Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

Take a look at that poster for this and ask yourself: Is Dean Jones giving Don Knotts a physical or mental stroke?

Dean is back from the first movie as Jim Douglas and Knotts is his mechanic Wheely Applegate and together with the car who can kinda be a person, Herbie the Love Bug, they’re racing in the Trans-France Race from Paris to Monte Carlo, a distance of 594 miles.

Somehow, this movie was such a big deal that Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley proclaimed July 11, 1977 as “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo Day” and a parade on Hollywood Boulevard led to Mann’s Chinese Theater where the car’s tire prints were made in the cement.

The opponents in this race include Bruno Von Stickle (Eric Braeden, Victor himself), Claude Gilbert (Mike Kulcsar) and feminist Diane Darcy (Julie Sommars). Herbie pretty much has a car boner for her car Giselle, which leads to all manner of hijinks that include Herbie trying to lose the race to win that car over.

Can cars be people? You have to accept that if Herbie is going to work for you. How do these cars get human feelings? Have they become self-aware? Are they the possessed souls of dead race drivers trying to win one more race so they can get to the other world? Am I reading too much into a Disney formula comedy from 1977?

Not only do the humans and the cars get together, but there’s also a jewel theft subplot. I am certain that when I saw this at the drive-in as a five-year-old, I could care less about the humans holding hands and the cars holding doors and just wanted Herbie to drive through a lake and upside down through a tunnel. Things were simpler for movie-watching Sam back then.

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