RETRO REVIEW: GONE IN 60 SECONDS Smashes Up Cinefest with the Greatest Car Chases in Movie History

Posted on: Aug 21st, 2011 By:

By Dean Treadway
Contributing Blogger

GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974); Dir: H.B. Halicki; Screenplay by H.B. Halicki; Starring H.B. Halicki, Marion Busia and Jerry Daugirda; Thurs. Aug. 25; 35 mm print; 7:30 p.m.; Cinefest at Georgia State University. Trailer here.

If you’re looking for the greatest car chase movie in history, Georgia State University’s cracking theater Cinefest has got it, and will serve it up on glorious 35mm for a one-time-only showing at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 25. Now we’re not talkin’ THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS or BULLITT, neither THE ITALIAN JOB or THE SEVEN-UPS. And it’s not the crappy Nicholas Cage remake that bears this movie’s title. It’s H.B. Halicki’s 1974 drive-in masterpiece GONE IN 60 SECONDS. It is a smashing movie.

The title refers to the time it takes for this movie’s thieving crew to get into and steal someone’s ride. Their task here is to steal 48 cars of varying makes and deliver them to a South American buyer in a short amount of time. That’s nearly all you need to know about the plot. Character and dialogue run a distant second to action in GONE IN 60 SECONDS and that’s the way it should be. Somehow, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced remake from 2000 screwed this simplicity up, giving away precious car chase time for a ridiculous, boring family-revenge plot involving Cage and his brother, played by Giovanni Ribisi. (Why, I ask? Why?)

One of many high-speed car chases in GONE IN 60 SECONDS, Copyright H.B. Halicki Mercantile Co., 1974.

The original GONE IN 60 SECONDS does contain some family strife plot elements, yes, but it’s more concerned with seeing how Halicki—who plays lead stunt driver AND lead car thief Maindrian Pace—plots to nab the final and most coveted buggy of all: a 1973 orange Ford Mustang Mach I code-named “Eleanor.” This effort serves as the backbone for the film’s centerpiece: a nail-biting, 50-minute car holocaust that was often staged on the real highways of California with barely a notice given to police, onlookers, and uninvolved fellow drivers (there’s one smash-up involving Eleanor and a light pole that was really an accident—one so hairy that the production had to be shut down while Halicki healed up).

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Retro Review: Elizabeth Taylor Purrs on the Big Screen in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Fabulous Fox

Posted on: Jul 10th, 2011 By:

By Dean Treadway
Contributing Blogger

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1965); based on the Tennessee Williams play; Dir: Richard Brooks; Screenplay by Richard Brooks and James Poe; Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Judith Anderson; Tues. July 12; pre-show at 7 PM/film at 7:30 p.m.; Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at Fox Theatre. Trailer here.

Surely, the recent passing of superstar Elizabeth Taylor is behind the programming of 1958’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Fabulous Fox on Tuesday, July 12.  And it’s a good choice, too. Taylor’s sultry, skimpily-dressed Maggie The Cat is one of her most iconic performances, and is certainly the definitive filmed (or televised) portrayal of scribe Tennessee Williams’ most cunning heroine.

Still, the film version of Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1955 play could be better. In it, Paul Newman plays Maggie’s husband Brick, a former football star who’s literally been crippled by booze (he spends the whole film hobbled by crutches). Living on his bloated, bellowing father’s “plantation,” he’s constantly getting jabbed from all sides. His needling father and mother (the excellent Burl Ives and Judith Anderson) are wondering why he and Maggie don’t have any children while his brother Gooper (Jack Carson) has had a whole passel of kids with his woman (Madeleine Sherwood). Meanwhile, Maggie has moved into full seduction mode; the play takes place on a hot summer day, but that’s not the only reason she’s often seen in her skivvies. She’s trying all she can do to put the fire back into their romance. But Brick won’t have any of it; the idea of he and Maggie together has become distasteful to him, because he still blames her for driving his best friend to suicide.

The problem with the film comes with this final detail. In the original play, it was pretty clear that Brick and his friend, Skipper, were engaged in a homosexual relationship, and that Maggie slept with Skipper in order to break the duo up. But none of this is alluded to in the film, because it was 1958 and the studio, MGM, would have none of it. So the central conflict in the film is incapacitated, just like Brick (Williams himself was disappointed with the film version, telling the press that the movies “would set the industry back 50 years“). And yet Paul Newman wisely conveys some pained undertones that let us know what was REALLY going on.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Copyright MGM Pictures, 1958.

The film bogs down in its middle, too, but it’s always handsome to look at, thanks to the Oscar-nominated color cinematography by William Daniels. And it boasts of one of the finest supporting performances in any Tennessee Williams adaptation: that of Burl Ives, reprising his Broadway triumph as the imposing Big Daddy Tabbitt, bemoaning the family’s danged “mendacity” while suffering, as a terminal case, through what might be his last birthday celebration. Somehow, Ives escaped an Oscar nomination himself, but Taylor and Newman got one, as did the film, its director (Richard Brooks) and its screenplay (by Brooks and James Poe).

In the end, although it’s not entirely successful, the main reason to see CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is for Ives and for Taylor. Both are forces of nature, but for wildly different reasons, of course.  Ives blusters magnificently, while Taylor slinks around like the beautiful cat she is. The Fabulous Fox is the place to be on Tuesday, July 12 (the pre-show, with the Mighty Mo singalong, cartoon and trailers, starts at 7 p.m.); one cannot miss a chance to see the stunning Elizabeth Taylor writ large on the big screen, where her beauty and talent were always meant to be experienced.

Dean Treadway is a longtime Atlanta film analyst and film festival programmer with more than 25 years of published works. His popular film blog is called filmicability with Dean Treadway and can be perused here at https://www.filmicability.blogspot.com/.  He is also a correspondent for Movie Geeks United, the Internet’s #1 movie-related podcast, at https://www.blogtalkradio.com/moviegeeksunited.

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