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HERBIE RIDES AGAIN (director: Robert Stevenson; screenwriters: Bill Walsh/from the story by Gordon Buford; cinematographer: Frank Phillips; editor: Cotton Warburton; music: George Bruns; cast: Helen Hayes (Mrs. Steinmetz), Ken Berry (Willoughby Whitfield), Stefanie Powers (Nicole Harris), John McIntire (Mr. Judson), Keenan Wynn (Alonzo Hawk), Huntz Hall (judge), Richard X. Slattery (traffic commissioner), Raymond Bailey (lawyer), Dan Tobin (lawyer), Elaine Devry (secretary), Liam Dunn (doctor), Vito Scotti (taxi driver); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Bill Walsh; Buena Vista; 1974)
“Plays like an ad for Volskwagen.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Plays like an ad for Volskwagen. It’s the first sequel to Disney’s 1968 smash hit film The Love Bug. The Disney made comedy is about a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own that acts to save the home of a feisty old lady being forced to leave her premises by the bullying of a greedy real estate developer. Director Robert Stevenson (“The Absent-Minded Professor”/”Mary Poppins”/”Jane Eyre”) bases it on the story by Gordon Buford. The script is written by producer Bill Walsh.

Meanie San Francisco tycoon developer Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) is dead set on putting up a skyscraper office building in downtown San Francisco, but is frustrated because a sweet old widow, Mrs. Steinmetz (Helen Hayes), who owns the ramshackle Victorian firehouse on the proposed lot won’t sell to him. Her late husband was a fire captain, who left her this quaint house.

Hawk sends his guileless nitwit hayseed lawyer nephew, Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry), to talk Mrs Steinmetz into selling. But Willoughby encounters Mrs Steinmetz’s car, the intelligent Volkswagen named Herbie, a former racing car, and instead of persuading Mrs Steinmetz realizes uncle is not a nice man and also becomes attracted to Mrs Steinmetz’s great defender—her attractive airline stewardess niece Nicole Harris (Stefanie Powers). Thereby the battle ensues between Hawk, wishing to demolish the firehouse, and Herbie and the gang opposing him.

The comedy is derived from its nonsensical absurdities and the surreal images of the VW in action; there’s also a tepid romance between the nerdy Willoughby and the most appealing Nicole. This might be the best of the Herbie series, but that’s not saying much.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”