For one thing, throughout much of the film there is very little narration, or even much talking of any kind. Unlike the Sid Davis films such as The Bicycle Clown, or Bicycle Today Automobile Tomorrow, Just Like A Car does without the judgemental or condescending monotonal narrator. Unlike films such as Drive Your Bike, this one mostly does away with stiff and overly scripted dialogue. Instead, the film instructs mainly through visual imagery, sound effects, and music -- often really cheesy music with instructional lyrics. But the film manages to avoid some of the preachiness that overpowers so many other bike safety films, and instead shows biking to be fun (there's a shocker!) while also emphasizing a certain amount of due caution when sharing the road with cars.
The film opens with a shot of an open road, with the roaring sound of a high-performance engine -- maybe a muscle car. The camera pans and zooms, as if trying to locate the speeding car. We see something approaching in the distance, just cresting a little hill . . . is it a Mustang? Corvette? . . . No. . .
. . . It's a girl -- racing down the road on her Schwinn Varsity. Her hair is blowing behind her, and she looks like she's having a blast.
Cue the very '70s music:
|Next follows a montage that shows, among other things, an evolution of bikes and cars, as well as lots of goofy clips from old silent-era films showing bikes and cars behaving badly.|
Then comes a segment that alternately shows a series of kids on bikes, and people in cars, as they slow down for pedestrians, stop for signs, signal for turns, etc. -- all following the same rules of the road. No narration - just the familiar opening notes from Beethoven's 5th repeating, played on horns and bicycle bells.
|♫ Ba Ba Ba BUM ♫ (that's supposed to be Beethoven's 5th if you can't tell).|
|The little girl signals with her bell before stopping for the old lady who steps into the road without looking.|
|Lots of groovy old Sting-Rays and banana-seat bikes.|
|As usual, we get the message that bicycles should stop at intersections and walk across. Maybe bikes aren't "Just Like A Car" after all.|
Here's one of the few bits of narration in the film: "When there's more than one person on the road, you've got to communicate." Which is followed by a clip from an old Charlie Chaplin film showing an argument that turns into a pie fight. I guess the message is that when it comes to traffic, the potential for conflict is always there. Or that people on the roads often act like children. Or, maybe that if you anger drivers of cars, they might hit you with a pie.
The narration continues (briefly): "Sometimes other people don't want to communicate with you. Then you've got to watch out for yourself."
|"Defense. It's all defense," the narrator says. With the scene from a basketball game, we hear the crowd chanting "DE-Fense, DE-Fense, DE-Fense. . ."|
Cut over to the kid on his bike, scanning the road for cars. . .
|"DE-Fense, DE-Fense . . ."|
|He starts to pull out, only to change his mind and exit the road quickly when he sees an absolutely homicidal driver speeding his way in a station wagon.|
|The crowd cheers. The kid seems surprisingly relaxed considering that some psychopath just tried to turn him into a hood ornament. Just another friendly day in the neighborhood.|
|Again we hear the crowd from the basketball game chanting "DE-fense, DE-Fense. . ." The boy scans the road all around. . .|
|. . . That Chevy behind him is bearing down on him pretty good.|
|Suddenly another jack@$$ throws his door open into traffic. The kid is ready and takes impressive evasive action. Knowing how close the Chevy is behind him, he takes a hard right and skids to a stop in a driveway.|
|The Chevy that was following close behind slams on the brakes. I'd have enjoyed seeing him tear the idiot's door off with his car. It would be a good lesson for motorists, too.|
|And the crowd goes wild! "DE-Fense DE-Fense!"|
|♫"When I'm ridin' down the street, everywhere I go I meet some signs tryin' to tell me somethin'. At every corner, every bend it seems as though there's just no end to those signs always trying to tell me somethin' ♫|
|♫ Now when I ride I get to feelin' free and clear, don't you? And it's not always pleasant being told what I should do. But when I see a sign ahead I read it through and through. Wanna know why? It's tryin' to tell me somethin'.♫|
|♫ "If you want your freedom and you think that you don't need 'em, remember there's times they'll keep you livin'." ♫|
|. . . A truck pulls out right in front of him, leaving him to skid to a stop just in time. Whew! That was a close one.|
Okay - the kid lives to ride another day, maybe a little wiser for his experience. Cue up the cheesy music from the intro again. . .
You can check out Just Like A Car right here - courtesy YouTube: