The Original, And The Best
The “original” Gone In 60 Seconds, made in 1974, takes out second place in our list of the best car chase movies of all time. The film was written, produced and starred self-confessed car nut H.B. "Toby" Halicki, who also did all of his own extraordinary stunt driving in the picture.
The premise is similar to the re-make of 2000, an experienced car thief (Maindrian Pace, an insurance investigator) stealing cars to order for wealthy clientele – although if they really were all that wealthy, why wouldn’t they simply go out and buy them at a dealership?
Ever conscious of being overheard by the police, the cars are referred to by female names. The inevitable large order comes in, this time from a South American drug lord. $400,000 is offered for the delivery of 48 cars, and yes, Eleanor is designated the name for a Mach 1 Mustang on the list.
Other cars on the list include an assortment of Mustang’s, Cadillac’s limousines, even a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
. All runs smoothly for the crew until they come to Eleanor, the prized 1973 Mach 1 Ford Mustang.
The car had been successfully stolen, however Pace is an “honest crook”, and will only steal cars that are insured. When Eleanor’s owner places an ad in the paper, explaining the car is indeed uninsured and pleading for the car's return, “no questions asked”, Pace decides that he must return it.
The Backup Plan, And The Real Accident
The backup plan is to steal another Mach 1 Mustang – problem is the other one that Pace has cased out is under police surveillance with drugs on board. And this is when the chase starts, a 40 minute marathon that passes through five cities. In a notable scene, Eleanor is clipped by a Cadillac as a result of misjudging the freeway exit, spinning out of control and colliding with a lamp post.
One of the “wives tales” that turns out to be true, this scene was, in fact, a real accident, as Halicki misjudged both the lane and speed of the Caddy. Halicki was injured in the crash, but the scene was left in, and Eleanor is seen driving away from the accident and the chase continues.
The jump scene at the end of the chase is also notable, it setting the standards for a number of subsequently produced pictures. Acting as the climax to the lengthy chase sequence, Eleanor is seen jumping over the scene of a traffic accident (unrelated to the chase) after a hood leaning on a car allows him to catch air.
The Jump, And The Compacted Vertebrae
The jump is over 128 feet in length, and today would never be contemplated without the help of CGI. Director and Star H.B. Toby Halicki compacted ten vertebrae performing the jump, and while the injury was not very serious, the director of photography Jack Vacek claimed Halicki never walked the same again.
All of the police cars damaged in the film, as well as the garbage truck that overturns, were bought at city auction by director H.B. Halicki in 1972, for an average price of $200 each. They sat in an empty lot for over a year until production on the movie began in 1973.
The fire trucks seen on the Vincent Thomas Bridge during the main chase were actual Long Beach FD units on their way to an emergency call. The "crash" staged for the film was blocking both lanes and they could not get past until the cars were cleared. Director Halicki asked the camera crew to film them in case there was somewhere to fit the shot into the movie. There was.
No Script, But Who Cares?
Uniquely there was no official script for the movie, apart from several pages outlining main dialog sequences. Much of the action/dialog was improvised and made up by the cast and crew as they went along.
Nearly every civilian vehicle seen in close proximity to the main chase (especially in downtown Long Beach) was owned by director H.B. Halicki. This resulted in several of them being seen multiple times throughout the 40-minute sequence.
With the exception of a few extras, the bulk of the by-standers/public in the movie are real people just going about their business who had no idea that a film was being made. This caused several incidents where people assumed a real police pursuit was in progress, with many trying to help the accident "victims".
In the scene at the Carson Street off-ramp where the two cars collide after Maindrian drives against traffic, a pedestrian can be seen in the background shouting angrily at the passing police cars for not stopping to help the occupants.
In total, 93 cars were crashed in a 97 minute movie. And we didn’t tell you how the movie ends – but lets just say, never trust a car wash attendant.
Love, Marriage and Gone In 60 Seconds 2
A sad footnote to the story revolves around Toby Halicki's attempted 1989 remake, Gone In Sixty Seconds 2. By then, Toby had met the love of his life, Denice, who he had married on May 11th, 1989. Shooting of the new movie began on August 29th that same year, and this time Toby wanted his new wife to star along side him. Toby was preparing for the most dramatic stunt sequence in the film when a 160 foot-tall water tower suddenly toppled, a cable attached to the tower snapped, whipped around, and sheared off a telephone pole, which fell on him.
As if things weren't bad enough for Denice, she not only had to deal with the death of her new husband, but also try to protect his legacy, which not only included his movie rights, but also his fine automobile collection. After 7 long trials she managed to secure the rights to the movies, however she couldn't protect the car collection.
Denice then struck a deal with Disney studio's and producer Jerry Bruckheimer in 1995 for the Hollywood re-make. For the next three years she worked as Executive Producer. The new film, starring Nicholas Cage, started filming in
1999, and premiered on June 5, 2000. It was indeed a good film, but it never reached the dizzying heights of the original.