The cult 1976 comedy follows a day in the life of a California car wash, as a close-knit gang of employees deal with various oddballs that pass through, including a money-obsessed evangelist (Richard Pryor) and an Islamic revolutionary (Bill Duke).
Underappreciated upon its release (although it was nominated for Cannes’ top prize) but now affectionately regarded, Car Wash was an attempt to recreate the episodic and ensemble approach of films like M*A*S*H - with a multiracial cast. The role-call of notable black performers includes Ivan Dixon (Nothing but a Man), the Pointer Sisters, and a somewhat ground-breaking role by Antonio Fargas as a gay transvestite.
Norman Whitfield’s soundtrack was a key part of the film’s success and it was pre-recorded and played on set during production. But this is an effervescent and occasionally anarchic comedy that deserves a reputation as longstanding as its irresistibly evergreen theme song by Rose Royce.