If you're reading this blog, chances are that you've seen the original Love Bug, which of course spawned the entire Herbie franchise and, decades later, possibly financed Lindsay Lohan's drug habits. As I digress, the original film appears as an innocent, child-friendly tale of a seemingly possessed Volkswagen Beetle helping its owner winning races, finding romance, and smiting their enemies in a somewhat family-friendly fashion with a G rating. I was fortunate to catch a quick glimpse of a few scenes over the weekend at a friend's house. I had seen the movie countless times as a child, but not until then had it suddenly dawned upon me that something very...sinister...was happening. On my night off, I rented the film, sat down with my notebook, gathered some fine intoxicants, and began to analyze.
Here are my findings, which I hope will reveal The Truth; Jim Douglas is either a blatant alcoholic in denial and/or the victim of a serious brain injury, and the entire film is a portrayal of his altered consciousness of reality. Also, Tennessee Steinmetz is on hallucinogens, likely LSD.
1. During the opening credits, a demo-derby is underway and we see Jim Douglas crash, roll over, and crawl out of his car. He has obviously succumbed to some sort of injuries, albeit minor in appearance. Seconds later, we see him riding home with his employer/track owner. Douglas now has a bandage on his face and is wearing dark sunglasses(a factor that will come into play later).
2. Douglas returns to the converted firehouse where he lives with Tennessee Steinmetz. The two immediately come off as both aloof and unaware of reality in general. Jim is downtrodden, although this can easily be attributed to his failure in the derby earlier that day. However, Tennessee later reveals to Carol that during this time, Jim "can't get a job, gets into trouble, and everyone is on his back". Clearly, Jim Douglas is hiding something.
3. We then see Douglas walking down the street again. He is still bandaged and wearing the sunglasses once more, possibly to hide his bourbon eyes or some sort of facial injury that might make a salesman think twice before granting him a test drive(a likely possibility, considering he isn't seen wearing the sunglasses after the first ten minutes of the film, after he's already established himself as an independent racer). Douglas is walking in front of an exotic car showroom and notices Carol hanging a sign in the picture window next to the sidewalk. At this point, we see Douglas gawking at her exposed legs beneath her miniskirt as she's hanging the sign. Nothing wrong with that, of course, until...
4. Jim Douglas blatantly stumbles and practically falls into the window of the dealership. Not in a humorous way, in a very disturbing way, almost akin to a sickly albatross trying to regain flight after ingesting too many used condoms and hypodermic needles. After smacking his head on the window, he almost falls over before grabbing onto the frame and leaning flat against the glass. He shakes his head with a maniacal face, after which he stumbles into the dealer and begins to make small talk with Carol.
5. Jim's sunglasses are now removed and his eyes are glazed over, his eyes fixate on a rare Apollo GT that's sitting in the middle of the showroom. After some quick banter with Peter Thorndyke, dealership owner and main asshole of the picture, Douglas offers to buy the car for $75. This entire scene is a major red flag.
6. Yes, all of the above really happened. Watch it yourself if you doubt me, but these circumstances can only support my primary claims. Come on, who stumbles into a dealership window, strolls in, and offers to buy an exotic sports car for a ridiculous amount of money? It's obviously not a joke, he's clearly looking for a new vehicle and he has the look of a determined man as Thorndyke offers him a glass of sherry which Jim quickly accepts without hesitation(in the morning, mind you). Douglas is a racer, he knows cars and their value. It's revealed later that, before the events of the film, he had previously raced a Lotus at Willow Springs and a Buick "Special" at Laguna Seca, although he had crashed both. What the hell is happening here!?
7. "Herbie" is then introduced. We see the Beetle drift into the showroom, driverless, before the mechanics push it back to the garage. Completely explainable, maybe the new guy forgot to pull the handbrake? Plenty of explanations.
8. There's a brief scene that shows Douglas, hopping onto a streetcar, with a driverless Herbie following closely behind. Flash forward to the next morning, the police are waiting outside his house with the Beetle sitting nearby. After being questioned, Douglas initially mentions that he's never seen the car before in his life. After some brief soul-searching, he admits to seeing it at the dealership previously. But did Herbie really drive himself to Douglas' home by following the streetcar, or did Douglas sign the papers in an alcoholic haze, subconsciously realize the mistake of purchasing a 36hp vehicle, then try to forget whole ordeal in drunken denial? Does Douglas hopping aboard the streetcar, which is heading downhill, symbolize his downward spiral of madness?
9. In the scene when Douglas first takes ownership of Herbie, he's cruising along the boulevard smoothly until he enters a freeway ramp. At which point, the car begins shaking nervously, as if Herbie's afraid of the high flowing traffic. The car then pulls a dangerous U-Turn, heads the opposite way down the ramp and putting several lives in danger before coming to a stop. We see Douglas slumped over the passenger side, shaking his head once more in a daze before composing himself and setting off again. The conclusion I draw is that "Herbie's" reactions are merely be a manifestation of Jim Douglas' drunk driving habits or psychosis, he then returns to the dealer in a fit of rage and denial as he verbally assaults Peter Thorndyke.
10. Here's where things get a bit sketchy. Douglas is driving around with Carol, Herbie is still without racing livery and still appears to be a normal, stock Beetle. As Jim's walking to the car door, two hippies in a Ford T-bucket hot rod challenge him to a race(the hippies are obviously on drugs for creating such a proposition, however the driver maintains excellent car control at what appears to be triple-digit speeds). The main issue is that Herbie then pulls off a wheelie from a standing start, quickly passes the T-Bucket, and continues accelerating down a crowded street at insanely high speeds. Throughout the rest of the movie, we see Herbie outperforming a Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta SWB, Cobras, Corvette Stingrays, E-Types, and several other capable sportscars in many races. Clearly, a stock Beetle can't pull off this type of horseshit. Something had to have been done, but when? And how? Allow me to explain below.
11. My theory concerning the above? Douglas and Steinmetz have some punk hot rodders in their neighborhood with an extra 283 small-block lying around. They decide to play a prank on the alcoholic racer down the street by swapping it in during one of his drunken blackouts. Maybe it wasn't even a prank, maybe they were good samaritans considering he's a fellow speed junkie and obviously can't afford anything more than the most basic of transportation. Horsepower to the people? It was Frisco in the late 60's, mind you.
12. Tennessee Steinmetz. Acid freak? The man tore apart his Edsel and created a sculpture out of it, which actually sounds like a pretty cool idea, except that it was his only fucking method of transportation. No offense to the late, great Buddy Hackett, but a man of Tennessee's size most certainly cannot walk the hills of San Francisco without suffering some sort of stroke or possible heart attack. Furthermore, there are several instances throughout the movie where Tennessee describes spending time upon a mountain top in Tibet, surrounded by monks, gurus, and drinking rice wine. We also see him cooking Irish coffee with a blowtorch, which I admit is a technique both innovative and could be considered art in some circles. Despite this, there's a brief scene where Jim returns home and asks Tennessee to go for a drive. Jim heads upstairs for some reason, while Tennessee steps outside. Next, we see Herbie driving around in a circle, doors and roof opened, and about a dozen random dogs barking and running around the car(as well as some riding inside). Tennessee screams at the dogs and chases them away. However, the very second Jim steps outside and greets Tennessee, the dogs are gone…
If you've made it this far, have seen the film, and have any intelligence whatsoever, then you obviously know there are multiple discrepancies. Fret not, now that you are enlightened, you and other gifted minds may collaborate together to decipher this lurid hall of mirrors once and for all.