1974. Written, directed and starring H.B. Halicki.
I’m almost done with my drive-in movie phase. I’m building up to Vanishing Point.
Gone in 60 Seconds is essentially two movies. The first half involves an insurance scam/car theft ring that requires the stealing and delivery of 48 cars in two days. H.B. Halicki portrays the lead of a team who steal some of the most beautiful cars (they refer to the different makes and models by women’s names) by deception or opportunism. They complete the theft of all the cars on their list, but one — a yellow Mustang they call Eleanor — isn’t insured, so they have to get another.
This leads to the second half of the movie, which is a chase through Los Angeles and surrounding area. The chase goes on and on, and actually drains the movie of any suspense. It’s hard enough to cheer for car thieves in the first place, but when people are being removed from their wrecked cars as a result of the desperate chase, I started hoping ol’ Halicki would get caught so the carnage — and the movie — would end. The ultimate escape is a little hard to believe, but it did bring the movie to a close.
There are a number of reasons to watch this movie — specifically, the hair, the clothes and the cars. The hair is ridiculous (watch for a cameo by Parnelli Jones’ combover), the clothes are bad, and the cars are fantastic! A scene near the end of the first half of the movie has Halicki walking through a parking ramp of the hot cars, and one after another, they are amazing — Rolls Royces, muscle cars, big-as-a-boat Cadillacs. I am not a car freak, but I could name most of them. Which made me think.
The collapse of the American auto industry is as tragic as it is infuriating, especially when you look at that lineup of wheels. There was a time when you could tell a Mustang from a Challenger, and you cared about the difference between them. (The crushing of a Challenger is the most emotional scene in this movie.) Cars had personality, and costs weren’t lowered by making parts between models interchangeable.
Since gas was cheap back then (but not for long), cars were made powerful, because that’s what the consumer wanted. Since then, consumers have wanted more efficient cars, but the industry didn’t respond, continuing a one-size-fits-all philosophy that has doomed the Big Three. What personality do you get from driving a Stratus or a Festiva? What would the industry give to have another car as loved as the Mustang?
Anyway, don’t get sentimental for classic cars before watching Gone in 60 Seconds (the original of course — there’s apparently been a remake), because most of the beautiful cars you’ll drool over end up as scrap metal at the end of the chase. Come to think of it, I bet this was great at a drive-in!