Blu-Ray Review: Used Cars (1980, Dir, Robert Zemeckis)

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The nostalgic part of this review will pretty much nearly non-existent. Even though this movie was part of my childhood (I was 11 when it hit theaters) I never saw it in a theater or when it aired on cable. I knew of the movie and even had a friend in grade school that saw it but I have no memory of him specifically telling me about it. I only caught up with the movie a few years ago when I bought the DVD. I have a vague notion, though, I may have seen it prior to that DVD purchase but again no concrete memory comes to mind. So there you have it, my near non-existent nostalgic portion Used Cars.

If I’m not mistaken this is the movie Kurt Russell made right before becoming Snake Plissken for Escape From New York (1981). Here he plays Rudy Russo a used car salesman for Roy Fuch’s (Jack Warden) dealership. Roy has a twin brother, Luke, who runs a more successful dealership across the street. Luke is a major type-A personality. Luke and Roy do not get along. Luke is looking forward to the day he can get a hold of his brother’s lot. Roy has heart troubles and that day may come sooner than anyone ever expected.

Rudy and Roy’s “partners in crime” are Jeff (Gerrit Graham), a horny, superstitious salesman, their mechanic, Jim (Frank McRae) and Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley. Of course they aren’t playing Lenny and Squiggy, but Freddie (David Lander) and Eddie (Michael McKean), electronic experts from what I can gather.

All seems to be well in all their lives until douchebag brother, Luke, kick starts trouble by sending over a race car driver to pretend he’s a potential customer. The object here is to get Roy in the car for a test drive, but a test drive only a professional race car driver could deliver that might exacerbate Roy’s heart troubles to the point of a fatal heart attack. And that plan is pulled off flawlessly.

Roy expires the moment he stumbles back into the office. Rudy and the rest plan to cover up his death so his brother can’t get the lot and that is our jumping off point for the rest of the movie’s hilarity.

Everybody in this movie is just simply funny as all Hell. There’s a lot of swearing, some well placed quality nudity; a well trained dog; a dead guy being blown up in a car; and a final act that involves a shit load of cars that needs to be in a certain lot at a certain time or jail will fall upon the heads of our heroes, specifically Roy’s daughter, Barbara (Deborah Harmon). Dick Miller makes a split second cameo having sex with his wife and Al Lewis (The Munsters) co-stars as a stern judge who likes to display various ancient death devices (i.e. guillotine, gallows, etc.) on his bench during trials.

Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale are the two who brought this R-rated comedy to life. The same two who created the Back To The Future trilogy and in the commentary Zemeckis states this his only rated R movie.

Sony put this out on DVD only way back in 2002, now Twilight Time has licensed the title from them and it is now on blu-ray, temporarily, I should stress. Twilight Time is a boutique label that only presses a limited 3000 units of any title they acquire. As of this review quantities are now very low for Used Cars, so if you want it go now and buy it.

The 1080p 2.35:1 anamorphic high definition transfer looks better than the DVD, and the audio options (English 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audios) are crisp too. There are also English subtitles.

All the old extras from the DVD have been ported over, including the commentary (Director Robert Zemeckis, Writer Bob Gale and Actor Kurt Russell), Gag Reel & Outtakes, Theatrical Trailer and the Promotional Materials, which were some lobby card and posters. The new material consists of along with the requisite Isolated Score Twilight Time always puts on their releases for this one you also get the movie’s Unused Score; under the Radio & TV Promotional Materials section they’ve added a Kurt Russell Darner Chrysler Commercial (:31) and a Kurt Russell Radio Interview (5:02).

Twilight Time also added a plethora of photos under the Galleries section: Action & Stunts (26 photos), Unused Ad Concepts (9 photos), Behind The Scenes (10 photos) and a Posters & Lobby Cards (12 photos).

I don’t think I have ever heard a bad commentary where Kurt Russell is involved. This one is hilarious. This is a solid blu-ray release, which I highly recommend.

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