HTF REVIEW: "Used Cars"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 23, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein


    Used Car salesmen, Nude Women, and the President
    of the United States!
    I suppose that when Used Cars was released
    theatrically in 1980, it never reached box-office
    nirvana, nor received critical acclaim.
    The acclaim it did receive was back in the earliest
    days of cable television when Home Box Office was
    repeatedly putting Used Cars on its broadcast
    lineup alongside another terrific Columbia comedy,
    The Hollywood Knights (both on DVD). These
    were the ultimate uproariously raunchy comedies
    everyone loved to watch together at someone's house
    party. It wasn't long before these films garnered a
    huge fan following -- so much so, that Used Cars
    has been on Columbia's demand list of releases for
    quite some time.
    The last time I saw Used Cars was 15 years
    ago. I was afraid that upon revisiting this movie
    in a later stage of life, I'd not find it as funny
    as I originally had when I was in my early 20's.
    You know what? I had such a great time watching
    this film last night. It still remains one of the
    best classic "raunchy" comedies ever made that has
    not dulled with age. It's as freshly funny today
    as it was 22 years ago thanks to the outrageous
    script by Bob Gale, clever direction and superbly
    funny cast of actors.
    Rudy Russo (expertly cast with Kurt Russell) is a
    slimy used car salesman who works on a pig-pen car
    lot but aspires to be a Senator one day. What stands
    in his way is the competing car lot across the street
    owned by Roy L. Fuchs (Jack Warden in DUAL roles).
    Roy wants to put the lot out of business, even at
    the expense of killing his own brother, Luke Fuchs
    (Jack Warden in DUAL roles).
    When foul play gets out of hand and it looks like
    the old lot may be taken away, Rudy and his associates
    (Gerrit Graham & Frank McRae) devise a plan to
    intercept television signals and broadcast their own
    outrageous commercials. This of course puts them
    in more hot water, and ultimately they set out to
    save their lot via a crazy automobile stampede that
    has to be seen to believed!
    One of the things I never knew till now was that
    this film was directed by Robert Zemeckis.
    It was his 4th film, and from here he went on to
    CONTACT. In fact, Zemeckis collaborated with
    writer Bob Gale once again in the BACK TO THE
    FUTURE movies.
    How does the transfer look?
    This is actually one of the first catalog titles
    from Columbia that I was not overly impressed with.
    The quality of the new anamorphic (1.85:1)digital
    transfer is extremely uneven. Watch the first
    few minutes of the film and you will be aghast
    at how dirty and dated the print looks. There
    is an excessive amount of grain and a noticeable
    amount of film blemish. Colors look pale, and
    the film reeks of neglect.
    As the film goes on, the picture gets much better.
    In some scenes, it actually looks as if this film
    received a touch-up job. This is most evident in
    the famous car stampede with 200 vintage cars in tow.
    Picture looks crisp and colors look vivid.
    Overall, however, the transfer is dominated by
    noticeable grain and flesh colors running a little
    hot. It's almost as if the total transfer was taken
    from different source material in order to make up
    the best transfer possible. I still feel, however,
    this is the best the film has looked on ANY format.
    The audio is mono, and sounds very strong and
    clean across the front soundstage.
    Special Features
    First and foremost, there is an outrageous
    running commentary track with Kurt Russell, Bob
    Gale and Robert Zemeckis. Normally, I don't have
    the time to listen to a DVD commentary, but in this
    case, I couldn't help myself in listening to the
    first 30 minutes of the commentary. These guys
    are having a blast with each other! We learn how
    Russell was picked to do this film because of his
    work on Disney movies as well as ELVIS. The film
    was shot on a car lot in Arizona. The guys will tell
    you EXACTLY where to look in the rear-view mirror
    to see the sound guy's arm (which I never noticed).
    You'll never believe that this was actually a film
    Spielberg wanted to do. In fact, Spielberg often
    visited the set during filming. Zemeckis also recalls
    how Columbia Pictures botched the release of this film.
    It had received the highest test scores EVER in the
    history of the studio, but yet the studio did not
    do a full release of this film and put it up against
    Paramount's release of Airplane. It is also
    funny to hear how this film was so "edgy" for its time
    that the crew was ratting out to the studio about how
    outrageous the material was, and when the studio saw
    the dailies, most of the raunchy material had to be
    reshot and toned down -- especially when it came to
    penis glasses being worn.
    If the first 30 minutes of commentary full of inside
    stories of the actors and crew is any indication of
    what is to come -- this is probably one of the most
    outrageous commentaries you will ever listen to.
    Outtakes is a simple 4-minute collage of
    very quick clips that either did not make the final
    cut or contained film flubs. The source material is
    in questionable shape, but fans of this movie will
    enjoy watching some of these antics that are being
    seen for the first time ever after all these years.
    An interesting included TV SPOT actually has
    Kurt Russell pitching a used car for a local
    dealership. Kurt talks about the movie he is filming
    on the car lot for Columbia Pictures, while plugging
    a Chrysler that sits behind him.
    At this point, I had thought I had been shortchanged
    on supplemental material. There was nothing else to
    be seen on the menu -- that is -- until I noticed a
    small CAR KEY button in the lower right corner.
    Clicking on that, I was taken to an entirely new
    screen of Special Features.
    There are no less than 8 Radio Spots that
    represent the extensive radio campaign that Columbia
    Pictures ran for the picture's release. The spots
    are pretty funny and I think most of you will enjoy
    clicking on each one of them. One of the ads touts
    the price of admission to the film being a mere 5 bucks!
    Included as a bonus is a radio interview with
    Kurt Russell on a mid-day radio show.
    Vintage Advertising Gallery gives us less
    than a dozen production stills and poster art for
    the film that will take you about 20 seconds to
    page through.
    This is the part of the review where I get very
    angry. With all the radio, TV and publicity ads that
    the studio has put on this disc, why is is the original
    film's TRAILER not included? Upon selecting
    BONUS TRAILERS, you can watch "Groundhog Day",
    "Multiplicity" or "So I married an axe murderer".
    But no original trailer for this film is included
    on the DVD.
    An included Filmography lists talent resumes
    for Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, Michael McKean, Robert
    Zemeckis (Director) and Bob Gale (Writer).
    Final Thoughts
    USED CARS is the type of film that can
    definitively be called a classic comedy. It's
    a comedy that has stood the test of time, making
    us laugh just as much as we did when it was
    originally released. It's one of the few films
    that had the perfect mesh of writing, directing and
    cast. It's great to see Jack Warden in one of the
    most memorable roles of his life. And, when Al
    "Grandpa" Lewis takes the judge's bench, you can't
    help but to put a big fat smile upon your face.
    To not have this DVD in your permanent collection
    is depriving you from owning one of the best comedies
    of our generation.
    Release Date: February 5, 2002
  2. Rob FM

    Rob FM Second Unit

    Jan 15, 2001
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    I'm glad to have it on DVD...too bad about the transfer and minimal extras. Oh well, still a funny movie to watch.
  3. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

    Sep 29, 2000
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  4. MikeM

    MikeM Screenwriter

    Nov 23, 1999
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    I agree, the extras listed for this disc are hardly "minimal."
    I will definitely be buying this disc.
    And by the way, for those of you that want to view the trailer for Used Cars, you can view it by clicking here.
    Fifty bucks never killed anybody.
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Back in the 1980, I was one of the few that actually watched "Used Cars" in it's theatrical run which I did twice because the film was so damn funny to me. Also, Zemeckis and Gale both wrote the screenplay. Very funny shit which should have been allowed to test the boundaries of good taste even more so, damn you Columbia Pictures.

  6. Chris Maynard

    Chris Maynard Supporting Actor

    Nov 7, 1998
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    Yeah...and I knocked the m***** f****** on their ass too!
    Jim the Mechanic referring to the protesting Nuns that he turned the firehose on
    This is such a funny movie...I can't wait.
  7. Scott_G

    Scott_G Second Unit

    Jun 18, 2000
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    One of my favorites in College; I'll be picking this one up.

    "This country is going to the dogs! You know, it used to be when you bought a politician, the son-of-a-bitch stayed bought!"

    "and it's got a price that's just to F*** High"

    (blows car up)

    "come on down and Squeeze the merchandise"

    Jim the Mechanic had great lines.

    "Maroon my ass....this mutha f**kers red!"

    "Shut up Toby I hear you"

    Funny what you remember from college, can't remember any advanced calculus stuff, but lots of movie quotes.
  8. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

    Dec 6, 1998
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    I remember watching this movie on HBO 22 years ago. I didn't know much about the movie so I let my 5 & 7 year old daughters watch it with us. After that, everytime I wouldn't let my daughter watch a movie she would say: "You let me watch Used Cars."

    A "rauncy" classic that will be revered along with Blues Brothers and Animal House, to name a few.
  9. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

    Nov 5, 1998
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    So is the Keep case really yellow plastic that's been spray painted black?
  10. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

    Aug 3, 2001
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    Seth, don't you mean red? Wasn't it red cars he was scared of?

    Whatever the right color is, I'll be there on street date! Although Columbia/TriStar is getting on my nerves a lot lately, this is a must-buy.
  11. L. W. Cobb

    L. W. Cobb Agent

    Mar 19, 1999
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    "Jesus Palomino!". One of my all time favorite comedies. This film struck gold with the all-too-rare convergence of brilliant writing, casting, and direction. I don't know what else to say. I love this film.
    (The mention of "Hollywood Knights" evokes similar thoughts) [​IMG]
  12. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

    Feb 22, 1999
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    Does the filmography indicate this as Zemeckis' fourth film? Previous to Used Cars he had only directed one other feature film, (one of my favorites) I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Zemeckis and Gale also wrote the screenplay for Spielberg's 1941.

    As a Zemeckis fan, I am looking forward to getting this disc. I wonder if they say anything on the commentary about the cameos by Wendie Jo Sperber and Marc McClure (better known as Jimmy Olsen in Superman)... they turned up in all the Zemeckis/Gale collaborations.
  13. mike martin

    mike martin Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 27, 2001
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    Wow, a film that I had totally forgot about. I was pretty young when it came out but remember seeing it on HBO; but can barely remember anything except something about a mile of cars. I just have to check this out.

    Thanks again!
  14. MichaelG

    MichaelG Second Unit

    Jul 10, 2000
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    Ron thanks for the review. Once again you have encouraged me to buy another movie, I love old comedies and this looks to be another multi-viewing DVD.
  15. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    According to IMDB....

    Here is Zemeckis's filmography up through

    Ued Cars:

    Used Cars (1980)

    I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

    Field of Honor, A (1973)

    Lift, The (1972)
  16. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

    Apr 19, 2000
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  17. Horatio Jones

    Horatio Jones Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 17, 2002
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    Ron, I don't think you've ever found a movie to review that you didn't like or reccomend [​IMG] I think the law of averages is against you in 2002, this could be the year of the negative review for you LOL [​IMG]
  18. MichaelG

    MichaelG Second Unit

    Jul 10, 2000
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    Horatio, I remember two discouraging reviews by Ron in the last month or two. Do a search for The Man Who Loved Women! I got a good laugh from that one. I think Ron is like many of us here, we love movies, so most movies he reviews he enjoys. I feel that his reviews have been good and fair, and he always comments on the quality and what he dislikes (quality wise).
    Keep them coming Ron
  19. Horatio Jones

    Horatio Jones Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 17, 2002
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    I wasnt knocking Rons reviews by any means, hell I have 300+ flicks now and I'll stand behind just about all of them except Summer Catch which my girlfriend owns and Embrace of the Vampire....
    I just found it damn funny that nearly every flick he reviews he reccomends.
  20. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    MichaelG is very correct.
    I simply enjoy (or try to enjoy) everything
    that I watch. My mind is very open to whatever
    entertainment comes before me.
    But just in case you doubt that I have written
    some very negative reviews, click here....
    Ron's HTF Review Page
    In particular, you should click on:
    * Angel Eyes
    * The Man Who loved Women
    * Buckaroo Banzai (great transfer - did not like movie)
    * Rockstar

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