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Film / The Cars That Ate Paris

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The Cars That Ate Paris (also known as The Cars That Eat People) is a 1974 Australian New Wave film that marked the directorial debut of Peter Weir.

The Paris of the title is a tiny town in the New South Wales countryside. It's surrounded by treacherous roads that are prone to car accidents. The Waldo brothers become a victim of one of these accidents. George dies, but Arthur (Terry Camilleri) survives. After recovering in the local hospital, he's persuaded to stay in town by Mayor Kelly (John Meillon). But it becomes apparent that beneath the placid exterior of Paris lies a harsh truth: the car accidents are caused intentionally by the town's residents, and they make their livings by scavenging the parts.

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The Tropes that Ate Paris:

  • Adorkable: Arthur is a meek simpleton, bordering on Manchild.
  • Affably Evil: The Mayor is a pleasant, fatherly man, who just happens to endorse murder and thievery on the part of his subjects.
  • The Alleged Car: The hoons' cars have components from many different models.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: The monstrous customised cars turn the local greasers into sociopathic murderers.
  • Awful Wedded Life: The Mayor and his wife don't appear to have a great marriage. He's very controlling, and it turns out she's infertile.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The opening scene parodies a cigarette commercial, but the couple in the sports car are soon run off the road and killed.
  • Black Comedy: The scheme that the town of Paris runs on is very ghastly and morbid, but the film is more breezy and colorful than dark.
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  • Cool Car: The Mayor's red 1958 Desoto Firesweep, the customised Holden FJ, and the VW Beetle covered in a forest of metal spikes.
  • Corrupt Hick: The Mayor, but when everyone's distressed over the pastor, he reminds everyone in town that they're all equally guilty of corruption.
  • Creepy Cemetery: The Paris cemetery is full of white crosses marking the burial spots of car accident victims.
  • Desert Punk: Some of the young hoons have chains and spikes on their leather jackets.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Yes, the townspeople cause crashes, steal, kill and lobotomize people. But, the Mayor is visibly disturbed and angry when he finds that one of the townspeople had literally blown off the head of the visiting Pastor. While there's some Pragmatic Evil involved, as shooting a regular visitor in broad daylight is harder to explain than a stanger at night, the Mayor still calls the perpetrator "irreligious".
  • Evil vs. Evil: The town elders and the young Greaser Delinquents.
  • The Igor: The day job of one of the punks.
  • Gaslighting: When Arthur keeps mentioning that he saw lights before the crash, the Mayor assures him that it's just a delusion caused by the physical and mental stress of the accident. In fact, using lights to blind victims is one of the Parisians' main methods to cause accidents, so the Mayor is trying to avoid a He Knows Too Much situation with Arthur.
  • The Joy of X: The title is a variant of The Noun Who Verbed.
  • Karma Houdini: By the end of the film, no one is held legally accountable for their crimes. However, it's averted in that the conflict between the local greasers and the older generation has led to several village buildings demolished and people killed. This in turn leads the villagers to abandon their homes. However, Fridge Logic sets in when you consider that when Arthur finally talks to the authorities (who were lead to believe he was dead and his car destroyed) there may be an investigation.
  • Land Down Under: A foreshadowing of the Savage South trope now associated with Mad Max.
  • Lobotomy: The village doctor's "cure" for motorists who survive the car crash.
  • "London, England" Syndrome: Averted. This Paris is in the Australian Outback. There's even a local eatery called the Eiffel Tower Cafe.
  • Mad Scientist: Frontier Doctor Midland enjoys experimenting on lobotomised patients.
  • Mooks: The Mayor's henchmen all wear orange hi-visibility jackets.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The title might imply that it's a campy Attack of the Killer Whatever movie about Sentient Vehicles, but it's really a Black Comedy about a remote town, and the "ate" part is more about the conscience of the townspeople than anything else.
  • The Patriarch: The Mayor has a wife and two children, and adopts Arthur as his son.
  • Raised by Natives: The Mayor's two daughters are actually orphans whose parents were killed in a car accident.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: The Mayor's authoritarian regime in Paris.
  • Salvage Pirates: The townsfolk make a living by causing car accidents and then scavenging the parts from the wrecks.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After the local greasers' rampage, the villagers pack up what they can carry and leave.
  • The '70s: Although the town appears Two Decades Behind due to its remoteness.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Not only do the Paris locals cause the accidents and plunder the remains, it appears to be their only means of sustenance. Their clothes and personal items have been scavenged from their victims, and it's even established that the town basically uses a barter economy based around trading plundered goods for services.
  • Traffic Wardens: Arthur is given this unpopular job by the Mayor.
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