Review by Gordon Justesen
Russell, Gerrit Graham, Frank McRae, Deborah Harmon, Jack Warden
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Audio: DTS HD Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Shout Factory
Features: See Review
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: February 26, 2019
ď50 bucks never killed anybody.Ē
Used Cars is definitive proof that many stars in Hollywood get their start in funny places. For Kurt Russell, it was considered quite a leap from his days as a leading actor in numerous Disney films. He was just coming off the rave reviews he received for his portrayal of Elvis in a successful TV movie.
It was also a big step for the director, Robert Zemeckis, whose previous debut film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, didnít seem to reach an audience. Used Cars, released one week after Airplane!, couldnít seem to find its deserving response. However, like many failed opportunities, it found its audience in home video and frequent television airings.
I have just seen the film for the first time and now consider it among the funniest films ever made by Hollywood. For a movie released in 1980, I see the movie as one easily ahead of its time. Nearly all of the characters in the piece, protagonist and antagonist, are wickedly despicable in one way or another. If I can recall correctly, there had never been comedy made in a manner like this at the time.
Russell stars as Rudy Russo, a conniving and shady used car salesman, which is run by Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden). The competing dealership across the street is run by Lukeís slime-ball twin brother, Roy, also played by Warden. Rudyís true aspiration is to become a state senator, but in order to finance a campaign, he needs $10,000.
Luke agrees to front Rudy the money, but then an orchestrated accident occurs. Roy, wanting to claim the title on his brotherís property, has an associate pay a visit to Luke at night, on a so-called ďtest driveĒ. The speeding test results in Luke having a monster heart attack and dropping dead right in front of Rudy in his office, which is just about what Roy was anticipating. What does Rudy then do? Does he call the police, or even an ambulance? Why no, he and his two co-workers Jeff (Gerrit Graham) and Jim the Mechanic (Frank McRae) to place Lukeís corpse in a car, which they will bury in the back of the lot.
Rudy is now in charge of the lot, and with the cash flow problem still on his hands, brings in two technical wizards to help him bring in customers. They intercept such broadcastings as a football game and an address from President Carter with outrageous commercials featuring nothing less than a Playboy Playmate accidentally stripping down to her bare essentials, and a cowboy taking a rifle and blowing holes in Royís cars because the prices are just too high. Itís not just in the commercials where the salesman ignite acts of lunacy. In a remarkable scene of pure lunacy, Jeff places Lukeís beagle, Toby, under a station wagon to stage a phony accident in order to garner a surefire sale.
It soon becomes an all out war of sales between Roy and Rudy, but matters get even more complicated when Lukeís daughter, Barbara (Deborah Harmon), shows up unexpectedly to meet her father, who Rudy says has gone out of town to Miami Beach. What makes it worse is that she happens to be from the Consumer Protection Agency, which would ruin everything for Rudyís little operation.
The climax of the movie is a riotous hoot if Iíve ever seen one, with Rudy bringing in 250 drivers, many of them driverís ed students, to participate in a high speed run to the used car lot in order to excuse a accusation of false advertisement. Itís quite an incredible sequence, filled with outlandish stunts and many laughs, and has to be seen to be believed.
Used Cars is the kind of comedy I immediately respond to. Those with an extreme warped sense of humor will find themselves crying laughter in numerous scenes, like I found myself doing quite frequently. This is a comedic masterpiece that should be experienced at no extra costs. Come on down and check it out, and remember, 50 bucks never killed anybody.
The Blu-ray from Shout Factory boasts a fantastic looking presentation that is a definite step up from the initial DVD release, which Iíve come close to wearing out ever since first getting it 17 years ago. This presentation improves on all of image flaws of the first release and delivers a continuously lively and fully detailed picture which comes to life especially during the daytime sequence, most notably the climatic auto stampede!
Shout also improves heavily on the sound end. The DTS mono mix is infinitely superior in regards to delivering impactful sound associated with madcap physical comedy, which this movie has endless amounts of. The highlight of the proceedings is, once again, the car stampede that concludes the movie!
Shout Factory has also brought more to the table regarding extras, starting off with two interview segments with producer and co-writer Bob Gale, which delves into a lot of behind the scenes info. Also new is a radio interview with Kurt Russell, an advertising gallery and two Trailers for the movie.
The rest of the features have been ported over from the DVD release, starting with one of all time great commentary tracks to ever exist, featuring Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale and Kurt Russell. The three never stop laughing at both the film itself and the funny reminisces they have of the making of the movie. Russell, in particular, is wonderful to listen to, as he constantly pokes fun at his character right down to the little mannerisms, which I wouldíve have missed if the commentary didnít point out. A downright joy to listen to that should be listened to by all that buy the disc. Rounding out the disc is an outtakes real, radio spot ads, a TV spot and a photo gallery.
If itís nonstop laughter youíre in dire need of, look no further than the dark lunacy of Used Cars, which has become one of my favorite comedies of all time! The new Blu-ray from Shout Factory is a definite must own release!