5 Films with Breakdowns – or: If Roadside Mechanics were Directors

Posted on 05. Jan, 2012 by in Auto News

There’s no greater plot device than the broken-down motor – you know a thriller’s going somewhere when the lead character’s car shudders to a halt. The hero or heroine’s stuck in the middle of a dark, gloomy wood or a lonely desert: vulnerable, forced to rely on their own initiative and the hostile locals to fix them up and get them on their way. It’s open season for spooky shots and shocking twists.

A whole world of trouble could be saved by these ill-fated travellers if they’d only thought ahead and got roadside assistance – signing up doesn’t take long and would mean they’re out of danger’s way before the maniac, the mafia or the monstrous annelid has a chance to do them in. Below are five films in which comprehensive breakdown service would’ve ruined the plot but saved some fictional lives:

1.      Wolf Creek 

A group of young hikers are stranded when their car breaks down in the arid outback. A seemingly kindly mechanic comes along and pledges to fix their car and send them on their way – but should they trust him with their motor?

Of course not – it’s a horror film. He’s a mass-murderer and things do not go well for the unfortunate band of friends, so what follows a fairly tough, gory watch. Moreover, it’s open ended, with the final scene showing the murderous Aussie wandering back into the desert. Let’s hope in the sequel the next band of backpackers prepare with breakdown cover – it’d save the audience having to sit through another load of nastiness.

2.      The Italian Job

Throughout this film minis are used and abused, pushed into feats and through gaps never meant for man or motor. But it’s in the final moments of the film that a man from Green Flag would be the biggest help – as the lads’ getaway van dangles half on, half off a cliff and the end music kicks in, what’re the chances that Charlie Croker’s ‘great idea’ is calling a roadside mechanic?

3.      Tremors

In this epic thriller-comedy, giant alien worms with huge teeth start taking chunks out of the population of a small town desert community. Kevin Bacon is Valentine, a smart talkin’ local boy who, with the help of a beautiful scientist and his ol’ buddy Earl, must figure out a way to kill the beasts and protect his home.

The worms aren’t bright but they can detect the vibrations of a motor – in one exciting scene, Valentine finds a grotesque ‘graboid’ wrapped around the rear axel of his truck. While breakdown cover might not help with the whole carnivorous underground monster problem, in this situation it would merit a quick tow to the nearest garage.

4.      Duel

This made-for-TV movie was Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut. Businessman David Mann is commuting across the desert when he overtakes a large, smoky truck that immediately takes exception to his little red sports car. What follows is ‘High noon on the road’ – although we never see the sinister truck’s driver, we quickly figure out he’s psychotic when he tailgates Mann on the winding cliff lane to try and get him to crash.

If only Mann had listened to the mechanic that told him of his faulty radiator – and if only he’d had someone to call to help him out…

5.      Rocky Horror Picture Show

Newly-engaged Brad and Janet set out on a journey on a waterlogged, windswept night and break down in the middle of nowhere. Seeking help, they end up at the mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter – played by a terrifying, be-corseted Tim Curry. Far from offering them the assistance they need, the crazy transvestite Doc leads them in a song and dance of hypnotism, seduction and explosions.

To be fair to Brad and Jan, they never actually get access to a phone to call a garage – but if they’d only taken a route planner and been less susceptible to Frank-N-Furter’s charms, they’d no doubt have fixed their car without getting caught up in his inter-galactic life of excess.