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Robert Zemeckis' "Used Cars"
December 21, 2011 7:03 PM   Subscribe

The concept of Used Cars originated with writer-director-producer John Milius, who pitched the idea to scribes Zemeckis and Gale while they were still hard at work on what would become 1941. ... Zemeckis shot Cars in a breakneck 28 days at a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in Mesa, Ariz. ... Despite its low profile, the film received a great deal of critical acclaim, including the notoriously finicky Pauline Kael…who 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.”*

Throughout, you will be on your feet for this cheap-looking, utterly tasteless film that revels in its misanthropy and misogyny without a shred of irony or remorse. ... It’s the slobs versus the assholes in an underrated classic, in which Kurt Russell has never been used to greater effect.
posted by Trurl (36 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love this movie so, so, so much. Family favorite that would never get made today.
posted by asperity at 7:08 PM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sadly, when I worked as a used car salesperson, this movie was actually used as a training video.

Multiple times.

/sigh
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:18 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll often say, when the context is right, "you killed my dog, mister!" in exactly the same way as the guy in the movie did (well, as close as I can get to it, anyway) and in fact was doing so for many years whilst wracking my brain as to which movie it came from. Thanks, Internet!

I had the same thing happen with the line, "no more" which has to be whimpered, from Poltergeist.

80's movies. Some are worth remembering, at least some lines from them anyway.
posted by h00py at 7:18 PM on December 21, 2011


John Milius went on to make the ultimate Cold War movie, Red Dawn. And I was the only person who ever saw his Flight of the Intruder. Lots of people saw Apocalypse Now.

He's something of a right-wing biker anarchist. Long story.
posted by Yakuman at 7:22 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I consider Used Cars, Big Trouble in Little China and Captain Ron to be Russell's best performances.
posted by rmmcclay at 7:22 PM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


h00py: oh god, I'm so glad mine wasn't the only family to gleefully shout TEST DRIVE WITH TOBY!!!! at any reasonable opportunity.

That dog steals every scene he's in.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 7:23 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


fred will be happy.
posted by unliteral at 7:27 PM on December 21, 2011


I consider Used Cars, Big Trouble in Little China and Captain Ron to be Russell's best performances.

This comment contains a shockingly small amount of The Thing.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:30 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This comment contains a shockingly small amount of The Thing.

That's a different Kurt Russell, the MacReady/Plissken/Earp Russell.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:33 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, so, with my addition, we have it narrowed down to: "Kurt Russell's best performances are in Used Cars, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, Escape From New York, Tombstone, Captain Ron and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes".
posted by dirtdirt at 7:41 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh yes I truly love that movie. It has everything you ever wanted in a movie: greed, lust, political corruption, murder, explosions, monumental driving stunts, hell, it even has Lenny and Squiggy. The whole scene about the 250 cars driving across the desert is a good metaphor for the movie as a whole. It propels itself more by sheer will than by its ability to deliver on its promises.

But I can't believe anyone could even imagine doing a FPP on Used Cars without a video of the most famous scene, the bootleg commercial where they destroy his competitor's most expensive cars, declaring "we blew the shit out of that overpriced motherfucker, just the way we blow the shit out of ALL high prices!"
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:43 PM on December 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Tombstone

There were other people in Tombstone besides Val Kilmer? I didn't remember.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:44 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"If I can build and install a pacemaker in this man's chest..."
posted by nicwolff at 7:46 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Robert Zemeckis is underrated and Used Cars is awesome.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:50 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Classic
posted by destro at 7:51 PM on December 21, 2011


I was having drinks with a friend a month or so back while watching Grindhouse when it occurred to us that Kurt Russell is pretty much our generation's John Wayne.

Except John Wayne is fucking boring and Kurt Russell is infinitely awesome.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:54 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember, or misremember, Used Cars being one of those movies that was infinitely replayed on TV networks in the mid to late 80s. It seemed to always be on whenever I visited my folks, who didn't have cable and didn't rent movies often.
posted by ardgedee at 7:58 PM on December 21, 2011


BTW, this (awesome) flick features Gerritt Graham's second best performance ever.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:58 PM on December 21, 2011


I had the promotional gag model set for this movie! I even tried putting it together one holiday when I was bored. It turned out to be a Camaro. I wonder how much money I squandered doing that.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 PM on December 21, 2011


I remember, or misremember, Used Cars being one of those movies that was infinitely replayed on TV networks in the mid to late 80s.

Yeah, but it was always the censored version without the swearing and the naked Penthouse Pets.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:16 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Milius went on to make the ultimate Cold War movie, Red Dawn.

Hmmm? I saw Red Dawn during its initial theatrical run. My memory is that I walked out of the theater feeling embarrassed to be a white, North American male.
posted by philip-random at 9:33 PM on December 21, 2011


funny how your memory plays tricks on you like that.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:24 PM on December 21, 2011


Glad to see some love for Used Cars, which has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it back in the 1980s. It may be silly, crude and cheaply made, but it delivers laughs and still holds up pretty well today. Russell and Graham both gave entertaining performances, and let's not forget Jack Warden, who was very funny in both his roles.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 11:26 PM on December 21, 2011


Only seen this once, and don't remember it well, but do remember it starting out slowly and gradually building to a rather exciting climax (though not an action movie per se). Funny, too.
posted by zardoz at 12:00 AM on December 22, 2011


Today you could read Red Dawn as an ironic comment on the U.S.' experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, though.

Ah, John Milius. He was the Frank Miller of his day.
posted by Grangousier at 12:25 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's possible that the ultimate Cold War movie can be the same movie that makes you embarassed to be a white, North American male. In fact, some might say it's a prerequisite.

full disclosure: I loved it. But I also loved Toy Soldiers for the same fantasy fulfillment reasons. And by that time, I should have known better.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:17 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


...John Milius, who pitched the idea to scribes Zemeckis and Gale while they were still hard at work on what would become 1941...Zemeckis shot Cars in a breakneck 28 days

And Used Cars is the far better comedy for it, whereas 1941 fails exactly because it was lavished so much attention, money, and time.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:38 AM on December 22, 2011


Yellow primer.
posted by tommasz at 4:58 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Milius has long demanded - as a clause he has included in his contracts - that if you want to hire him for a writing gig, part of his payment is that you have to buy him a gun.
posted by Naberius at 6:04 AM on December 22, 2011


That chase scene is right up there with The Road Warrior. Ahh, the lost art of real stunts and non-CGI action.
posted by whuppy at 8:15 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Robert Zemeckis is underrated ...

I disagree. This is the guy who directed the Back to the Future Series, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump. Then you add other pretty good movies like Castaway, Death Becomes Her and Romancing the Stone. Even if you consider his later MoCap movies to be of lesser quality, I still don't believe he falls anywhere near "underrated".
posted by mysterpigg at 8:38 AM on December 22, 2011


Twenty years ago my friends and I were out having a few beers and someone quoted used cars. We all agreed it was one of the all-time best, and then one of the guys says, "hey, I've got an old recording of Used Cars from HBO at home on Beta. Let's go watch it." So we all go to his place and watch the first 90 minutes or so which takes you right up to the middle of the 250 car chase. All of a sudden the video stops and we can hear his machine rewinding. We all look at him like, "WTF?" and then he says, "oh, yeah. I forgot the beta tapes are only 90 minutes so I don't have the end." It took all our restraint to keep from killing him.

Bad enough, right? It only took about 2 years for us to ALL forget that the end was missing when we did the same damn thing AGAIN another drunken night.
posted by sciencejock at 9:14 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Almost every time I see a red car, a voice inside my head says, "Maroon, my ass. That motherfucker is red."
posted by perhapses at 10:21 AM on December 22, 2011


Heh. I ditched 9th grade to be an extra in this movie. Most vivid memory: Kurt Russell bored sh*tless between takes, caked in makeup, standing in the parking lot picking up handfuls of gravel and throwing it one piece at a time back on the ground.
posted by aquanaut at 10:33 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


> I ditched 9th grade to be an extra in this movie.

Are you in the final cut?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:37 AM on December 22, 2011


Yup, standing on the median in the background of a shot of a car screeching into the car lot from Main Street.
posted by aquanaut at 12:45 PM on December 22, 2011


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