NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Gone In Sixty Seconds (1974)

H. B. Halicki directed, wrote, starred in, produced and even did his own stuntwork to make this movie come to life, even hiring friends and family to keep the budget low. The cops, firemen and paramedics were real ones from Carson, California, as was its mayor, Sak Yamamoto. All of the vehicles they use were bought at an auction for $200 each and the fire trucks during the big chase at the end are Long Beach fire department trucks on their way to put out a real fire.

That final chase is forty minutes long and had no script. The whole movie had no script. Instead, Halicki showed editor Warner E. Leighton a piece of paper with a big circle, telling him that they went around a dust bowl twice and that was the script. Leighton had no idea what would be given to him each day.

H.B. Halicki Mercantile Co. & Junk Yard was the business that its creator ran and there were times that he would shut down the shooting so that he could fix some cars for money so that he could come back and wreck some for this movie.

Halicki is Maindrian Pace, an insurance investigator who runs a chop shop and is also the boss of a ring of car thieves. He has a code of honor, however, as everything he steals has to be insured so that the owners are compensated.

That code does not stop him from working for a South American drug lord who offers $200,000 to start and $2000,000 to finish taking 48 specific vehicles in five days. Each of the cars — given female names — have different degrees of difficulty to take, but Eleanor, a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang, is the toughest of all. Each time he attempts to find one, an issue keeps Maindrian from completing his order.  The final chase in which he tries to complete the order takes up six California cities and seemingly hundreds of vehicles, ending when he jumps the car thirty feet in the air for 128 feet. Usually cars have a gas-driven catapult or the help of CGI to make the stunt look good. Nope, That’s just H.B. in a car, compressing ten vertebrae and never walking the same way again. At one point, he hit a lamp post at more than 80 miles an hour and when he was finally awakened, the first thing he said was, “Did we get coverage?”

Sadly, his luck would not last. When making the sequel fifteen years later, a water tower fell incorrectly and the cable attached to it snapped. This chopped part of a light pole, which fell on Halicki, killing him. A shame and yet, how many times did he walk away from disaster?

For a movie that has 93 car crashes, of course Eleanor would be listed in the cast. That car deserves it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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