Halicki Mercantile // 1974 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // November 13th, 2012
I should've read my horoscope this morning.
Once upon a time, a teenager named H.B. "Toby" Halicki moved from his New York home to California where, by 17, he took his knowledge of cars and opened his own auto body shop. Soon, he was making enough money that he opened a salvage company and, soon after that, was buying up real estate. Through all of these successful business ventures, he never lost his love of cars and, with his money, decided on his ultimate dream: to make the greatest car chase movie ever made. The result was Gone in 60 Seconds, and while its status as "greatest" is debatable, there's no argument that there is no other movie out there like it.
Maindrian Pace (Halicki, The Junkman) keeps a day job as an inspector for car insurance companies, but really, he's the greatest car thief in the world and runs a grand theft auto operation out of his garage. When a South American drug lord hires him to steal 48 cars in a week, he and his gang have their work cut out for them. But they're pros and get the job done, except for one vehicle, a '73 Ford Mustang Fastback codenamed "Eleanor," which proves elusive. When Pace finally gets his hands on it, with only hours to spare, he speeds off with the police in pursuit, starting a county-wide pursuit with Pace desperately trying to escape.
It's hard to get more independent than Gone in 60 Seconds. Halicki produced, directed, wrote, starred, and distributed the film all himself, and made a hit in the process. That said, it's barely a movie. Stripped of all pretenses of story and character, this is no-holds-barred chase action and nothing more. The suspense lies in how dangerous the film feels in terms of the people onscreen; it's frankly shocking that nobody died during the production and, if nothing else, that Halicki (who did all his own driving) wasn't seriously injured.
The first thirty minutes, which sets the scene, is extremely clunky. There were few professional actors cast in the film and it shows. There really isn't any reason to even watch the first third, as it ultimately has little to do with the meat of the film.
This is a movie by car lovers for car lovers and, after all that initial setup, these auto fetishists will get exactly what they want. Once the thieves start working, the movie is badass cars galore until the very end. Aside from a few moments of essentially meaningless plot progression, it's all limos, muscle cars, luxury vehicles, roadsters, and even a custom racing jeep. And that's not even to mention "Eleanor," the Mustang that gets the lead star credit. It might not be the most expensive or most stylish car on display, but it gets the most action.
The famous car chase, which takes up the final forty minutes of the film, is plainly fantastic. Halicki, in the driver's seat, takes the car speeding through the long beach city streets and highways, around railroad tracks, over dirt hills and quarries, and even up on the sidewalk. As I said, it's amazing that there were no fatalities, but the results, dangerous as it all was, generate genuine excitement. Halicki, who built a NASCAR-style roll cage into the Mustang (which was part of his massive personal collection of vehicles), puts the car and himself through the paces. He wrecked it multiple times, including one insane crash where the car is clipped and he spins into a street lamp at 80mph, knocking it straight over before driving away. The legendary jump at the end of the film isn't quite as stunning as is often advertised, but it's still very cool and a perfectly fitting final stunt.
Gone in 60 Seconds isn't a great movie per se, but as a series of stunts and chases, it's the most genuine car porn you can find. Unfortunately, the shoddy remake has overshadowed the original's impact, but with this release, it should regain some of the notoriety that was taken away from it.
Like the movie itself, Gone in 60 Seconds on Blu-ray is independent all the way. Distributed by Halicki Films, this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack delivers, though there will be some quibbling from die-hard fans. The 1.85:1/1080p image transfer looks very good, especially given the comparisons to the original materials before restoration. It preserves the heavy grain structure, but colors are dramatically improved, and while black levels aren't quite as deep as they could be, they get the job done. Nobody will confuse this for a new film, but it looks great. The sound, though, is where there will be some complaint. First, there is no lossless sound mix; only DTS and Dolby surround tracks. There should have been more attention to this, but the DTS track still worked my system pretty well. Dialog is clear and sound effects are strong, but it's in those effects that people will argue. The original mono mix was thrown out for this new mix and the producers recorded all new sound effects for it. They sound realistic to me, though, so I can't complain. The other issue, which is discussed in the extras, is the missing songs, written by Halicki's brother, that couldn't be included because of rights issues. I don't think it's a big issue, because all of it sounds really good, but dedicated fans have and continue to complain.
Extras on the disc are strong. They start with an hour long featurette called "The Life and Times of H.B. "Tony" Halicki: The Car Crash King," an exhaustive biography that aired on the Speed Network about the man that goes from his upbringing through his various careers and movies to his tragic death on the set of Gone in 60 Seconds 2. It gives fans everything they might want to know about the man. An interview by E! Entertainment with Denice Halicki, Toby's widow, gives some of the same information, but is more focused on the 2000 remake, which she produced along with Jerry Bruckheimer, and isn't that interesting. Another interview with Lee Iacocca, the man who developed the Mustang, is better, as it focuses on what the automotive giant understands: cars. Finally, there are three ten minute clips of car chase footage from Halicki's other three films shows him as a man of singular vision. The box advertises a few other interviews, but unless they mean the appearances of these people in the Speed documentary, they aren't actually on the disc.
You've got to really love cars to put the name of your Mustang as the leading credit, and Toby Halicki really loved cars. His filmmaking prowess wasn't exactly first-rate, but he was so ambitious and driven to get the film made that you can't help but respect him for it. The chases are awesome, the crashes are even better, and while it's barely a movie, it's absolutely worth watching.
Review content copyright © 2012 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Halicki Mercantile
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* DVD Copy