August 4, 2001 -- Last year's "Gone in 60 Seconds" was a sequel to a 1974 film of the same name. Since sequels are often inferior to the original, I decided to check out the original from the local video store. I found out the original isn't always better.
Except for the car chase in the last 40 minutes of the film, which is an exceptional car chase, the rest of the film is the pits. The acting is awful. There's some really bad dialogue looping (recordings made by actors during post-production to clear up earlier problems, as shown in the film "Postcards From the Edge"), there's hardly any plot at all and there is no character development.
The main part of the movie is an extended car chase with masses of police cars and some police helicopters chasing a Ford Mustang all over Los Angeles. The car is driven by H.B. Halicki, who wrote, produced and directed the film. He was also the stunt coordinator of this low-budget cult hit. Halicki died in an auto accident while filming a sequel to this film in 1989. His widow was a producer of the newer version of "Gone in 60 Seconds" which was released in 2000. The newer film stars Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Cage and Robert Duvall.
The thing that is different about this 1974 car chase is that while being less spectacular, it looks a lot more realistic than more modern car chases. Except for one scene where the Mustang jumps over a pile of cars without the aid of a ramp, the cars do not defy the laws of physics. You can see and hear the fenders crunching. There are not a lot of spectacular scenes of cars flying through the air and exploding, just a lot of very highly skilled drivers going very fast. Most scenes in modern films also occur at pretty low speeds. This film does have some high-speed chases.
One of the things that hurts the rest of the film is the out-of-date hair and clothing styles of the characters in the film. It looks like a clown show. It doesn't help that the car thieves wear really bad wigs as disguises. Everything but the car chase seems very out of date. There are a few scenes which attempt to show the professional skills of car thieves, but most of that stuff is not very interesting. There is one very funny scene of a car thief being chased out of a car he is trying to steal by a tiger.
This film, like the 2000 remake, does deal with America's fascination with the automobile. The sex appeal of cars, the status, and the fascination with speed. These are the stock and trade of "Gone in 60 Minutes." It is one wild ride. The rest of the film, however, is sorely lacking. This film rates a C-.
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