Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) (UK - BD RB)
Marcus shoulda checked his horoscopes before reviewing this Blu
Written, directed and produced by H. B. Halicki, as well as staring and doing the stunt work, the original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds tells the tale of a group of car thieves that have to deliver 48 cars to the docks by Saturday. However with the quota filled, a small matter arises with an outstanding yellow Mustang (named Eleanor) and when Maindrian Pace (H.B. 'Toby' Halicki) gets caught in the act of stealing it, he must race for his freedom as the cops try to shut him down.
Gone in Sixty Seconds isn't really a film as much as its a love letter to cars. Made outside of the Hollywood studio system, H.B. Halicki knows that his film’s pay off is the only thing that really needs to work and because of that getting there isn't really all that focused. The first half if a little too loose for its own good, with a washy narrative that never really specifies what’s actually going on all that well. Because of that Gone in Sixty Seconds is a film where you sort of have to know the plot upfront to get what’s really going on, otherwise it’s really just a series of shots of cool cars being taken by people with unconvincing haircuts and outfits and iffy 70s dialogue stitching these scenes together.
Weirdly none of the film's failing ever let it down too much and somehow gives the film quite a feel good atmosphere and while I’m sure some will struggle with the loose style, Gone in Sixty Seconds has a trick up its sleeve to keep you locked in and has secured it's cult fan base since it's original release.
The last forty minutes, which is one long car chase with the cops hot on the tail of Eleanor (a muscle car that is actually credited as a character in the film) is quite frankly amazing. I’m a massive movie car chase fan and this really is one that’s a blast to watch and has to be considered one of the best out there. In an era of no CGI, watching this yellow Mustang tear around the city is just joyous. The absolute mayhem that comes out of all this is great. We get little insights into people just before their car gets smacked or scraped by the roaring convoy of cop cars, those wonderful shots of cars disappearing behind hills just before they come flying over the ridge, and of course those wonderful black and white cop car crashes, it’s all just pure car craziness. The high speeds with genuine destruction and all with none of this special effects nonsense that makes modern car stunt work so bland all adds up to pure movie car chase bliss.
Re-watching Gone in Sixty Seconds it dawned on me just how much films like this trained us for our enjoyment in video games. Quick thinking actions like reversing away from a road block or making the decision to plough right through them has influenced how we play Grand Theft Auto or Need for Speed or any number of the high octane driving experiences we get to play a part in nowadays. It is a strange thing that we can enjoy so much devastation with a minimal plot but when it’s all played out this well it generates a feel good buzz that I just get a huge kick out off.
Death Proof aside, which more than delivered on classic car stunts, this sort of thing is sorely missed from modern cinema and there’s a big gap in the movie world for real world stunts and absolute believable mayhem when it comes to car chases. Sure, Fast and the Furious is nuts but there’s that disconnect when things happen that you know are impossible. Gone in Sixty Seconds is in the royal family of car chases and somehow it keys into the little kid in me that loved pulling off batshit crazy things with toy cars that my adult brain still thinks it could pull off in the real world now given half the chance. Love it.
Despite the dirt and artifacts on the screen I was surprised that this is actually a pretty good looking image. Taking into account the low budget and cheap production, colours are nice and bright and detail is surprisingly good in places. Of course it’s not all good news, after all, the source material alone dictates that miracles were never going to happen. The darker scenes can feel a bit crushed and the handful of scenes set at night can be really difficult to see things from time to time. Black levels are always deep but they can be so overpowering in places that any edges between elements are lost in the darkness creating a dark and largely ugly image. Additionally, there’s a slight flicker to some scene but it’s usually only brief instances, thankfully.
There’s a lot to criticise here but the improvements are still there to see. The detail in Eleanor’s much crumpled body work has never looks better and her yellow paint job looks great, as do most of the cars in the film. The gritty, low budget feel is represented well and the old school good looks of Gone in 60 Seconds have probably never looked better, even though there is a sense more could be done to improve it.
The low budget nature of the film is felt the most in the audio. Generally the style here is voiceover style dialogue accompanying documentary style filmmaking. Dialogue always feels quite separate to the visuals and when we actually see the words coming out of the ‘actors’ mouths it can sound a little muffled. There’s a 5.1 track but it’s almost entirely pointless. It’s all very frontal with the music living in the rears but a lot of the time the music is lost behind the overpowering frontal attack.
With that said, it’s the frontal attack that makes all of the track's shortcoming totally forgivable. None of the limitations really matter because when the bass level kicks off, backing up the roar of the car’s engines, fans of classic car films should be pretty happy. Some non car fans could consider this aggressive approach too much but when the roar of an engine, the purr of acceleration or the screech of tires across tarmac are all used this well I for one am willing to let the rest ofthe shortcoming in this 5.1 track slide.
The documentary ‘The Life and Times of H.R. Halicki’ (45:06 SD) is the life story of the director, star and stuntman and provides plenty of history to the guy. There’s also a Denise Halicki Intro (02:46 SD) which has Halicki’s wife introducing the film with a ton of love for it.
There’s five interviews starting with Denise Halicki which gives a bit more of a backstory to the making of the film and then its promotional time with trailers for Gone in 60 Seconds, The Junkman and Deadline Auto Theft as well as two ‘Car Crash King Featurettes’ for The Junkman (16:46 SD), Deadline Auto Theft (10:15 SD) but really they are just stunt highlight reels
Gone in Sixty Seconds is arguably the perfect example of those classic 70s car chase flicks. It’s an acceptable run time, it has classic imagery that’s been replicated through countless other outlets and at the end of it all that forty minute car chase is some of the most fun you’ll ever have with a car on film. I came away wanting to re-watch Death Proof, Dukes of Hazzard (you can knock that film but the General Lee is handled extremely well in that flick) even a bit of Bad Boys II (I know, it’s a CGI powered car chase but man I love that freeway chase so much). The Blu-ray looks a little bit better than I expected but its by no means something that would impress many outside of the film's fanbase and the extras are pretty good too. The 5.1 track isn't all that amazing either but the roar of those engines – WOW. “See you around Billy”.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 20th May 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 English, DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Extras: Documentary, Interviews, Featurettes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: H.B. Halicki
Cast: H.B. Halicki, Marion Busia, Jerry Daugirda
Genre: Action, Crime and Drama
Length: 97 minutes
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