The year is 1968, hippie culture is strong across the nation, and this is where the story of Herbie, the Love Bug, begins. The soft-top, 1963 Volkswagen Super Beetle becomes a national icon for family entertainment for over four decades, and his story starts here. When Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), a down and out racecar driver, has taken to demolition derbies to make a living, he knows his racing days are pretty much kaput. He shares an old 1800s firehouse that overlooks San Fransisco Bay with his best friend, an open-minded new age artist, Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett). One day, as Douglas is out on the street, he passes by a business where he sees a sign. “May we direct your attention to these…” the sign reads, and below the sign, Douglas spies a set of very shapely legs belong to a woman in a blue miniskirt. The business is a high-end European automobile dealership. This is a place that sells Porches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and and other high performance vehicles. As Jim is enjoying the view of not only saleswoman, Carole Bennett’s (Michele Lee) legs, he is almost drooling over a Maserati when a Volkswagen Super Beetle rolls in as if under its own power. The snooty owner of the dealership, Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson), makes a big fuss over not only Jim being there and out of his league, but the Super Beetle is also out of its league, and he wants this latest acquisition out of his store as soon as possible.
The little Beetle has a mind of its own, and takes a liking to Jim. The car leaves Thorndyke’s, and follows Jim home. The next day, Jim and Tennessee wake up with the Beetle parked in front of the firehouse, and a city cop wanting to take Jim to the station for questioning and possibly charging him with grand theft auto. He attempts to take the car back to Thorndyke’s, but the Beetle will have nothing to do with it, and takes Jim for a ride on its own, but Jim still needs some convincing that the car has a mind of its own, and that it is not just having some quirky mechanical problems. This leads to a relationship between car and owner, and the owner’s best friend, whom believes in magic, the owner’s potential new girlfriend, and even the neighborhood dogs. Tennessee names the Beetle “Herbie”, after his uncle Herb, and Jim makes a real racer out of this car. He still has trouble believing that Herbie is the reason he wins races, and not his own driving skills.
So this is how the legend begins, and this tale has been keeping us entertained since the late 1960s with this car that seems to be destined for the junkpile, yet keeps coming back to take on new skeptical owners and bad guys again and again. He’s been living in California most of his life, but has taken trips to Monaco and as far south as Columbia, then back to L.A. There is no slowing Herbie down once he gets on a roll, and this little car is nearly 50 years old now, and still acting like he just came from the showroom. You just can’t let a classic like Herbie get away!
I give this film a Musing review of