I love a good car chase in a movie. It doesn’t matter what kind of movie I am watching, there is something about a quality car chase that makes a film more exciting. Whether it’s Bullitt (1968), The French Connection (1971), Ronin (1998) or one of the several Fast And Furious movies, I will sit through anything that promises to be full of high speed car chasing. Through the years I have often heard about the car chase from the original Gone In 60 Seconds (1974), but I had never seen the movie. Recently this film has been released in a newly re-mastered Blu-ray and DVD combo pack, and with the distinction of including the longest car chase in movie history, I simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to finally see it.
Mandrian Pace (H.B. “Toby” Halicki) is an insurance investigator who also runs a high-end chop shop in Long Beach, California. He makes a deal with a drug lord to steal 48 high quality cars in 48 hours. He pulls together a team of thieves, including his fiancé, Pumpkin (Marion Busia), and her brother, James (Stanley “Sage” Chase). They steal all 48 cars and are ready to make delivery, but it turns out that the 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (Eleanor) is uninsured. Since Pace is in the insurance business, he refuses to steal uninsured cars and he chooses to steal a different Eleanor in order to complete delivery. Unfortunately, James has double-crossed Pace and the police are waiting for him as he pulls out of the garage with Eleanor. The police begin chasing Pace in what is the longest car chase in movie history, boasting the feat of crashing 93 cars in the 40 minute scene.
To say that Halicki loved cars would be a serious understatement. He dedicated his life to collecting (and crashing) some of the greatest cars. Gone In 60 Seconds was his vision and passion that he wanted to share with the world. He directed, starred, produced and wrote the film, although much of the dialogue is improvised. He even performed all of his own stunts, often leading to some serious injuries. He made the independent film for $150,000, using non-professional actors and his own car collection for the car wrecks. Gone In 60 Seconds has gone on to gross over 40 million dollars worldwide, to date.
The film itself is a mess. The first half of the film looks like a typical low budget film from the 1970’s, with no attention to quality or details. Most of the dialogue is inserted in voice over, and there are only a couple of scenes that seem to be thought through ahead of time. But, it really doesn’t matter anyway because you shouldn’t be watching Gone In 60 Seconds for the back-story anyway. The second half is where the payoff comes through, and Halicki doesn’t disappoint. Every moment is packed with precision driving, unbelievable crashes and amazing stunts. Editor Warner E. Leighton was given the incredible job of taking all of this footage and piecing together the unparalleled chase sequences, and he did a fantastic job. One can only imagine how daunting the task must have seemed, considering how much similar looking footage was handed to him.
In August of 1989, H.B. Halicki died while filming a scene for Gone In 60 Seconds 2. His lasting legacy is forever captured in this film, and has gained even more popularity thanks to the Touchstone produced remake in 2000, starring Nicholas Cage. Today, this low budget film is still considered one of the best car chase movies ever produced and even if it does feel like 40 minutes of destruction derby, it is still highly enjoyable for car chase fans. The now famous Eleanor has become trademarked due to the film’s popularity, even though the car model was changed in the 2000 film. Eleanor also holds the unusual distinction of being the only car to ever receive top billing for a film.
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