In this film, cars play such a big part, it's difficult not to think of them as a secondary cast. Here's a short list of the more important players:
- First, and most notably, the Lincoln Continental Mark III that Henri Devereaux brings over from Marseille, packed to the gills with drugs;
- Sal's two cars, the 1971 Ford LTD, and the 1961 Comet Sedan, which he shouldn't be able to afford on his shopkeeper salary;
- The 1966 Pontiac Le Mans Popeye commandeers from a civilian driver to chase Nicoli in his subway train.
Each car represents some larger plot point, or something to learn about the universe of the film. But more than that, we wonder if the omnipresence of these four-wheeled machines say something about more conceptual about wealth and power.
Having a car, for the characters in this movie, seems to give them agency and freedom (though not freedom from surveillance); having a really nice car marks you out as someone to pay attention to, and not in the best way.
In The Driver's Seat, Sometimes
With all the attention Friedkin pays these cars, they feel hefty with psychic weight. That huge police auction lot full of desolate, half-working cars towed away from crime scenes or just abandoned? It's hard not to see that as a dense block of lost souls, not so different from the mean streets of Brooklyn in 1970.
Interested in a full run-down of every car with screen time? Oh hey, you're in luck. The good auto-philes over at the Internet Movie Cars Database (yes, that exists) have you covered.