The advent of Blu-Ray has seen several car chase classics get the high definition treatment. Indeed, the likes of Bullitt, Vanishing Point and The French Connection were given Blu-Ray releases relatively early inthe format’s lifecycle, boasting updated transfers that make it a pleasure to relive our old favourites with a noticeable increase in detail
And now, at long last, it’s H.B. Halicki’s original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds’turn. Given its somewhat cult following, I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t expect to see a Blu-Ray release of my all-time favourite car chase film any time soon.
And yet here it is, as the belated Blu-Ray was released on October 16th with an updated transfer – the first since its 25th anniversary DVD restoration job back in 2000, in fact. As expected, the added sharpness allows us to make out the not-quite-so-elegant Eleanor’s wounds, dents and scratches much more vividly, and the colour correction makes the film look far less washed out than before. Given its considerable age and prior condition, there is a noticeable level of grain visible throughout the picture, but this only adds to the film’s vintage authenticity.
While Halicki Films has done a commendable job with Gone in 60 Second’s picture quality, it’s a different story for the audio, sadly. Unfortunately, the Blu-Ray release of Gone in 60 Seconds doesn’t sport a lossless audio track, instead opting for a DTS 5.1 with a 755 kbps bitrate, Dolby Digital with a 640 kbps bitrate and DD Stero at 192 kbps. In short, it’s no better than the DVD release which is a crying shame.
And in case you had a glimmer of hope that the original country music soundtrack would return, you will also be disappointed - again, the soundtrack is exactly the same as the generic incidental music found in the DVD release. It’s certainly a missed opportunity, but, as a reviewer on Blu-Ray.com pointed out, it could well be due to licensing issues. We could therefore have something of a Star Wars situation on our hands, then, as this the remastered version is clearly now considered the standard cut in the same vein as the on-going debacle with the Star Wars Special Editions. If you want to own the original theatrical release, which contains a country soundtrack written by Halicki’s brother along with unedited sound effects, then obtaining an out of print VHS is still your only option.
As for extras, Gone in 60 Seconds on Blu-Ray features the same selection found on the DVD, including the insightful ‘The Life and Times of H.B. Halicki’ documentary, with a couple of odd omissions – despite being advertised on the back of the box, the interviews with Parnelli Jones, JC Agajanian, Jr, and Bobby Ore are reportedly nowhere to be seen.
Nevertheless, Eleanor's HD makeover is likely to be the best transfer we’re ever likely to see of Halicki’s legendary budget flick that is still talked about today when recounting the all-time best car chases in cinema – whether the car crash king’s destructive follow-up films The Junkman and Deadlne Autotheft will also get the Blu-Ray treatment remains to be seen.
With this in mind, it makes you wonder if any other notable car chase films are in-line for a fresh lick of Blu-Ray paint. The Driver, anyone?