As little plot as Car Wash has, that minimalist structure allows for a breezy, relatable pace. If the best film characters are those we connect to, then Car Wash’s working class, multi-racial roster produces someone for everyone.

Certainly homophobic and covered in disconnected mayhem, the film sits in the heart of the ‘70s – disco and all, including Rose Royce’s infectious “Car Wash.” More than a pop hit, the song embodies the film’s inner city feel, espousing low wages and long days with an orchestrated kick.

Marketing materials sell Car Wash on Richard Pryor. He’s just a cameo role. An egoist, exploitative preacher, his shrewd, upper class charisma isn’t so much attractive as it is off-putting for the right reasons. The false idol routine rings true. The heart of Car Wash falls on a slew of key players, masterfully cast, including Animal House’s Otis Day, Bill Duke taking on civil rights as fueled by Malcolm X, and Ivan Dixon’s unforgettable baritone voice. An aimless bit part from George Carlin just feels right too.

Few – if any – better snapshot a place and time from the perspective of shoe shiners, car detailers, and window washers

Car Wash presents a lazy, everyday feel, genuine and earnest even if it’s often arbitrary. Few – if any – better snapshot a place and time from the perspective of shoe shiners, car detailers, and window washers. Car Wash turns them into contemporary screen heroes, outwitting their boss and conquering personal turmoils. Some drama feels mischaracterized in a film dealing with sex workers, dog crap, and kid vomit, yet there’s an unexpected earnestness and reality to Car Wash because of it.

Importantly, the jovial script never descends toward total darkness. It’s all one day. Problems take time to unravel, and while unsatisfactory in terms of narrative, the organic approach toward leaving issues open better fits the Car Wash method.

It’s a dated piece of cinematic culture. More than bell bottoms and afros, it’s also language and sexism. The time capsule of Antonio Fargas’ cross-dressing caricature cannot be overlooked either. Pieces of Car Wash struggle to rise above their origins. If anything, those monuments to an era of inequality – forever embedded into a piece intended to bridge racial barriers – leave behind a remnant of what was. Car Wash isn’t nostalgic just for the clothes, the music, or even the actors. It’s an embodiment of a decade, a film relaying the ‘70s through an odd but unique-for-cinema eye. A relic, but a splendidly care-free, often charming, and utterly wacky one.


Like the film itself, Shout uses a care-free approach to Car Wash’s debut on Blu-ray. The print used shows signs of minor damage. Scratches here, dirt there. Never intrusive, if a touch irritating in spots.

Age sapped some of the color, leaving Car Wash lacking in saturation. The orange suits worn by most of the cast do show some energy, if with a dusty presence. Primaries struggle to escape the effects of 40+ years, as does the lacking contrast.

In execution, Shout leaves Car Wash limited in resolution. The scan doesn’t appear new, lacking clarity with a slightly coarse digital edge. At least grain is maintained. Encoding work nicely renders the film stock, even against the dated mastering. A bit of facial definition shows up in close, while those shots of LA tend to overstress the images.


Ever changing fidelity represents a movie constantly using different audio sources. Some lines come dubbed, others live on set, bouncing between qualities. Don’t expect consistency.

Luckily, the soundtrack holds together. A smooth low-end and poppy lyrics keep the disco beats rolling on. Clarity and fidelity both impress from this DTS-HD mono track.


Director Michael Schultz pops in for a commentary track alongside two new featurettes. For a lengthy 34-minutes, producer Gary Stromberg offers his thoughts on the production in a talking head interview. The same with Otis Day in a separate feature that run 12-minutes.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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The rare working man’s comedy, Car Wash is undeniably a product of its time, but also exuberant, likeable, and charming 40 years later.

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