In the Township of Paris, Australia, inhabitant deliberately plan car accidents and use what they collect at the wreck to provide for the local economy. One survivor, Arthur,  is sent to a hospital . He then witnesses the clash between older residents and youth gone out of control, setting the ground to a fuel injected showdown.

Made on a $250 000 budget, Dead poet society & Truman show‘s director Peter Weir’s first feature is a startling dark humorous, slow paced piece charged with strange situations and subtle social commentary about its time and place. The accident in the opening scene, for example,  is a satire of an Australian advertising campaign of the period.

Be advised : The Cars that ate Paris gets poor ratings on IMDB.  Obviously,  a lot of people are displeased with it. It’s a miss conception… The film creates his own local folk logic with the elements contained within its own mythology. It is a bleak satirical and surreal widescreen dramatic farce. It is uneasy, but brilliant.

Among actors from the enjoyable cast, some would eventually go on making an international name for themselves.  Bruce Spence (Mad Max 2-3) and John Meillon (Crocodile Dundee) notably.  Producer Jim McElroy would work on all subsequent Australian entries by Weir including The Year of Living dangerously (1982), starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney weaver and Linda Hunt, Weir’s ticket to Hollywood.

The dissatisfaction with The Cars may be partly due to the pre-release campaign at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1974. To this day cult horror enthusiasts attention is drawn by the featured image of the famous “killer Volkswagen with spikes”, a publicity that can be partially deceptive. It is not your typical horror or action driven stuff with cars and pursuits, but rather a strange reaction to it. Waiting for the bloodshed or any such kind of elements might then be equally deceptive. We might add that the relatively slow pacing and low profile of the film is also surprising to those who want to see a Truman show-like film.

It also received a truncated American release in 1976 by New Line Cinema under the title The Cars That Eat People with editing changes and added narration…