Some directors have eccentric trademarks that mark their films as their own. Alfred Hitchcock had his famous cameos while John Landis would slide the phrase “See you next Wednesday” into each of his films in some manner or another. For Sam Raimi, it is an appearance of a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Nicknamed “The Classic,” the car has appeared in just about every one of the director’s films all the way back to the days when he and friends Bruce Campbell and Robert Tappert and his brothers Ted and Ivan would make short films after school with an old Super-8 movie camera.
This past weekend saw the remake of Raimi’s first film The Evil Dead hit theaters and sharp-eyed fans noted the appearance of a familiar yellow Oldsmobile in the film. And that got us to thinking about the car’s appearance in all of Raimi’s films. Let’s take a look.
The Evil Dead (1982)
Raimi’s first film, and one where he and producers Bruce Campbell and Robert Tappert raised all the funding themselves, so they used whatever they had at hand. And that included the use of his dad’s car as the vehicle that transports a group of teens to their fateful rendezvous with a haunted cabin in the woods.
Raimi’s sophomore effort is mostly overlooked by fans, and while it does have its flaws, there are still a few things that make it worth one’s while. The film does have Raimi’s high energy direction, Campbell shows up as a sleezy criminal named Renaldo and there is a Hudsucker Prison, a name that Crimewave co-scripters Joel and Ethan Coen would recycle for their film The Hudsucker Proxy. And Raimi’s Oldsmobile shows up in the film as the vehicle of choice of two particularly crazed killers.
For the production of the film, Raimi bought two other `73 Oldsmobile Delta 88s to serve as stunt cars. However, when Raimi learned that the original car had been modified to accommodate shooting inside the vehicle at producer Campbell’s orders, he ordered everything put back to the way it was and paid for it out of his own pocket.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Part remake/part sequel, the appearance of the Olds in Evil Dead II was pretty much a given. Once again it serves as the means that hero Ash (Campbell) and friends get to the haunted cabin. And it also accompanies Ash through the portal that opens up in the film’s finale.
At one point in Sam Raimi’s melding of The Shadow and The Phantom Of The Opera, tragic hero Peyton Westlake, aka Darkman, is hanging from a cable attached to a helicopter on which the villainous Durant (Larry Drake) is attempting to make an escape. As the helicopter pilot tries to bounce the dangling Darkman off of the oncoming traffic, one car that narrowly misses him is a 73 Oldsmobile. And if you look really closely, the two men in the front of the car are Joel and Ethan Cohen, who had done some uncredited script work on the film.
Army Of Darkness (1993)
Tossed back in time along with Ash, the Classic plays perhaps its biggest part in any of Raimi’s films as it gets converted into a machine of war to take on the army of deadites marching on the medieval castle where Ash has taken the Book of the Dead. This is without a doubt the Oldsmobile Delta 88’s finest on screen moment.
The Quick And The Dead (1995)
The Old West doesn’t sound like much of a place to be able to feature a car that wouldn’t be manufactured for another century or so, but Raimi did manage to sneak the car into the film. Reportedly either a special covered wagon was fashioned and dropped over the car for one scene or it was covered with a tarp in a barn. So far though, no one has been able to exactly identify where it is.
A Simple Plan (1998)
The Classic doesn’t get much of a showcase here in this tale of found money and greed. All you can see of it is parked curbside in the small town where the film is set.
For Love Of The Game (1999)
Raimi’s baseball drama is the one film on the director’s resume that doesn’t feature the Delta 88 onscreen in some form or another. But it is not for lack of trying, as reportedly there was a scene that featured the car but it wound up on the cutting room floor.
The Gift (2000)
In this supernatural thriller, Cate Blanchett, playing a psychic in a small, Southern town who has visions of a murder victim, is the owner of a battered Olds Delta 88, that she uses to get around town.
Spiderman Trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007)
Peter Parker’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben are a kindhearted couple who struggle to make ends meet in order to give their poor orphaned nephew as good as home as they can. And I guess that means not splurging on a new car, but keeping their old Oldsmobile Delta (looking better than has in the last number of films) running as long as they can. It is the car that fatefully takes Ben to his fatal appointment with a carjacker after dropping Peter off in midtown Manhattan in the first film. The car can again be seen in the family driveway in the following two films as well as in the third film’s flashback to the events of the first film’s carjacking.
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
In Sam Raimi’s return to the horror genre after nearly a decade away, Alison Lohman is a young bank loan officer who makes an enemy of a vengeful gypsy, and you can guess what kind of battered old car she drives.
Oz, The Great And Powerful (2013)
You would think that a film set in Kansas in the early years of the 20th century and then a magical faraway land would prove difficult locations for Raimi to try and insert the Olds. I haven’t been able to find the car in the film yet, but this picture I found online purports to be the car’s appearance in the film. I have my doubts though.