysteriously nick-named “Melba Toast,” which he glowingly brags has “a 4.11 Positrac out back, 750 double pumper, Edelbrock intake bored over 30, 11 to 1 pop-up pistons, and the turbo-jet with 390 horsepower.”
A character named Pickford rolls in a Orbit Orange 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge with the full stickers package, ram air hood and the 455 High Output V8.
O’Bannion pilots “The Gray Ghost,” a primer-gray 1973 Plymouth Duster with the 340 cubic-inch V8 and a Mopar-style dual snorkel hood scoop.
Clint (Katt) owns “White Lightning” a white, 1974 Pontiac Trans Am with the 455 Super Duty V8 and a pale blue “Screaming Chicken” on the hood.
Period pickup trucks aren’t ignored in the movie either. Benny has a black, exhaustless 1972 Chevrolet C10. Darla’s ride is a stunning, sky-blue 1955 Chevrolet 3100 half-ton pickup, while Pink sports a dark gray 1975 Chevy El Camino.
Other cars that feature in the film include a 1972 Ford Maverick, a mint 1969 Ford Bronco hard top, a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle convertible, and a 1964 Buick Electra 225 four-door sedan.
In the many cruising and parking lot scenes, the keen eye will also pick out various and sundry Ford Mustangs, Corvette Stingrays, Chevy Malibus, and Cadillac Coupe and Sedan de Villes.
Dazed and Confused is one of my favorite films of the era and stands up to repeated viewings to this day. It’s hard to get tired of the film, and the cars in it are, well, simply dazzling. As such, I give Dazed and Confused seven and a half out of ten pistons.
About The Author: Rob Finkelman is a freelance writer for Street Muscle Magazine. He attended and graduated from New York University’s film school in 1992, and subsequently worked in the movie business for twenty years as a documentarian and screenwriter. Combining his two great passions in life – films and cars – and writing about them is a dream job for him. He will be bringing us a Car Movie Review each month, and he’s open to suggestions so list yours below.