July 14th, 2008

GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974) ** ½

H.B. Halicki wrote, produced, directed, starred and did all of his own stunt driving in this high octane, low budget drive-in hit.  Halicki plays Mandrian Pace, a car thief who is trying to steal 48 expensive cars.  He pisses off his business partner one too many times, so he calls the cops on Pace while he’s in the process of stealing a ’73 Mustang codenamed “Eleanor”.  The next forty minutes is nothing but one big chase scene as Pace tries to outrun the cops while causing some serious car crashes, ten car pile-ups and other assorted general mayhem. 

 

The extended chase sequence that passes for the film’s second half is quite exciting, although it does get a bit numbing after awhile.  I have nothing against Halicki smashing cars up for the last forty minutes of this film, but I do have some pretty major issues with the first fifty five minutes of the movie.  The biggest problem is with Pace himself.  Halicki isn’t a bad actor, but Pace barely even qualifies as a movie character.  We never learn anything about him other than he’s a car thief, and he’s a pretty unlikable one to boot.  He treats his business partner like shit, brushes off the advances of his lady friend and never has any non-related car dialogue in the whole movie. 

 

Speaking of dialogue, most of the lines in the movie (especially in the opening scenes) are done almost entirely in voiceovers to disguise that the “plot” of this thing was kinda put in after the fact.  The reason that there is so little plot in this flick is because the amazing car crashes ARE the plot.  I’m not saying that’s really a bad thing, but at least the 2000 Nicolas Cage remake had SOME depth to it and a handful of likable characters.  This one has neither. 

 

Well the big question I guess is, is there really anything to recommend about this movie besides the stellar car crashes?  Sure, if you get off on seeing a bunch of non-descript guys with 70’s muttonchops and handlebar moustaches wearing turtlenecks and aviator sunglasses, you’ll certainly have a field day with the film.  Do yourself a favor and skip immediately to the fifty five minute mark of the movie and enjoy the chase scene.  It truly is one of the best ever filmed.  Everything else in the flick is thoroughly disposable. 

 

Halicki died in 1989 while filming stunts for the sequel. 

MANHATTAN BABY (1984) *

An archeologist (Atlantis Interceptors’ Christopher Connelly) takes his family to Egypt where some blind beggar bitch gives his daughter Susie (Brigitta Bocolli) a mysterious amulet.  Meanwhile daddy is off cavorting around in the pyramids and gets zapped in the peepers by some ancient laser beam which blinds the shit out of him.  They head back home to New York PDQ and wouldn’t you just know it, Susie’s amulet starts shooting out the same blue beams that blinded her poppa.  Not only that, but she starts having bizarre visions and psychic premonitions and pretty soon all sorts of weird kinds of shit starts hitting the fan like Connelly regaining his sight, snakes and scorpions start showing up, and people get zapped by the amulet and are turned to into a clump of sand.  Finally Connelly calls in some scholarly type dude to perform some type of half-assed exorcism on his daughter.  Or something. 

 

Director Lucio Fulci has made some slow moving movies before, but they almost always pay off with some kind of batshit insane gore set piece that make all the boring stuff worth sitting through.  While we do get one neat scene where a guide falls face first on a bed of spikes; the gory goodness usually found in Fulci’s best work is totally absent here.  (Unless you count the scene where some birds peck a guy to death, which I certainly DO NOT.) 

 

All of this would have been well and good if the movie just occasionally made a lick of sense.  Too bad it doesn’t.  It also doesn’t help when 99% of the movie is stupid as all get out.  I mean there’s stupid and then there’s illogical.  Manhattan Baby is just plain stupid.  Like why blind Connelly only to have him regain his eyesight minutes later?  What’s the point of blinding him when it has no bearing on the plot whatsoever?  (I can’t really say I blame Connelly, about halfway through the movie, you’ll be wishing you were blind too.)

 

And don’t even get me started on the finale, which has to be one of the lamest endings ever filmed by an Italian. 

 

The tow-headed Giovanni Frezza also co-starred in Fulci’s House by the Cemetery. 

 

AKA:  Evil Eye.  AKA:  Eye of the Evil Dead.  AKA:  The Possessed.