Okay, okay…it’s not necessarily a great performance per se, but the affable Dinah Shore definitely adds a sunny and unique presence to the 1979 TV Terror Death Car on the Freeway. Nicely, her take on helpful tennis pro Lynn Bernheimer also ties in a bit with the lesbian community as it references the famed singer-actress’ athletic ties and her (in namesake) involvement with The Dinah, a queer woman’s golfing event and music celebration.
With this particular outing, though, Shore’s Bernheimer is more concerned with a specific divinity in danger as opposed to a Sapphic sisterhood as a whole. Here, Shelley Hack, in the same year that she joined Charlie’s Angels as the ultra efficient Tiffany Welles, plays an ambitious news anchor named Jan who believes that her coverage of a vehicular based serial killer may be her ticket to the big time. Fighting disbelief from her peers and sexism from up on high, she revels in the support that Shore’s character, one of the titular marauder’s first intended victims, unilaterally gives her. Indeed, with warm southern twang fully intact, the former Frances Rose* pops up several times to add pertinent details to the puzzle that Hack is slowly solving. Shore’s natural, feministic glow invigorates Hack’s portrayal and when the younger woman finally goes after the killer, fender to fender, it is not surprising due to the atmospheric tutelage that she has received.
Directed by famed stunt coordinator Hal Needham, Death Car ultimately doesn’t have the stylistic tension of Duel, the famed Steven Spielberg piece about a maniacal trucker, but there are a number of shackle raising chases involving such familiar horror faces as Dallas’ Morgan Brittany (The Initiation of Sarah, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat), Tara Buckman (Silent Night, Deadly Night, Night Killer) and Nancy Stephens (Halloween, Halloween H20).
Significantly, Shore, whose music has been used in various episodes of American Horror Story, Fear the Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries, continued to appear in unusual and cult-centric projects for the rest of her career. Many youngsters learned of her through her participation in a holiday episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and she, gladly, welcomed such alt-culture, heavy duty guests as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Andy Kaufman and Tina Turner on her various talk shows over the years, as well.
*Frances Rose was the name that Shore was given at birth.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!