Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)

Director: H.B. Halicki                                 Writer: H.B. Halicki
Film Score: Ronald Halicki                         Cinematography: Scott Lloyd-Davies
Starring: H.B. Halicki, Marion Busia, Jerry Daugirda and James McIntyre

The beginning of this film is wild. It’s basically a silent film with dialogue over the top of the action to let us know what’s going on. Obviously done to save money, it’s like no other film I’ve seen and what could have been bad filmmaking actually works in a very original way. Gone in 60 Seconds was, of course, very successfully remade, sort of, in 2000 with Nicholas Cage. The later film is not a strict remake but more of a reworking of the main idea: stealing a bunch of cars in a short amount of time for a rich buyer. The film is definitely very low budget, but Halicki makes the most of every penny and it really works.

Renaissance man Henry Blight Halicki not only wrote and directed the film, but starred in it and did many of the stunts. He plays the part owner of an insurance investigation business specializing in stolen cars. Naturally, this gives them all kinds of information that they can use to steal the cars they need. After receiving an order for 48 high-end cars inside of a week, the crew postpones everything and begins to fill the order. At the same time the company is being called in to investigate the same cars they’ve stolen. It’s a great, original idea, and the famous chase that ends the film inspired car chase films too numerous to mention, including Ron Howard’s Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto all the way up to films like John Landis’s The Blues Brothers.

In my review of the original Thomas Crown Affair, I talked about the embracing of the sixties style. This film completely embraces the seventies with leather jackets, big sunglasses, leisure suits, floppy hats, go-go boots, bikinis and a period soundtrack, including country-tinged music during the chase scenes. If only the production values were better, it would certainly be a classic film of the period. Even so, many other aspects of the film are great. I just can’t get over how well done this film is. I mean, there are terrible night scenes that are almost impossible to make out what’s going on, and muffled dialogue, but there are places where brilliant editing by Warner Leighton and the voice-over dialogue turns this into something very special.

Ultimately, the bulk of the film is simply a prelude to the chase, in which the tag line for the film claims, “93 Cars Destroyed in 40 Minutes!” Halicki was obviously inspired by films like The French Connection and Bullitt, but he takes the char chase to an epic level, through five different cities in and around Los Angeles, California at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars in destroyed vehicles. For the period, the chase is fantastic, the point of view shots from the cars are terrific and while the sound effects (squealing tires on dirt) are a bit off, it all works. The original Gone in 60 Seconds, for all its low-budget beginnings, delivers a tremendous amount of entertainment and is one of the hidden gems of the seventies.

No comments:

Post a Comment