Friday, May 23, 2014

Gone in 60 Seconds

On May 9, I caught the second half of a Midnites for Maniacs double bill at the Castro.  I skipped the 20th anniversary screening of Speed but was enticed by Gone in 60 Seconds.  This wasn't the 2000 film with Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie but rather the 1974 original.

Gone in 60 Seconds starring and directed by H.B. "Toby" Halicki; (1974)

I don't believe I have ever seen the 2000 version of Gone in 60 Seconds in on sitting.  I know I didn't see it in the movie theater but it is on cable television so much that I may have seen it completely in a piecemeal fashion.  The remake seems to follow the original except there was no ex-girlfriend character as portrayed by Jolie.  Also, the motivational factor for Cage's character was to save his brother but greed is primary catalyst in the original.

Maindrian Pace (Halicki) is an automobile insurance investigator who uses his insider knowledge to run a chop shop.  I can't remember the opening scam in detail but it involved a totaled car which he is aware of because of his job.  As I recall, he buys the wrecked car at an auction, steals another car of the same make and model, switches the VIN tags and then resells it.

Pace meets with a South American drug lord off the coast of LA.  Pace receives an order to steal 48 cars of a specific make and model; some of them uncommon vehicles.  Pace gathers his crew (which includes most of his siblings) to carry out the difficult task of stealing 48 cars in five days.  Rather than identifying the cars by make and model, Pace assigns each car a codename which is a female name.  That way, if the criminal are overheard, they can claim they were talking about a woman, e.g. "Did you take care of Debbie last night?"

The main portion of the film consists of an extended sequence of scenes of cars being stolen.  I'm surprised how many people left their cars unlocked and/or their keys in the ignition.  These car thieves don't have to worry about car alarms or even "the Club."  Sometimes they use deception to get their car but typically they just get into the car and drive away while the driver has stepped away for a short period. 

I guess the 1970s were really a different time.  I remember as a boy in the 1970s being with my parents.  I cannot recall the event but remember parking in a large multi-story parking garage.  When we returned to our car, somehow had parked behind us and blocked us in.  My father looked into the car and saw the keys hanging from the sun visor.  The car was unlocked so my father got in and backed it up while my mother backed out of the parking space with our car.  Then my father drove the car into the spot we had just vacated.  He left the door unlocked and the keys on the visor.  At the time, I thought it strange because my parents had taught me to always lock the doors when exiting the car.  Now I find the episode mind boggling.  I cannot imagine that happening today.  I don't know what that says about the times we live in or me.

Pace is a car thief and a prolific one but he has one rule:  he only steals cars that are insured so the owners are financially harmed.  Pace and his crew are able to steal all 48 cars but at the last minute, he discovers that Eleanor (a 73 Ford Mustang) is uninsured.  After some prodding from his girlfriend, Pace returns Eleanor but is secure in the knowledge that he knows where he can get his hands on a replacement Eleanor.  Unfortunately for him, Pace's brother-in-law has tipped off the cops.  One of the cars that were stolen had bricks of cocaine in it.  Pace's brother-in-law wanted to keep the coke but Pace has it destroyed instead.  In a fit of rage, the man tips the cops off.

This leads to the pièce de résistance - a 40 minute car chase which has been billed as the longest car chase in cinematic history.  The entire film was only 105 minutes so a 40 minute car chase tells you where Halicki's priorities laid.  I found the chase to be moderately entertaining but the sheer length of it wore me down.  My attention wandered at times and I dozed off for a short period.  The excess of the car chase was readily apparent to me although others may disagree.  Gone in 60 Seconds was an interesting 70s film until the last 20 minutes or so.  That's another way of saying the film would have benefited if they had edited the final car chase by 50% or so.

Halicki did all his own stunts in the film.  In 1989, Halicki began shooting Gone in 60 Seconds 2.  He was killed while filming a car stunt.  Chief Maniac Jesse Hawthorne Ficks (who I have been seeing quite a bit at local film screenings recently) mentioned that Halicki's widow plans to finish the film with some of the original footage.  However, you can buy the unfinished film on this website.

Gone in 60 Seconds isn't a great film. If you like character development or plot twists, the film won't particularly interest you.  The car chases aren't enhanced by CGI or special effects.  I think that is what dates the film mostly.  The car chases look quaint compared to say The Fast and Furious films.  That leaves the film as a kind of historical curiosity rather than a film that stands on its own merits.  I wonder if Jesse would have screened this if not for the 2000 remake.

Jesse announced his schedule for the next few months.  Next is a June 13 vampire double bill at the Castro including Vampire's Kiss.  On July 5, the Maniac screens all three Back to the Future films at the Castro.  In August, Midnites for Maniacs relocates to the YBCA for 2 days of William Lustig films.

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