Maindrian Pace (H.B. Halicki) is a car thief, and a highly talented one at that. His team are hired to steal 48 cars in the shortest possible time, and, being the best, it's not long before they've achieved their goal. But there's a snag: one of the cars is unusable, as it's filled with bags of heroin, so Pace burns it and steals a mustard yellow Ford Mustang in its place. Just his luck that the increasingly suspicious police are on his tail, and so begins an incredibly destructive chase around California...
The car chase was de rigueur in every 1970s action thriller worth its salt, and this didn't escape the notice of stunt driver Halicki, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in this tribute to the art of high speed pursuit. Everything in the film is built around the final sequence, which lasts around forty minutes, yes that's right, forty minutes of the Mustang being hunted by every police car Halicki could find and smashing up everything in its path. The preceding plotting, which is vague at best, is pretty hard to sit through, but you're compelled to keep watching by the promise of the famous chase.
The film also serves as a warning to lock your car and make sure it's safe - there's even a message to that effect on the Goodyear blimp. However, the action revels in the amorality of stealing cars, and goes into much detail about how to go about it. The whole thing obsesses over the automobile, and coupled with the amateurish acting, Gone in 60 Seconds resembles a seventies porno with the sex scenes replaced with driving scenes. It also has the look of a home movie, as if Halicki wasn't content with tinkering with his cars during the weekends, but had to turn them into movie stars too: the Mustang, named Eleanor, receives top billing.
Nowadays you can turn on the TV and see real life chases caught on police cameras; perhaps the impact of the screen car chase has been devalued. Halicki's version doesn't entirely glamourise the anti-hero's crimes - we see the effects of crashes with people being pulled from the wreckage and into waiting ambulances. But it's still presented as high speed entertainment, as much for him as for his audience. Probably even more so.
The sheer length of the sequence becomes hypnotic eventually, watching the battered Mustang race through streets and along highways, never mind that you wish for a more charismatic presence inside the car (if only Starsky and Hutch had been involved). Weak attempts at humour (the black guys still driving their trashed car, for example), just get in the way. This is the car chase in its purest form, but finally it's a shallow experience. Music by Ronald Halicki and Philip Kachaturian (replaced on the remastered DVD and Blu-ray with a horrible new soundtrack). Remade poorly in 2000.
[The Kaleidoscope Blu-ray has a documentary about Halicki, interviews with Denice Halicki and others, trailers and more.]
American car-obsessed director. A junkyard-owning multi-millionaire, in 1974 Halicki wrote, produced, directed and starred in the action-packed cult hit Gone in 60 Seconds. The semi-autobiographical Junkman followed, while Deadline Autotheft was a reworked rerelease of his debut. Halicki was killed in 1989 while performing a stunt on the set of Gone in 60 Seconds 2.