Editor’s Note: All this week, from Sunday, December 6 to Saturday, December 12 we’re featuring car flicks. Welcome to our “Fast and Furious Week II” of reviews.
When the commercials ran on television for this . . . oh, man, we, the wee-little middle schoolers freaked out. Everyone in my class went to the drive-in to see this, and my parents took me, along with Kevin and Tommy from the neighborhood, along with a sky-blue-metal-with-red-logo Pepsi cooler filled with drinks and snacks to the neighborhood quad-drive in.
The late H. B. “Toby” Halicki developed his lifelong affection for speed while working as a young boy at his family’s New York towing business and assisting his father in his second-hand car dealership business. After experiencing the loss of his two brothers, he decided to move to California for a fresh start; he came to own an impound and towing business, H.B. Halicki Mercantile Co. & Junk Yard.
Fascinated by the world of film around him Los Angeles, he decided to use his impound and junkyard’s resources to make the ultimate car-based action film: Gone in 60 Seconds. And with no previous film experience, he assigned himself as the film’s writer, director, producer, star, and, most importantly, its lead stuntman and coordinator. He was Tommy “The Room” Wiseau before Tommy — only better.
Since this was all about car chases and automotive destruction that’s centered around the now iconic (dialogless) escape of Maindrain Pace (H. B. “Toby” Halicki) — a 40-minute car chase ensues, with 93 vehicles destroyed across six California cities stretching fom Long Beach to Carson.
Halicki had the action sequences all planned out, so there’s no “official script” for the film, outside of a few pages that outlined its thin plot and its related dialog, which was mostly the product of improvisation and ad-libbing by the amateur cast. In addition, Halicki incorporated some good ol’ fashion Roger Corman ingenuity: when he heard about a train derailment in the area, he incorporated the tragedy into the “plot,” so as to increase the film’s production values.
Drawing from his life experiences, Halicki’s anti-hero of Maindrian Pace is a respectable insurance investigator who runs an automobile chop shop in Long Beach that serves as the homebase for his professional car theft ring. He conceals the stolen cars by incorporating parts (and VIN numbers) from legitimately purchased wrecks.
His profitable business goes off the rails when a South American drug lord makes Pace an offer he can’t refuse: steal 48 vintage and exotic cars, along with limos and semi-trailer trucks for $400,000 under a deadline. Pace accepts the work order.
And that takes us back to us wee-lads convincing our parents to take us to the drive-in on the film’s opening weekend: shot for $150,000 the film went onto gross $40 million.
Now, everyone knows about the has-nothing-to-with-the-original 2000 remake starring Nic Cage (we’ll always be a “Nic Cage Bitch”), but did you know (as with Easy Rider), there were no less than four sequels to Gone in 60 Seconds?
The first was the sort-of 1977 sequel titled Double Nickels, so dubbed because it featured most of the cast and crew from Gone, including Ed Abrams, Mick Brennan, George Cole, and Jack Vacek.
Then, in 1982 and 1983, Halicki recycled footage from Gone into the meta-fiction “sequels” The Junkman and Deadline Auto Theft, both which feature Mick Brennan from Gone. The cinematographer from Double Nickels, Tony Syslo, also worked on those “sequels.”
While “Gone in Sixty Seconds II and III” are interchangeably used as titles or subtitles on The Junkman and Deadline Auto Theft in their various reissues in various markets, Halicki began shooting the actually Gone in 60 Seconds 2 in June 1989 with himself and his new wife, Denise, as its stars. Not taking any chances, and as with most sequels, Halicki stuck to the original story — only a bigger and badder version — concerned with the exploits of an international car thief.
Two months later, on August 20, 1989, the film — with its plans to crash n’ smash 400 cars, was over. Halicki died while filming a dramatic stunt centered around the destruction of a 160 foot water tower that fell on the car and killed him instantly.
After several trials over his estate culminating in 1994 with a final decision, Halicki’s wife, Denise, vowed to finish the sequel. And that film eventually became the Jerry Bruckheimer-Nic Cage 2000 remake (Sam’s review).