Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)Overview -
Insurance investigator Maindrian Pace and his team lead double-lives as unstoppable car thieves. When a South American drug lord pays Pace to steal 48 cars for him, all but one, a 1973 Ford Mustang, are in the bag. As Pace prepares to rip-off the fastback, codenamed "Eleanor", in Long Beach, he is unaware that his boss has tipped off the police after a business dispute. Detectives are waiting and pursue Pace through five cities as he desperately tries to get away.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
There are likely some purists out there who will shudder at what I'm about to say. Remakes are rarely better than the originals, but 'Gone in 60 Seconds' is the exception to the rule. The remake starring Nic Cage is a superior film in every way compared to the clunky film created by H.B. Halicki back in 1974.
Halicki's '74 version starts off with blocks of dialogue being spoken in voice-overs giving us a completely impersonal view of what's going on. The movie glosses over character introductions, diving right into the story without much setup at all. Maindrian Pace (Halicki) is a car theft expert. To cover up his nefarious grand theft auto activities, Pace uses a front. He consults with insurance companies helping people find their stolen cars.
The film doesn't waste any time because it's got to get to its advertised "40 minute car chase!" as fast as possible or you might lose all interest in the movie. Pace takes on his largest order ever. Here's where the similarities between the original and remake start to get pieced together. Pace and his team list the expensive cars they're targeting on a chalkboard, with female code names.
Much of this film is dedicated to watching Pace and his team hop into cars, pop out the ignition, start the engine, and drive off. There really isn't all that much interaction between them as far as stealing cars go. They're a well-oiled machine and they pluck pricey cars off the street easily. There is one sequence where the movie shows some promise in revealing something more about the characters than their ability to steal cars. That scene is also included, to some degree, in the remake. One of Pace's men steal a car filled with bags of heroine. Pace isn't interested in the drugs, but one of his partners is. The conflict produced between the two never really pans out into anything interesting. This movie has one thing on its mind and it's trying to get there as fast as possible.
The cover indicates that not only is 40 of the movie's 98 minutes completely devoted to a car chase, but it also boasts that 93 cars were wrecked in the making of this film. Most of those wrecks appear to be caused by inadequate braking systems in the cars as is evidenced by a pile up of cars that continue to rear end each other even though many of them have ample time to stop.
You've heard the term that, "It's all style and no substance," well Halicki's film is all substance and no style. Cars pile up as the grand car chase continues on, but there's nothing inventive in how they do the piling. I understand that this is 1974 and Halicki didn't have the advantages of CG animation techniques. Yet, he seems focused on squeezing as much car chasing and crashing as he can into a movie without a thought to the movie itself. He's so concerned with it that he completely neglects his characters, the story, and anything else that would lead us to believe this whole thing was worth caring about.
The original 'Gone in 60 Seconds' is a gimmick movie. An excuse to film a demolition derby on city streets. You've heard of torture porn, well this is car-crash porn. The problem here is that Halicki simply hasn't provided anything to make us care about whether Pace and his team succeeds or not. In the end we're left with a pile of mangled metal and nothing to show for it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an Anderson Merchandise release. It comes in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. There is indication on the case that it is playable only in Region A. The Blu-ray is a 25GB disc.
The movie comes from 1974 so you shouldn't be expecting a pristinely beautiful transfer. Instead you'll get an expected transfer considering the age of the source. The image is very heavy with grain. It gives it a nostalgic cinematic look, but it also washes out much of the fine detail.
As a result of the heavily grainy scenes, much of the movie appears very soft in nature. Long- and mid-range shots run the gamut from being moderately soft to overly so. This doesn't mean that the grain is a bad thing, on the contrary. It's been left like that to give it the natural look it had when it was first projected on big screens. However, scratches, blips, and grime appear on the picture often causing somewhat distracted viewing. Along with that lightness fluctuates constantly. Solid colors like whites and blacks will usually hover between darker and lighter shades during one scene.
Blacks are deep, yet they do provide for a disappointing amount of crushing. If the characters wear black clothes like a sweater or tuxedos, any sort of texture detail disappears. Instead the clothing appears as one big black silhouette. Nighttime scenes are extremely hard to make out. When the guys steal one of the Eleanors from a guy's driveway it's almost impossible to see anything in the nighttime darkness.
Anderson Merchandise has done a somewhat satisfying job on this transfer by showing the movie in an accurate representation of what it looked like in 1974. There weren't any terrible accounts of artifacting that I noticed either. You won't be blown away by this presentation, but it could've ended up a lot worse.
There are no lossless tracks included on this release and that's a real shame. The two surround tracks that are provided are a 5.1 DTS Digital Surround mix and a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Having listened to both of them I really couldn't point to any distinctive difference in either. There really isn't a clear cut winner between the two. They have the same strengths and the same problems.
One of the biggest problems is that the dialogue volume is all over the map. In one scene the voice-over is loud and solid then the next scene its wimpy. In the same scene dialogue from one person will be loud and dialogue from the person they're talking to will be extremely soft. This could be due to the recording equipment of the time and the fact that they shot this movie on a shoestring budget, but that doesn't make it any less annoying.
Sound effects have the same problem. One car slams into another one and there's an ear-splitting crunch, then it happens again and the sounds barely register. The rears are very light even during the intense chase scenes. The movie's music sounds tinny and static-filled. I wasn't too impressed with the audio options on this disc and I don't think you will be either.
- Audio Commentary — Head Cameraman Jack Vacek and Editor Warner Leighton provide this commentary that was recorded for the 25th anniversary release of the movie on DVD. While it does have a lot of helpful information about how they staged the car chase, this commentary feels a little underwhelming simply because these guys are being forced to remember a movie they did a couple decades ago, so most of their reminiscing comes via rose-tinted glasses.
- Introduction (SD, 3 min.) — You have the choice of playing the movie with an alternate introduction performed by Denice Halicki, the wife of H.B.
- The Life and Times of H.B. "Toby" Halicki: The Car Crash King (SD, 45 min.) — A substantive documentary on Halicki as a filmmaker who created movies with hardly any money.
- Car Crash King's "Cut to the Chases" Featurettes (SD, 38 min.) — A bunch of car chase and car crash footage from other Halicki movies.
- Interviews (SD, 18 min.) — Here we get a couple of interviews. One from Denice Halicki and the other from car kingpin Lee Iacocca.
I'm sure there are people out there that love Halicki's penchant for destroying cars, but without a real purpose behind the car-nage it's hard for me to love it along with them. Instead when the big chase came I felt overwhelming boredom because I didn't care for one single person or their motives behind stealing cars. Fans of the movie will be pleased with the video and may be a little dismayed at the audio. Either way, this is for fans only.
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