Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Produced by||Bob Gale|
|Music by||Patrick Williams|
|Cinematography||Donald M. Morgan|
|Edited by||Michael Kahn|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$11.7 million|
Used Cars is a 1980 American satirical black comedy film written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale and directed by Zemeckis. Rudy Russo (Kurt Russell) is a devious car salesman working for an affable but monumentally unsuccessful used car dealer Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden). Luke's principal rival, located directly across the street, is his more prosperous brother, Roy L. Fuchs (also played by Warden), who is scheming to take over Luke's lot. The film also stars Deborah Harmon and Gerrit Graham, and the supporting cast includes Frank McRae, David L. Lander, Michael McKean, Joe Flaherty, Al Lewis, Dub Taylor, Harry Northup, Dick Miller and Betty Thomas.
Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.
Black comedy, also known as dark comedy or gallows humor, is a comic style that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss. Comedians often use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues, thus provoking discomfort and serious thought as well as amusement in their audience. Popular themes of the genre include death and violence, discrimination, disease, sexuality, religion, and barbarism.
Robert Lee Zemeckis is an American director, film producer and screenwriter frequently credited as an innovator in visual effects. He first came to public attention in the 1980s as the director of Romancing the Stone (1984) and the science-fiction comedy Back to the Future film trilogy, as well as the live-action/animated comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). In the 1990s, he directed Death Becomes Her and then diversified into more dramatic fare, including 1994's Forrest Gump, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director; the film itself won Best Picture. The films he has directed have ranged across a wide variety of genres, for both adults and families.
Steven Spielberg and John Milius act as executive producers on the project, while the original musical score was composed by Patrick Williams. Filmed primarily in Mesa, Arizona, the film was released on July 11, 1980.
Steven Allan Spielberg is an American filmmaker. He is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era and one of the most popular directors and producers in film history.
John Frederick Milius is an American screenwriter, director, and producer of motion pictures. He was a writer for the first two Dirty Harry films, received an Academy Award nomination as screenwriter of Apocalypse Now, and wrote and directed The Wind and the Lion, Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn. He later served as the co-creator of the Primetime Emmy Award-winning HBO series Rome.
Patrick Moody Williams was an Oscar-nominated American composer, arranger, and conductor who worked in many genres of music, and in film and television.
Although not a box office success at the time, it has since developed cult film status due to its dark, cynical humor and the Zemeckis style.It was marketed with the tagline "Like new, great looking and fully loaded with laughs." It was the only Zemeckis film to be rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America until Flight (2012).
A cult film or cult movie, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a cult following. Cult films are known for their dedicated, passionate fanbase, an elaborate subculture that engage in repeated viewings, quoting dialogue, and audience participation. Inclusive definitions allow for major studio productions, especially box office bombs, while exclusive definitions focus more on obscure, transgressive films shunned by the mainstream. The difficulty in defining the term and subjectivity of what qualifies as a cult film mirror classificatory disputes about art. The term cult film itself was first used in the 1970s to describe the culture that surrounded underground films and midnight movies, though cult was in common use in film analysis for decades prior to that.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is an American trade association representing the five major film studios of Hollywood, and streaming service giant, Netflix. Founded in 1922 as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), its original goal was to ensure the viability of the American film industry. In addition, the MPAA established guidelines for film content which resulted in the creation of the Production Code in 1930. This code, also known as the Hays Code, was replaced by a voluntary film rating system in 1968, which is managed by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA).
Flight is a 2012 American drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by John Gatins. It stars Denzel Washington as William "Whip" Whitaker Sr., an alcoholic airline pilot who miraculously crash-lands his plane after it suffers an in-flight mechanical failure, saving nearly everyone on board. Immediately following the crash, he is hailed a hero, but an investigation soon leads to questions that put the captain in a different light.
Rudy Russo is a young and cunning car salesman in Phoenix with aspirations of running for the state Senate. He works at the struggling New Deal used car lot owned by the elderly Luke Fuchs, who agrees to help invest $10,000 in Rudy's campaign if he promises to keep the business alive. Meanwhile, across the street, Luke's brother and arch-competitor Roy L. Fuchs (also played by Warden) is desperate to keep his used car lot from being demolished and replaced by a proposed freeway exit. Wanting to collect life insurance money and New Deal from Luke, Roy hires his mechanic, demolition derby driver Mickey, to recklessly drive Luke's 1957 Chevrolet Two-Ten coupe around the block with Luke in the passenger's seat. After the Chevy crashes back into the lot, Luke dies of a heart attack, but leaves Rudy with evidence that Roy staged the "accident". In an attempt to prevent Roy from gaining any inheritance, Rudy has his superstitious co-worker Jeff and mechanic Jim help him bury Luke in the lot's backyard in an Edsel that was once New Deal's sign ornament. When Roy comes looking for Luke the next day, they explain that Luke took the Edsel on a vacation to Miami.
Phoenix is the capital and most populous city of Arizona, with 1,626,000 people. It is also the fifth most populous city in the United States, and the most populous American state capital, and the only state capital with a population of more than one million residents.
Demolition derby is a motorsport usually presented at county fairs and festivals. While rules vary from event to event, the typical demolition derby event consists of five or more drivers competing by deliberately ramming their vehicles into one another. The last driver whose vehicle is still operational is awarded the victory. Demolition derbies originated in the United States and quickly spread to other Western nations. For example, Australia's first demolition derby took place in January 1963.
Edsel is an automobile marque that was planned, developed, and manufactured by the Ford Motor Company for model years 1958 through 1960. With the Edsel brand, Ford had expected to make significant inroads into the market share of both General Motors and Chrysler and close the gap between itself and GM in the domestic American automotive market. Ford invested heavily in a yearlong teaser campaign leading consumers to believe that Edsels were the cars of the future – an expectation they failed to meet. After being unveiled to the public, they were considered to be unattractive, overpriced, and overhyped. Edsels never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly. The Ford Motor Company lost $250 million on Edsel development, manufacturing, and marketing.
The following night, Rudy and his friends make a live broadcast of their commercial in the middle of a football game, but it goes awry when Jeff finds out the car on display is red (which he believes is bad luck) and female model Margaret (Cheryl Rixon) has her dress stuck on the hood ornament, which rips and exposes her when the hood is popped open. The commercial results in New Deal receiving a massive number of customers the next day. In one deal, Jeff cons a family into buying a station wagon by having the lot's mascot dog Toby fake being run over during a test drive.
Cheryl Rixon is an Australian actress and model. She was chosen as a Penthouse Pet of the Month in 1977 and later as Pet of the Year in 1979. Rixon now lives in the US and designs jewelry which she sells under the name of 'Royal Order'. She is married to club owner Art Davis with whom she has two sons, Dylan and Luke Davis.
When Roy lures customers in his lot by hiring circus animals, Rudy counters with a live stripper show. Luke's estranged daughter Barbara Jane (Deborah Harmon) visits the lot in hopes of reuniting with him after more than ten years, but Rudy conceals the truth about her father by taking her out on a date and inadvertently convinces her to stay in town.
Deborah Harmon is an American film and television actress.
Rudy's gang broadcasts another commercial in the middle of Jimmy Carter's presidential address, destroying some of Roy's used cars in the process, most notably his prized Mercedes SL. In retaliation, Roy storms into New Deal and attacks Jeff before discovering Luke's resting place buried in the lot. Roy brings the police to New Deal to dig through the backyard the next day, but Jim has taken the Edsel out of the pit, placed Luke's corpse in the driver's seat and has rigged it to crash into a power transformer and explode. Everyone believes Luke was killed in the fiery accident, and the evidence is destroyed. Roy believes he now has possession of New Deal, but Rudy points out that Barbara, as Luke's daughter, is effectively the new owner.
Eventually, Barbara discovers the fiasco over her father's death and fires Rudy, Jeff and Jim for their scheme. As a final means of shutting down New Deal, Roy has his connections in local television station KFUK change Barbara's commercial to imply that she has "a mile of cars", and pushes a trumped-up charge of false advertising.
Rudy's luck changes when he wins a bet on a football game, guaranteeing him enough money for his campaign. Once he discovers that Barbara has been sued for false advertising, Rudy convinces her to tell the court she has a mile of cars. To avoid a charge of perjury, she must prove it in front of the judge by having over 250 cars on her lot by 2:45 p.m. Rudy spends his Senate investment on 250 cars bought from Mexican dealer Manuel and having 250 student drivers deliver them to New Deal in less than two hours. After overcoming Roy's attempt at disrupting the resulting convoy and Jeff's superstition of driving a red car, the drivers arrive in time. The total measurements are just long enough to equal a mile, saving the used car lot. Roy's former attorney informs Rudy and Barbara that once the freeway ramp across the street is constructed, New Deal will become the largest dealership in town.
The idea for Used Cars originated from producer John Milius, who pitched it to Gale and Zemeckis while they were writing the script for 1941 (1979), the parody film directed by Steven Spielberg. Milius said that he and Spielberg had hoped to one day write a story about used car salesman outside of Las Vegas. They had wanted to cast actor George Hamilton as Kurt.Universal Pictures passed on the film, leading the duo to take it to Columbia Pictures. Frank Price, the studio president at the time, had sold used cars as a young man and he quickly said yes. According to Bob Gale, Jack Warden had initially passed on the role of Roy Fuchs but agreed to play the role under the condition that he be able to play Luke Fuchs, since he was interested in playing the role of both brothers.
The film was filmed in 28 days at the working Darner Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in Mesa, Arizona from October to November 1979. The dealership served as the setting for "Roy L. Fuchs Pre-owned Automobiles", while a vacant lot across the street served as the setting for "New Deal Used Cars". The vacant lot now has an apartment complex while the Chrysler bankruptcy of 2009 caused the Darner dealership to lose its Chrysler affiliation.Many local police officers worked in the film in several capacities, including the "cowboy" Shotgun role. Kurt Russell produced some commercials for Darner's inviting customers to come in and shop while the movie was still being filmed.
In the scene where Rudy and Jeff are burying the Edsel on the lot and are confronted by Roy and Sam over Luke's whereabouts, Gerrit Graham repeated some of Kurt Russell's lines, which was not in the script. Jack Warden was so angered over the impromptu ad-libbing that he ended the scene with his own ad-libbed 'What are you, a fuckin' parrot?' directed at Graham. Luke Fuch's old Edsel switches back and forth between 1958 and 1959 model years. When it is on top of the pole as a sign, it is a 1959 model. When it is dropped to the ground to bury Luke, and when it is dug up, started and drives across the lot with the dead Luke behind the wheel, it is a 1958 model. When it hits the transformer, it is again a 1959 model Edsel, with a turquoise scallop painted on the side to match the 1958 model (only 1958 models have this feature). The judge's props for the music video for Sammy Hagar's song "I Can't Drive 55" were borrowed from Zemeckis. The excerpts of President Carter's televised speech used in the movie were taken from his Oval Office address on his Administration's anti-inflation program, broadcast on 24 October 1978.
Used Cars grossed $11.7 million in North America.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 77% approval rating and an average rating of 6.6/10 based on 30 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Robert Zemeckis' pitch-black satire of American culture doesn't always hit the mark, but it's got enough manic comic energy to warrant a spin." 's Gary Arnold dubbed it "a mean, spirited farce [...] Director/co-writer Robert Zemeckis has undeniable energy and flair, but it's being misspent on pretexts and situations that seem inexcusably gratuitous and snide." A staff reviewer for Variety wrote that "What might have looked like a great idea on paper has been tackled by filmmakers who haven’t expanded it much beyond the one joke inherent in the premise." They too praised Zemeckis' direction as "undeniable vigor, if insufficient control and discipline." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two out of four stars, saying the film is "filled with too many ideas, relationships, and situations with plot overkill."However, early reviews were mixed. The Washington Post
Among the positive reviews, Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader found it to be a "fierce, cathartically funny celebration of the low, the cheap, the venal—in short, America."Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "...a movie that has more laughs in it than any film of the summer except Airplane! It wipes out...just about every other recent comedy aimed, I assume, at an otherwise television-hooked public." Pauline Kael of The New Yorker described Cars as "a classic screwball fantasy — a neglected modern comedy that’s like a more restless and visually high-spirited version of the W. C. Fields pictures."
At the time, Used Cars received the highest ratings in test screenings in Columbia Pictures history. In 2015, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin said, "I loved Used Cars, and I'll never understand really why that didn't become more."Zemeckis and Gale blamed the film's failure on Columbia, who moved the film up a month from its scheduled release date based on the test screening response. It debuted with little advance marketing and was released only one week after Airplane!
Shout! Factory has re-released Used Cars on Blu-ray for the first time on February 26, 2019 through their Shout! Select branch. This movie was previously released from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on January 1, 2002 on Region 1 DVD with an audio commentary by Robert Zemeckis, Kurt Russell and Bob Gale.
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