Filmmaker Harrod Blank's WILD WHEELS is an amusing, sometimes surreal documentary on America's "art car" craze, in which, to put it in simplest terms, people decorate their cars and trucks.
That's where the simplicity ends, however; producer-director-cinematographer-editor Blank (the son of famed documentary filmmaker Les Blank, who contributed some cinematography here) has scoured a half dozen states across the US and found some eye-opening vehicles--about 45 appear in the
film--along with their owners. Along with the expected religious fanatics, like the guy who has attached dozens of plumbing faucets to his car because God told him to, and UFO freaks, Blank has discovered some interesting, comparatively normal people, although none of them are at all what one
could call introverted.
These include folks who have covered their cars with children's toys; a detailed, three-dimensional cityscape; mirrors; psychedelically blinking lights; horse figurines; copper sheeting molded into the shape of a hippopotamus; and just plain junk, but junk which has meaning to the "artist." The
Rhinestone Cowboy has them not just all over his car but in his clothes and teeth; ditto the Button King, including his mailbox and coffin. One man so misses his dead wife that he has glued all her possessions, from jewelry to kitchen appliances, on his car. Jon Barnes's New York "Ultimate
Taxi"--the only car that is plain on the outside--has a minidisco inside, replete with light show, sound system, and dry-ice fumes. Gene Pool's "portable environment" car is covered with real grass--we see him gluing on the seeds, nurturing the sprouts then tending and trimming his "lawn"--his car
looks like a gently sloping hill with windows.
None of these people can say exactly why they do this, and there's little one can say about them as a class, except that they all seem to be rabid fans of swap meets. Filmmaker Blank traces this phenomenon to 1960s psychedelic buses (and Ken Kesey's famous one makes an appearance here). Blank is
also revealed, at the end, as an enthusiast himself--his car is topped by a TV set with things coming out of it. The film's first sequence follows him (unidentified at this point) into court to fight a parking ticket, apparently one of an endless string, which Blank interprets as harassment
because of the way his car looks. Surprisingly, there's little practical information detailed in the film, like how to do it, what glues to use or what you do if you get a flat or it starts raining while you're out on the road.
Backed by a soundtrack of pop, blues and folk music from Hendrix to Woody Guthrie to Charley Musselwhite, WILD WHEELS is a witty, deadpan, often fascinating look at a bit of arcane, peculiarly American culture. The film was released on video after Blank self-distributed it, mostly in California,
often appearing with his weird VW beetle. (Profanity.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: Filmmaker Harrod Blank's WILD WHEELS is an amusing, sometimes surreal documentary on America's "art car" craze, in which, to put it in simplest terms, people decorate their cars and trucks. That's where the simplicity ends, however; producer-director-cine… (more)