ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Should I Watch..? The Love Bug

Updated on September 19, 2018
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a full-time carer and former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films for over ten years.

DVD cover for "The Love Bug"
DVD cover for "The Love Bug" | Source

What's the big deal?

The Love Bug is a family comedy film released in 1968 and is the first to feature the anthropomorphic white VW Beetle known as Herbie. The film itself is based upon the 1961 book Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford. The film stars Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett as down-on-his-luck racing driver Jim Douglas and his eccentric mechanic friend Tennessee Steinmetz who encounter Herbie in villainous David Tomlinson's showroom and find themselves succeeding in life as well as races. Tapping into the flower-power culture of the time, the film was hugely successful in the US with takings over $51 million. It would be followed by a series of sequels, a reboot in 1997 with Bruce Campbell and even a short-lived TV series. The film continues to encourage enthusiasts across the world with many replicas frequently appearing at motor shows.

Enjoyable

4 stars for The Love Bug (1968)

What's it about?

Washed-up racing driver Jim Douglas has resorted to driving in demolition derbies, assisted by his ever-optimistic mechanic Tennessee Steinmetz. After their most recent outing, Jim is left without a car and so heads into San Francisco to acquire a new vehicle at a relatively low price. After spotting attractive saleswoman Carole Bennett in the showroom of Peter Thorndyke, Jim sees Thorndyke abusing a white Volkswagen Beetle. Jim defends the car's honour and is shocked to find the car sitting outside his home the next day. With Thorndyke accusing Jim of stealing the car, Carole eases tensions by letting Jim buy the car in instalments.

Believing Thorndyke to have sold him a dud, Jim is amazed to find that his control over the car is severely limited. Tennessee suggests that the car may actually be alive and christens it Herbie. With Tennessee's tender care and Jim's talent behind the wheel, Herbie helps the duo to achieve racing victories with his astonishing turn of speed - much to Thorndyke's annoyance.

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Dean Jones
Jim Douglas
Michelle Lee
Carole Bennett
David Tomlinson
Peter Thorndyke
Buddy Hackett
Tennessee Steinmetz
Joe Flynn
Havershaw

Technical Info

Director
Robert Stevenson
Screenplay
Bill Walsh & Don DaGradi *
Running Time
108 minutes
Release Date (UK)
16th May, 1969
Genre
Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Sports
* based on the book "Car, Boy, Girl" by Gordon Buford
Tomlinson (right) shines as the film's very English baddie...
Tomlinson (right) shines as the film's very English baddie... | Source

What's to like?

These days, such a premise would never have made it past the drawing board but back then in the Sixties, The Love Bug would have made perfect sense - even without the drugs. It's amazing how much charm and personality the car itself exudes and the Disney crew can be justly proud of the work they did on the car. Remember that this is years ahead of CG trickery - all of Herbie's tricks and pranks were done for real. With a game cast playing the film's material at the exact level it needed, the illusion is utterly believable. Herbie also has none of the crime-fighting instincts he seems to develop in the later films - he's a frustrated racer and nothing else, the way it should be.

The story might be childish nonsense but it works on two levels - both as an racing drama as well as an unlikely love story between Jim and Carole. Or even between Tennessee and Herbie, if you really thought about it and were prepared to forgive how weird it all is. Tomlinson has a great deal of fun as the baddie, seeing as most viewers would remember him as Mr Banks from Mary Poppins. And while the racing scenes might lack some of the crispness and glossy effects that most modern films possess, they are still exciting in a goofy kinda way. It's all about having fun and surely, that's the point of any family film.

Fun Facts

  • This was the last live-action film that Walt Disney personally authorised before he died in 1966. Jones puts the film's success down to this fact.
  • Herbie's name came from a comedy skit that Hackett was known for while the number 53 is said to have come from a producer's admiration for baseball player Don Drysdale who was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • Herbie received his own credit as himself, the only time he would. Today, only a handful of Herbies are known to exist - one of which belongs to Dean Jones.

What's not to like?

The film obviously has dated in some respects - the racing scenes are obviously sped up while some of Herbie's tricks look positively crude. The hippie references also don't help viewers watching the film nowadays as it makes the film about as hip and groovy as a freshly thawed-out Austin Powers. And away from the driving scenes, the film's story isn't enough to sustain the momentum generated when Herbie's going at full speed.

It's a pity that the film doesn't quite know what to do when Herbie is parked up. Jones and Hackett are a good combo and Tomlinson is a moustache-twiddle away from being Dick Dastardly. Perhaps, as a viewer, I was simply swept up in the magic of Herbie himself - the car's endless trickery and hi-jinks is far more amusing than anything else. It's a bit like The Italian Job - the moment those three Mini Coopers start racing around Turin, you forget almost everything that went before it. The same is true of The Love Bug - you simply buy into the premise because the car itself and what they make it do is so unlike anything else you've seen.,

Buddy Hackett is on fine form as Herbie's mechanic Tennessee
Buddy Hackett is on fine form as Herbie's mechanic Tennessee | Source

Should I watch it?

It's the most entertaining Herbie film of the lot, one that isn't weighed down by expectations or plot contrivances. The Love Bug is straight-forward, family fun that typified much of Disney's output at the time - whether you've seen the film before or not, it still provides plenty to enjoy and cheer for. Compared to the increasingly silly sequels, this is a film of genuine craftsmanship and skill.

Great For: VW Beetle owners, Sixties revivalists, petrol-heads

Not So Great For: anyone buying a New Beetle thinking they're cool, environmentalists, squares

What else should I watch?

Sadly, it would be a case of diminishing returns the moment the sequels started to get churned out. The first Herbie Rides Again is a disjointed effort with Herbie returning - not as a racing car but instead fighting the evil corporate developers trying to evict a little old lady from her house. It's too silly and not good enough. There was a slight return to form in Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo where Dean Jones returns as Jim Douglas and Herbie returns to the race track once again. But it wouldn't last - Herbie Goes Bananas is an incomprehensible idiotic mess that would signal the demise of the series until 2005's Herbie: Fully Loaded with a pre-meltdown Lindsey Lohan.

These days, movies are more likely to replace the thrill of the racing scenes seen back then with CG. Films like Speed Racer and Cars have the requisite noises and feeling of speed but lack the excitement that genuine racing scenes possess. Even more adult-orientated fare like The Fast And The Furious resort to CG-enhanced scenes. You might be better sticking to movies of a similar era - Vanishing Point combines stunning driving sequences with a heavy dose of pharmaceutical philosophy while Steve McQueen's Grand Prix and Bullitt also stand up for die-hard petrol-heads.

© 2016 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)