Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 03/29/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
We hate to make sweeping generalizations, but when it comes to movies, there are two kinds of people in the world.
The first group -- for journalistic purposes we'll refer to them as "women" -- typically prefers films wherein the lead characters spend a great deal of time in conversation sharing their innermost feelings.
In contrast, the second group -- for the purposes of this column we'll refer to them as "men" -- is much more likely to enjoy films featuring (a) huge explosions in which the hero is always able to outrun the ensuing fireball; and (b) adrenalin-fuelled, high-speed car chases.
Now that we think of it, mostly that second thing. We got to thinking about car chases this week after reading news reports about celebrations being planned for the 50th anniversary of an iconic muscle car -- the Ford Mustang, star of some of Hollywood's greatest chases.
As part of the anniversary, Ford is going to recreate the same feat it did for the pony car's debut at the 1964 New York World's Fair -- park a Mustang on top of the equally iconic Empire State Building.
Fifty years ago, a prototype was chopped into three sections and carried up 86 floors by elevator, because there was no crane tall enough and helicopters weren't precise enough. It's the same story today, so Ford is going to slice up the new 2015 model into sections, load them in custom-made racks and send them up 443 metres to the observation deck. It will be on display April 16-17.
It might be easier to check out Mustangs featured in a few of our Five Favourite Movie Car Chases of All Time:
5) The movie: Ronin (1998)
The chase(s): We don't remember much about this reasonably competent spy thriller, but we can't forget the jarring realism of the (bad word) car chases. It's a perfect example of this Golden Rule: A great car chase isn't about cinematic tricks; it's about great driving. The credit goes to legendary thriller director John Frankenheimer, who used techniques he pioneered in his 1966 racing film, Grand Prix, on the three breathtaking chases in this tale of mercenaries hunting each other through the streets of Paris and Nice. Frankenheimer employed Formula One pilots as stunt drivers for his white-knuckle chases, landing the film at or near the top of almost every Internet list of the greatest movie chases of all time. More than 300 stunt drivers worked on the film, demolishing legions of sport sedans, motorcycles, police cars and trucks for our viewing pleasure.
4) The movie: The Blues Brothers (1980)
The chase(s): This one didn't make every list of great car chases, which just goes to show some people don't know what they're talking about. How can you not love a chase that begins with these immortal words: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses!" What we're talking here is a cult classic, a tale of redemption in which recently paroled convict "Joliet" Jake Blues and his brother, Elwood, reunite their legendary band as part of "a mission from God" to save the Catholic orphanage where they were raised. With the Illinois State Police, the Chicago police, the Good Ol' Boys country band and a bunch of Illinois Nazis in pursuit, the Blues Brothers and director John Landis made movie history by wrecking more cop cruisers than any film could imagine. It includes the best soundtrack ever.
3) The movie: Gone In 60 Seconds (1974)
The chase(s): Sure, the 2000 remake had its moments, such as when star Nicolas Cage steals a crazy expensive Shelby Mustang and tries to drive to a prearranged destination while pursued through the streets and highways of L.A. by a pair of dogged cops. What you really want is the 1974 original -- directed by and starring stuntman H.B. Halicki, also known as "The Car Crash King" -- in which 93 cars are destroyed and there's a 40-minute chase in which a 1973 Mustang flies 30 feet into the air. Is it a good film? Um, no. Says an article on the Popular Mechanics website: "The story is disjointed and random, the dialogue could have been written by a four-year-old... and the acting isn't even good enough to qualify as wooden." But, oh, that chase scene. It lasts, like, 40 minutes as Halicki evades authorities in about half a dozen cities. As WhatCulture.com notes, it's completely excessive and totally admirable. Crows their review: "Halicki doesn't jerk us around for 90 minutes to deliver a brief 10-minute chase at the end; the film IS the chase for the most part, and this bravura sequence is among the most crowd-pleasing of chases in cinema." Eat our dust, Nicolas Cage!
2) The movie: The French Connection (1971)
The chase(s): This is one of the rarest combinations in Hollywood history -- a great movie with a great chase scene. This dramatic thriller about a heroin-smuggling case with (surprise) a French connection garnered five Academy Awards and propelled Gene Hackman in the role of beleaguered detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle to international stardom. It also had one of the most nail-biting chases of all time wherein Popeye commandeers a civilian's car (a 1971 Pontiac LeMans, by the way) and frantically chases a hitman trying to escape on an elevated train in Brooklyn. In a single, heart-stopping frame, you see Popeye flying through opposing traffic under the speeding train. According to director William Friedkin: "Most of the chase scene was done by a car going 90 miles an hour for 26 blocks." It was movie gold. Gushes the website WhatCulture.com: "It's among the most unconventional and iconic chase sequences ever filmed... given that it's not even between two cars, and as visceral as the scene is, it also enhances Doyle's character development."
1) The movie: Bullitt (1968)
The car chase(s): OK, ya got yer classic Ford Mustang. Ya got yer Steve McQueen. What more do yer want? The truth is, we can barely remember the plot -- something about a feisty San Francisco cop determined to find the underworld kingpin who killed a witness in his protection -- but no one can forget this chase scene. Almost 50 years later, it remains the yardstick by which all movie car chases are measured. It ranks No. 1 on almost every list worth mentioning. And without the Mustang GT390, we would have been deprived of watching McQueen flying over the hills and sliding around apexes of San Fran's tight city streets, eluding assassins in a Dodge Charger for a thrilling 10 minutes and 53 seconds, all of which took about three weeks to film. It didn't hurt that McQueen was an accomplished driver and it was him behind the wheel during close-ups, though stunt drivers did most of the heavy lifting. Chirps WhatCulture.com: "Hubcaps fly off, rubber is burnt, and there are countless misses, both with regard to traffic and then, later on, some shotgun blasts as well. That it ends in the most literally explosive fashion possible, then, is just the icing on the cake."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2014 D2
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