Quantum Geek: Gone In 60 Seconds (July 1974)

Hold onto the seat of your pants, fellow throwbacks. This one's so fast, you might poop...

Quantum Geek Nerd Genious Classic Film review
The Daddy of Old School Movie Reviews
As a fan of subgenre films, I fondly remember much of what I've seen over the years for what separates a movie from everything else. It's quite easy to be that way. If you've never seen Jaws, you've never seen a true nature horror movie; If you've never seen Blues Brothers, you've never seen a real musical; if you've never seen Nineteen Eighty Four, you've never seen dystopian sci-fi. That, of course, is a matter of opinion, but to admit that is in no way discounting that what I believe is true. Therefore, if you've never seen the original Gone In 60 Seconds, you've never seen a truer stuntman-led car chase movie!

H B. "Toby" Halicki car heist thriller Gone in 60 Seconds
The only chase movie in history to officially star a Mustang
The late H B. Halicki - writer, director, producer, actor and stuntman - died in a stunt accident in 1989 in Tonawanda, New York, filming what would have been the sequel to this insane carnage-filled twisted metalfest. He was aged 48 at the time and I believe his death signalled the end of an era. That era was a time when stuntmen were rock stars, automobile racing experts with no fear, doing what they did for the love of the art because no amount of money was enough to risk your life for, so dangerously. And stuntmen back in the day sure weren't paid well at all for what they did.

Coincidentally, fifteen years prior to that tragedy, Gone In 60 Seconds marked - in dialogue - the end of another era in Eleanor, one of the last great Mustangs, a 1971 Ford Mustang Fastback Sportsroof, and the only star credited in the opening scenes of this car heist thriller.

Halicki plays Maindrian Pace, an insurance investigator moonlighting as California's number one car thief, with his trusty gang in tow. When a drug lord tasks his gang to rip off 48 cars, they get all but one, that sweet Mustang Eleanor. Only after a dispute does Maindrian's boss spitefully tip off the authorities about the job, leading Pace into a frantic attempt to escape across five California cities. That's the premise and that's all you need to know for the movie that sports an hour's worth of hair-raising chases. This movie is literally one third story and two thirds old school car stunt carnage, so regardless if you find older movies boring, if you love this kind of stuff you have no excuse not to witness the insanity of it all.

Actor, Stuntman, Writer, Director & Move Producer H B. Halicki
"I'm here to fix your television... Let me just lob my tool out..."
Only having directed, written and produced three films in his lifetime, Gone... was the first and you really can tell it shows. Clearly not willing to stick 100% to what he knew best, Halicki played it safe with a comprehensive story, making use of documentarian styles to get the plot rolling. Regardless, this movie is so dated that it can come across as a bounty of old cliche. His crew disguised with wigs, Pace himself looks like a parody of a '70s porn star with the yuppie mullet and moustasche, something you'd see in a Foo Fighters music video. Still, it's good to laugh, right?

What is so fucking awesome about this movie is that it delivers tenfold on stunt action and classic car chase cinematography, utilising every known method and chewing up scenery like an exhaust-fume breathing Godzilla of high-toned internal cobustion. If you love your classic muscle cars, this could almost be sexual, but the fact that it doesn't try to be picture perfect lends its grit. For a family affair, having starred and been produced by several members of the Halicki family, you can tell this is a labour of love, and H B. himself (nicknamed Toby) leads the getaway like a true motor madman.

H B. Halicki Gone in 60 Seconds insane driving stunts
The original 'Gone In 60 Seconds' Mustang jump.
This is the stuff videogames like Driver wanted you to experience, this is the stuff Tarantino's Death Proof could only wish to resemble, this is the movie nobody dared to recreate, all except the remake's director Dominic Sena, who clearly knew fuck all about driving in comparison to the late great Toby. Not to be disrespectful, I used to find the Nicolas Cage version enjoyable when I was 20. Cage gave himself to the absurdity of it all and if anyone does absurdity well, it's Cage. He could do no wrong back then and the remake did well to inject actual storytelling and drama, but lovers of cars and car chases will likely cut off your dick if you ever expect them to fall for this...

Nicolas Cage Gone in 60 Seconds eleanor traffic jump
The remake's version, with new and improved laws of physics.
On a more personal level, choosing between 1974's Ford Fastback Eleanor and 2000's Shelby GT 500 Eleanor, I'd go with the original for pure joyriding purposes and for smashing to bits in the process. It's a wild beast, a growling puma in a jungle of monkeys. The GT 500 is nice to look at and belongs in a museum or a classic racing game. And it doesn't fly!

So how did H B. Halicki's Gone In 60 Seconds influence the world we know? Filmmakers only wish they could make a movie the way he used to, but you just don't see movies made for stuntmen by stuntmen these days. Nicholas Winding Refn scratched the surface with some tense driving using the same urban sprawl with Drive, the aforementioned Blues Brothers most definitely took cue from Halicki's smash 'n' dash epic, and we have an endless sea of videogames utilising that same old "you versus the entire city's police department" concept in Driver, Grand Theft Auto and the likes.

Gone In 60 Seconds inspired videogames such as Grand Theft Auto
Tip: Take your car to the Pay 'n' Spray to lose heat!
This might be one of those movies where you're just going to want to watch the incredible fifty minute chase scene, but I wouldn't hold that against you. How many of us ever watched the entirity of Steve McQueen's Bullitt outside of that duel between the Mustang and the Dodge Charger, after all? Get your rocks off, in fact allow me to introduce you...

Thanks again for reading, hope you enjoyed this and stay frosty for next week's trip back to the '80s. We have crazy arcade game-inspired sci-fi at its most unashamed and riotous college campus comedy like only nerds can deliver. Feel free to drop a comment and share with your good friends, and have a great week!

-Dan Ashley
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