Easter Egg: From the Main Menu, go to Bonus Features, click on Credits, move the cursor to the Main Menu, and press the "up" key on your remote. You'll be prompted to press PLAY, and a montage of stills taken from an older film print will flash by, allowing you to see the movie in under 9 minutes.
The original "Gone In 60 Seconds" was given a second life when Jerry Bruckheimer's lame remake appeared in 2000, and rather than quietly spitting out the first film as a budget DVD, or using it as packaging fodder for a 2-disc Christmas release, Denise Halicki, H.B. "Toby" Halicki's widow, was smart enough to present the film with enough extras to broaden the film's appeal from cult classic, and please fans of the car chase/car crash genre.
As cinematographer Jack Vacek and editor Warner Leighton explain in their informative commentary track, Toby Halicki had his sights set on making a movie - something he'd never done before - and pulled it off with amazing bravado, using several locations, lots of friends and contacts, and supplying pretty much all of the cars destroyed in the film's exciting chase sequences. Still working as a very successful mechanic during filming, Halicki's custom restoration and rebuilding business paid for the film's final $1.3 million budget, and every penny shows up on the screen.
Vacek also made his debut as feature film cinematographer, and though the interior and night shots are rough around the edges, the chase sequences are exceptionally executed, with editor Leighton keeping the pace at a brisk pace. Navarre's transfer is very beautiful, bringing out the gleaming metal of all those exotic cars, and the puzzling colour schemes of the early seventies; plenty of browns, yellows, dashes of neon, and translucent blues, with unruly and immense hair to keep everyone's eyes peeled. Though non-anamorphic, the letterboxed presentation reveals Vacek's original compositions, and gets rid of the film's reputation as being visually crude and workmanlike.
The Dolby and DTS 5.1 surround retrofit is successful blend of the film's original audio stems: dialogue and sound effects channeled to the centre speaker, with pans effects and crashes mixed with the new synth score from Bill Maxwell and Lou Pardini; and the rear surrounds channel a continuous mix of location ambience (often newly simulated), with occasional music tracks. The final result is a good balance, although the rawness of the original dialogue tracks does come through in spots, as in an early interior garage scene.
The DVD's extras are considerable, and they're designed to place the film in it's automotive context, and often reinforce Halicki's position as a maverick; bull-headed, ingenious, and sometimes insanely reckless.
Lee Iacocca discusses the creation of the Mustang during his years at Ford, and shows surprise (and a bit of pride) that the film's lead - Eleanor, one of the ultimate seventies muscle cars - survived the film's brutal crashes. Parnelli Jones, a respected stock car racer, talks about his movie cameo, with associate Bill Dilamarter showing off the Bronco that was "stolen" by Halicki's character in the film. J.C. Agajamian, the son of Ascot raceway owner Agajamian Sr., warmly recalls working with Halicki as a bit actor, and his near-death experience during a head-on collision. Though he didn't appear in the film, ace stunt driver Bobby Ore explains some of the minutia pro drivers look for in any given chase, lending credibility to the ingenuity of the film's stunts. Ore also takes Denise Halicki on a swinging ride in Eleanor, and though the car sounds pretty rough, she's still a functional car with only a battered shell and radiator problems - not bad for a car that swings into a light poll at highway speeds, and is airborne plenty of times.
The last extras include the original and new video trailers for the film, plus the original trailer for "The Junkman," Halicki's second feature, made in 1982, and also available on DVD. The still gallery features a vast array of behind the scenes shots (Halicki was always taking pictures during production), footage from two very rough deleted scenes, and an assembly of marked but unused footage from the early portions of the film's final chase, with music from the film's new soundtrack.
While the new score works well with the film, the original soundtrack mix, with music by Philip Kachaturian, isn't included on the DVD, thereby leaving the film's first soundtrack available on older video releases, which will no doubt fade into oblivion.
The original "Gone In 60 Seconds" remains an influential film in the action genre, with bold (and crazy) ideas preserved in a stellar DVD release for the next generation of film fans. And for car lovers, there's enough visual and aural details to put a smile on your face.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan