Herbie Rides Again

Herbie Rides Again is a 1974 American comedy film and a sequel to The Love Bug, released six years earlier, and the second installment of the Herbie franchise made by Walt Disney Productions starring an anthropomorphic (and quite autonomous) 1963 Volkswagen racing Beetle named Herbie. The movie was directed by Robert Stevenson and starred Helen Hayes, Stefanie Powers, Ken Berry, and Keenan Wynn reprising his villainous role as Alonzo Hawk (originated in the films The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber).

Herbie Rides Again
Directed byRobert Stevenson
Produced byBill Walsh
Screenplay byBill Walsh
Story byGordon Buford
Based onCharacters
by Gordon Buford
StarringHelen Hayes
Ken Berry
Stefanie Powers
Keenan Wynn
John McIntire
Music byGeorge Bruns
CinematographyFrank V. Phillips
Edited byCotton Warburton
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • June 6, 1974 (1974-06-06)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$38,229,000 (US/Canada gross)[1]
$30.8 million (worldwide rentals)

Herbie Rides Again was followed by two more theatrical sequels Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie Goes Bananas. A later theatrical sequel, Herbie: Fully Loaded was released in 2005.

The title is referenced in the trailer for the 1975 British comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Notorious real estate magnate and demolition baron Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) is ready to build his newest indoor shopping center, the 130-story Hawk Plaza in San Francisco. His only obstacle is the 1892 firehouse inhabited by "Grandma" Steinmetz (Helen Hayes), widow of its former owner, Fire Captain Steinmetz, and aunt of mechanic Tennessee Steinmetz; her displaced neighbor, flight attendant Nicole Harris (Stefanie Powers); and their sentient machines: a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle known as Herbie, "the Love Bug;" an early 20th-century orchestrion that plays on its own; and a retired cable car from the defunct Clay Street Line, known as "Old No. 22."

Hawk has made numerous attempts at evicting Mrs. Steinmetz, intending to imprison her in a retirement home of his own making; but Hawk's lawyers have been unsuccessful in these attempts, while Mr. Barnsdorf, the construction boss, is growing impatient with Hawk's alleged indecision, reminding him that the whole thing is costing him $80,000 a day (equal to $406424 today). Therefore, when Hawk's lawyer nephew Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry) comes to visit him, Hawk sends him to Mrs. Steinmetz in their stead.

Mrs. Steinmetz takes a liking to the young lawyer due to his youthful looks and good manners, in contrast to Hawk's henchmen. It is during her chatting with him that she explains the backstories of Herbie and Old No. 22, which Herbie found on a vacant lot whose owners were using it as a chicken house. She also explains that Tennessee has gone to Tibet to visit his ailing philosophy teacher, while Herbie's former owner, Jim Douglas, has gone to Europe racing foreign cars. On first meeting Willoughby, Nicole punches him in the face upon learning that he works for Hawk, but then tries to make up to him by offering him a ride in Herbie. Herbie goes berserk after Willoughby insults him twice, eventually taking the two to a car version of a joust tournament, which Herbie wins over a character named "The Red Knight" (strongly resembling retired racer Peter Thorndyke from the previous film), earning Willoughby a whopping $3.00 (equal to $15.24 today). The two then go to lunch, but Nicole tells Willboughy an uninterrupted monologue on all the horrible things Hawk has done, including building a parking garage on the very same lot where Joe DiMaggio and his brothers learned to play baseball. Willoughby is upset about this and accidentally tells her that Hawk is his uncle, which enrages Nicole. She hits him with a broiled lobster in response, sending him splashing into the waters of Fisherman's Wharf below.

Having become disillusioned towards his uncle, Willoughby decides to tell him face to face that he will not continue doing his dirty work. However, as he is approaching the office, he overhears his uncle threatening body harm on him for not getting in contact, so he resorts to telling him on the phone instead. Hawk flips out and shouts at his nephew, shattering the glass on the phone booth. Having lost him, Hawk decides to resort to harassment to force Mrs. Steinmetz out, the first act of which is to capture Herbie. Hawk is initially successful with his hotwiring skills, but while driving him on the street, Hawk insults the car who retaliates by causing a series of traffic collisions and jams (even going as far as barging into a police car, which causes a chain reaction of wrecks) and discards Hawk at his own office door, where Hawk orders his subordinates to capture Herbie again, followed by a policeman giving Hawk several tickets for traffic offenses. While Herbie takes Mrs. Steinmetz to market, they are chased by Hawk's men; whereupon Herbie makes several daring escapes culminating in travelling through the 1909 landmark Sheraton Palace Hotel and along a suspension cable on the Golden Gate Bridge, leaving Mrs. Steinmetz unfazed (and unaware) of his activity throughout. Hawk's secretary catches sight of Herbie on the bridge, but Hawk assumes she's getting hysterical and orders her to take two aspirins and lie down.

Willoughby initially tries to go home in disguise, but is convinced by Nicole to stay after she hears him criticize his uncle while talking to his mother on the telephone. Mrs. Steinmetz asks Nicole and Willoughby to pick up some more groceries for her, and then suggests that they ought to drive to the beach. Nicole insists that they will just go and get some broccoli, which Willoughby later confesses he doesn't like, but Herbie still goes to the beach as a result of Hawk's personal chauffeur chasing him, leading Nicole to think that Mrs. Steinmetz talked him into doing it. They enjoy a nice moment at the beach, with Willoughby and Nicole falling for each other.

While heading home, they discover that the roadway has been blocked (due to Hawk's chauffeur having bribed a man to do so), so Herbie resorts to surfing through the coastal bay to find an alternate route. On their return to the firehouse after dark, they find that every item of furniture has been removed by Hawk; whereupon Mrs. Steinmetz, Willoughby, Nicole, and Herbie track the theft to a warehouse. The four break in and recover Steinmetz's belongings, all of which had been loaded into "No. 22." Upon hearing Willoughby's voice, the orchestrion attracts their attention by playing "Pomp and Circumstance." Hawk's hired security guards catch them in the act, but Herbie's acts of pushing other items off the warehouse shelves trap them and allow the trio to escape. Mrs. Steinmetz rides in "No. 22," while Willoughby and Nicole follow in Herbie.

An inebriated old-timer named Judson (John McIntire) joins Mrs Steinmetz aboard "No. 22," thinking himself on a public cable car. Hawk pursues upon discovering the trio escaped, but Herbie distracts him and later rescues Mrs. Steinmetz and Judson from a potential crash after "No. 22" rolls down a hill (as well as into a building during a special dinner party) by getting Willoughby close enough so that he can jump aboard and use the handbrake. During this time, Mrs. Steinmetz becomes enamored with Judson (while being entirely oblivious to the fact the car is rolling down the hill).

The next morning, Mrs. Steinmetz decides to confront Hawk herself. Accompanied by Willoughby in spite of Nicole telling him not to let her do this, Mrs. Steinmetz drives Herbie onto the window-cleaning machine of Hawk’s skyscraper to reach his 28th-floor office (after Hawk fired his window cleaner), where they overhear a telephoned conversation with Loostgarten (Chuck McCann), an independent demolition agent, about the deal to demolish the firehouse. In response, she activates the window cleaning machine to fill the office with foam and water. This done, Herbie pursues Hawk around the building's perimeter (in response to Hawk throwing an ashtray at him) - even following him outside onto a ledge - until Mrs Steinmetz orders him to desist by mentioning a used car lot, and saying she would have to hate to call the used car man, Mr. Honest Al.

Disguising his voice to resemble his uncle's, Willoughby directs Loostgarten to demolish Hawk's own house. Late that evening, Loostgarten telephones Hawk to confirm the demolition, waking Hawk from several nightmares showing himself at the mercy of Herbie; Hawk then gives confirmation, but realizes too late that he has condemned his own residence, and subsequently attacks Loostgarten after a portion of his house is collapsed from a wrecking ball.

In the morning, Hawk calls a truce with Mrs. Steinmetz (as well as plant a phony story in the newspaper with the headline "HAWK GIVES UP"!), and thinking him to be sincere, Willoughby and Nicole go for dinner (to the same restaurant they were before when Nicole hit Willoughby with the broiled lobster), while Mrs. Steinmetz invites Judson to a similar meeting; in spite of this, Hawk violates the truce by sending earthmovers to crush the firehouse and its inhabitants, prompting Herbie to go in search of Nicole and Willoughby. In the absence of Herbie, the only means of defense is an antique fire hose, which Judson uses against the earthmovers, until it explodes and sprays all over him.

Having obtained Nicole and Willoughby, Herbie rounds up several other Volkswagen Beetles from various places in the city (some of which leave their owners behind), and comes after Hawk and his men as an army and ruin his scheme, taking advantage of Hawk's irrational fear of Herbie. Hawk is pursued from the grounds by Herbie, and after nearly getting knocked down by a police car, Hawk is arrested after telling his bizarre tale of an army of Beetles chasing him. Later, Nicole and Willoughby are married, and ride Herbie through an arch formed by his new Volkswagen Beetle friends.


Production notes


Fritz Feld, who appears as the Maitre d', and Vito Scotti, who plays the Italian cab driver, also appear in the sequel Herbie Goes Bananas as crewmen of the ship Sun Princess. Dan Tobin, Raymond Bailey, Iggie Wolfington, Robert S. Carson, and John Zaremba played Hawk's attorneys; Disney regular Norman Grabowski played "Security guard #2;" John Myhers played the San Francisco's Office of the President announcer; and Alan Carney played a judge at the Chicken Tournament.

Deleted scenes

The GAF View-Master reel set for the film shows a still from a deleted sequence where one of Hawk's nightmares has him about to be treated by a pair of white VW Beetle doctors, who decide to "take his carburetor out and have a look at it". As they approach Hawk, he is woken by Loostgarten.


The Herbies used for the film consisted both of 1963 and 1965 Beetles.

The included 1965 models make for some bad continuity errors as the windows are noticeably larger on the 1965 cars. This was to become worse in subsequent Herbie films as even later model cars were included.

One of the VW Beetles used in the deleted nightmare sequence (see above) was first used in The Love Bug as a stunt car during the El Dorado race (also used for interior filming). Many years after Herbie Rides Again, the car's red cross, mechanical arms, and eyeball headlights were removed and restored to former appearance.

"World's Highest Building"

"Hawk Plaza" is shown as a shining, twin-tower 130-story San Francisco skyscraper touted as "The World's Highest Building". Coincidentally, The Towering Inferno, released six months later, featured "The Glass Tower," a shining, single-tower 138-story San Francisco skyscraper touted as "The Tallest Building in the World." In actuality, New York's twin towers of the World Trade Center, "The Tallest Buildings in the World" had officially opened in 1973, and Chicago's 108-story Sears Tower claimed that title in May 1974, just one month before Herbie Rides Again was released.


Box office

Herbie Rides Again opened on June 6, 1974 in 2,178 theaters and 1,761 drive-in theaters. The film grossed $38,229,000 at the United States and Canada box office, generating Disney $17,500,000 in theatrical rentals.[2]. The film earned rentals of around $13,300,000 overseas,[3] giving worldwide rentals of almost $31 million.

Home media

Herbie Rides Again was released on VHS on October 15, 1981, re-released on November 6, 1985, January 5, 1992, October 28, 1994 and September 16, 1997. It was first released on DVD in Region 1 on May 4, 2004 and was re-released as a 2-DVD double feature set along with Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo on April 26, 2009. On September 2, 2012, Herbie Rides Again was re-released on DVD as part of Herbie: 4-Movie Collection along with The Love Bug, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie Goes Bananas. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on December 16, 2014 as a Disney Movie Club exclusive title.


Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "There's nothing harmful about 'Herbie Rides Again'; it's simply not very good."[4] Variety reported, "It should prove gleeful enough for the kiddies, and at the short and sweet unspooling time of 88 minutes, painless pleasantry for adult chaperones as well."[5] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "suffers from the slackening of freshness and invention which so often bedevils sequels ... Still, 'Herbie Rides Again' preserves the bright, unreal feeling of that special Disney world which more and more is a world to itself."[6] Gene Siskel gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and called it "a surprisingly tolerable sequel."[7]

Herbie Rides Again presently holds a score of 80% at Rotten Tomatoes based on 5 reviews.[8]

See also


  1. "Box Office Information for Herbie Rides Again". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  2. "All-time Film Rental Champs". Variety. 7 January 1976. p. 20.
  3. "50c of Every Film Rental $ Adds To Disney Film Div. Profits". Variety. January 14, 1976. p. 4.
  4. Canby, Vincent (June 7, 1974). "The Screen: ' Herbie' Rides Again to Defend Landmarks". The New York Times. 23.
  5. "Film Reviews: Herbie Rides Again". Variety. March 27, 1974. 14.
  6. Champlin, Charles (July 9, 1974). "'Herbie'---The Bug Takes Another Lap". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  7. Siskel, Gene (July 17, 1974). "Disney's 'Herbie' Rides Again'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 5.
  8. "Herbie Rides Again at Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
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