Gone In 60 Seconds (1974)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/15/00
Written, Directed, and Produced by: H.B. Halicki
Cast: H.B. Halicki

The ULTIMATE car chase movie! When people talk about the best car chase movie ever made, "Bullitt" (1968), "The French Connection" (1971), and even "The Blues Brothers" (1980) are often mentioned, but what about H.B. Halicki's classic "Gone In 60 Seconds?" The adrenaline pumping thirty minute climax of this film features some of the most exciting and utterly amazing action filmmaking I have ever seen. They don't make movies like this anymore, and it's a damn shame. The anti-hero of the film is an insurance investigator and professional car thief named Maindrian Pace (H.B. Halicki). He's got a rough exterior and is kind of a jerk, but besides being a criminal, he's a pretty decent guy. He takes on a contract for $400,000 to perform the nearly impossible task of stealing over forty specialty cars by the end of the week, and calls in his buddies to help. The majority of the film features car after car getting stolen with sometimes humorous results (this was kind of hard to watch having recently had my own car stolen). But when one of his partners rats on him, the last forty-five minutes of the film center around a desperate chase between Pace and the California Police. A poor '73 Mustang named Eleanor takes an incredible amount of abuse trying to get away from the cops as it faces increasingly difficult obstacles and a seemingly endless supply of black and white cop cars. The continuity is particularly noteworthy, as every piece of damage on the hero's car remains consistent, and the car's performance slowly begins to falter. It actually FEELS like a real-time linear chase. Absolutely brilliant stuff. My only complaint is that the pacing for the first half of the film is dreadfully slow, as was typical of films from that time period.

Notes on the remastered 25th anniversary edition: There is justice in this world afterall. After the unremarkable remake of this film in 2000, I was hoping to see the original re-released. It took a bit longer than expected, but it was finally re-issued, restored, and remastered in glorious widescreen. The film looks absolutely great, and has been completely rescored with an innocuous light jazz soundtrack that helps pick up the pace of the film. It definitely beats the dreadful "Lois Lane Blues", but I kind of missed the twang of the "Gone In 60 Seconds" theme song. The sound has also been cleaned up and sweetened quite a bit, but a lot of the subtleties of various engine sounds seem to be lost in the background. I remember in the original you can actually hear Eleanor faltering as well as see her falling apart. That distinction is hardly noticeable in the new version. The DVD is also packed with extra goodies, lovingly assembled by widow Denise Halicki and Toby's family, friends, and fans. A great tribute to a great man and a great film.