Used Cars


1h 52m 1980

Brief Synopsis

When his boss is killed, a car salesman tries to save the lot and his job.

Film Details

Also Known As
Frenos rotos, coches locos
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Release Date
1980

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Synopsis

Rudy Russo, is an unscrupulous but likable used car salesman, working for Roy, an unsuccesful car dealer. When Roy dies, Rudy and his co-worker, Jeff attempt to hide his death from Roy's devious brother, Luke to keep him from taking over the business.

Crew

Jack E Ackerman

Props

Dick Alexander

Location Manager

Bobby Bare

Song Performer

Ray Bastonero

Driver

Steve Boyum

Stunts

Tony Brubaker

Stunts

Clint Bryant

Stunts

Charles L Campbell

Sound Effects Editor

Larry Carow

Sound Effects Editor

Marty Casella

Production Assistant

Ron Cogswell

Sound

James Cook

Sound

Marvin Davenport

Driver

Elliot Davis

Camera Operator

Vince Deadrick

Stunts

Bill Demello

Driver

Sally Dennison

Casting

Bennie Dobbins

Stunts

Louis L Edemann

Sound Effects Editor

Jeannie Epper

Stunts

Richard Epper

Stunts

Ken Estes

Special Effects

Rick Franklin

Sound Effects Editor

Walt Freitas

Driver

Bill Fury

Driver

Bob Gale

Screenplay

Bob Gale

Producer

Phyllis Garr

Costumes

Marilyn Giardino

Script Supervisor

Norman Gimbel

Theme Lyrics

Tom Hansman

Driver

Frank Holgate

Camera Operator

Bill Hughes

Video

Joseph Ingraffia

Assistant Director

Peter Jamison

Production Designer

Chris Jenkins

Sound

Linda Rae Jurgens

Stunts

Michael Kahn

Editor

Gina Kearns

Hair

Max Kleven

Stunts

Alan Landaker

Video

Hal Landaker

Video

Terry Leonard

Stunt Coordinator

Terry Leonard

Unit Director

Jack Lilley

Stunts

Carey Loftin

Stunts

Greig Mcritchie

Assistant Editor

John C. Meier

Stunts

John Milius

Executive Producer

Donald M Morgan

Director Of Photography

Bill Myatt

Special Effects Supervisor

Sam Nestico

Original Music

Bill Nuss

Driver

David Pettijohn

Sound Effects Editor

Jack Petty

Makeup

John Pringle

Driver

J R Randall

Stunts

Larry Randles

Stunts

Chris Schwiebert

Camera Operator

Walter Scott

Stunts

Paul Sharpe

Sound

Tony Shields

Animal Trainer

Linda Spheeris

Set Decorator

Steven Spielberg

Executive Producer

Skip Steffens

Driver

Cal Sterry

Key Grip

Norm Walke

Driver

Dick Warlock

Stunts

Bo Welch

Assistant Art Director

Mark Westcott

Driver

Jeff Wheat

Camera Operator

Jeff Wheat

Video

Ted White

Stunts

Rick Whitfield

Video

Patrick Williams

Music

John Wilson

Unit Production Manager

John G. Wilson

Associate Producer

James Womack

Driver

Larry Wood

Video

Ed Wynigear

Costumes

Dennis Yank

Driver

Jack H. Young

Makeup

Robert Zemeckis

Screenplay

Joe Zomar

Special Effects

Film Details

Also Known As
Frenos rotos, coches locos
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Release Date
1980

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Articles

Used Cars on Blu-ray


The opening of Used Cars (1980) has the ominous, wind-scoured character of a modern crime film in a desperate southwest town where a Sergio Leone western wouldn't be out of place. The camera cranes down from a high shot over a struggling used car dealership, where a few pathetic beaters line the lot, and slowly glides over to one car with someone is crammed under the dashboard. The only sound is the lonely wind--the kind of strangled, desolate howl you get in dustbowl dramas and desert survival thrillers--and the grunts of the man struggling with the mechanics under the dash. And then we see the odometer turn back, shaving some 40,000 or so miles from the record. The title hits the screen, a brass band jumps in with "Stars and Stripes Forever," and the unidentified mechanic wriggles out to reveal Kurt Russell in a cheap, loud suit making his rounds to mask the sorry condition of the cars on the lot. It turns out that this is a crime movie after all, or at least a film of multiple misdemeanors and bald-faced misrepresentation, and the perpetrators are the good guys.

The second feature from director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer and producer Bob Gale, Used Cars comes right out of the screen comedy culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the underdogs snubbed their collective noses at authority, propriety, property and privacy laws and anything else that crossed their paths in slobs vs. snobs comedies like Animal House (1978), Caddyshack (1980) and Ghostbusters (1984). Used Cars is raucous and reckless and far more gleefully corrupt than any of its brothers in rebellion, embracing the confidence games and illegal stunts pulled by the skeleton crew that works for Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), who is the closest thing that the film has to an honest man. The devotion of salesmen Rudy (Russell) and Jeff (Gerrit Graham) and mechanic Jim (Frank McRae) to Luke is really all that separates them from Luke's rapacious brother and across-the-street rival Roy L. Fuchs (Warden again) and his slick sales force. That and the fun they have ripping off the rubes who wander on to their lot.

The premise of film - two used car outfits at war with one another - was hatched by John Milius, who was one of the executive producers (along with Steven Spielberg), but the script is pure Zemeckis and Gale. The rivals are twin brothers, the Cain and Abel of used car dealers. When impending freeway construction threatens to destroy bad brother Roy's dealership and make the good brother Luke rich, Roy finds a way to speed the demise of Luke's bad heart and Rudy makes good on his promise to keep Roy from taking over the lot. Rudy has his own, more immediate motivation, of course--he's trying to buy his way into the local political machine and he's still a little short on the down payment--but it's also personal. Luke is something of a father figure to the crew, which makes them the mischievous sons who break the rules whenever dad's back is turned. After Luke dies, their antics more outrageous, from secretly burying Luke on the lot (his beloved convertible fittingly serves as his casket) to jamming satellite signals with wild pirate commercials replete with gratuitous nudity and senseless destruction of private property. The plot seems to careen from one comic collision to another but there's a nicely-constructed plan under it all, simple but ingenious enough that you don't actually see how the pieces are laid in place until it all comes together in the ragged spectacle of final act.

It's not really a satire of American business so much as a wicked lampoon: lie, cheat and steal as the American way, as long as you do it with a sense of fun. Kurt Russell was just breaking out of his clean-cut post-Disney persona when he took on the role and he sinks his teeth into Rudy, turning the brash characters into the epitome of the smiling mercenary selling lemons to suckers with dirty tricks and phony promises. Gerrit Graham is his partner in commercial piracy, unfazed by anything but harbingers of bad luck, notably red. Deborah Harmon is both romantic interest and plot complication as Luke's long lost daughter, who shows up just after dad's death. Jack Warden has a field day playing twin brothers and Frank McRae is hilarious as the giant adrenaline-pumped mechanic. The crotch-grabbing Mexican junk car wholesaler is ubiquitous character actor and future director Alfonso Arau in his first great comic role in an American film (Romancing the Stone and Three Amigos soon followed). But the entire cast is in danger of being upstaged by the adorable dog Toby, who has his own role to play in the sale stunts. This pooch's hilarious performance makes him one of the greatest movie dogs.

Zemeckis matured into a polished filmmaker and an ambitious storyteller and went on to make more sophisticated, more provocative, and certainly more subtle films, but he never made anything as savagely funny as Used Cars. Its banged-up ingenuity and rough-and-tumble energy and warped mirror reflection of the American Dream as a snatch and grab free-for-all is wickedly funny. Everyone is a crook here and the epilogue even enshrines mendacity as a virtue, at least when it comes to stepping into the used car game.

Used Cars has a remarkably tidy visual aesthetic for a film about a seedy, shabby culture, with a screen that is uncluttered and flooded with desert sunlight in day scenes and blasted with floodlights as bold as a football stadium night game for the after-dark stunts. The new HD transfer shows a well-preserved print and is sharp and clear. Simply put, it looks superb.

The commentary track with Zemeckis, Gale, and Russell, carried over from the 2002 DVD reelease, is almost as fun as the movie. "We wanted Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life, except he's totally corrupt," is how Zemeckis explains the genesis of Rudy. Kurt Russell laughs back: "So you cast me!" These guys are having a blast laughing their way through their remembrances, but they manage to stay on track and keep the production stories coming. Few commentaries manage to balance the information and entertainment so well.

There's a four-minute reel of outtakes (apparently taken from surviving video dub; it's all quite hazy), a radio interview with Russell, a car commercial featuring Russell, galleries of art and stills, and not one but two isolated score tracks: along with Patrick Williams' musical score heard in the film is an alternate, unused score by Ernest Gold. We don't quite get it in the context of the film (at least not with dialogue and sound effects) but it's a more conventional, less satirical approach. The accompanying 8-page booklet features another fine essay by Julie Kirgo.

By Sean Axmaker
Used Cars On Blu-Ray

Used Cars on Blu-ray

The opening of Used Cars (1980) has the ominous, wind-scoured character of a modern crime film in a desperate southwest town where a Sergio Leone western wouldn't be out of place. The camera cranes down from a high shot over a struggling used car dealership, where a few pathetic beaters line the lot, and slowly glides over to one car with someone is crammed under the dashboard. The only sound is the lonely wind--the kind of strangled, desolate howl you get in dustbowl dramas and desert survival thrillers--and the grunts of the man struggling with the mechanics under the dash. And then we see the odometer turn back, shaving some 40,000 or so miles from the record. The title hits the screen, a brass band jumps in with "Stars and Stripes Forever," and the unidentified mechanic wriggles out to reveal Kurt Russell in a cheap, loud suit making his rounds to mask the sorry condition of the cars on the lot. It turns out that this is a crime movie after all, or at least a film of multiple misdemeanors and bald-faced misrepresentation, and the perpetrators are the good guys. The second feature from director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer and producer Bob Gale, Used Cars comes right out of the screen comedy culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the underdogs snubbed their collective noses at authority, propriety, property and privacy laws and anything else that crossed their paths in slobs vs. snobs comedies like Animal House (1978), Caddyshack (1980) and Ghostbusters (1984). Used Cars is raucous and reckless and far more gleefully corrupt than any of its brothers in rebellion, embracing the confidence games and illegal stunts pulled by the skeleton crew that works for Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), who is the closest thing that the film has to an honest man. The devotion of salesmen Rudy (Russell) and Jeff (Gerrit Graham) and mechanic Jim (Frank McRae) to Luke is really all that separates them from Luke's rapacious brother and across-the-street rival Roy L. Fuchs (Warden again) and his slick sales force. That and the fun they have ripping off the rubes who wander on to their lot. The premise of film - two used car outfits at war with one another - was hatched by John Milius, who was one of the executive producers (along with Steven Spielberg), but the script is pure Zemeckis and Gale. The rivals are twin brothers, the Cain and Abel of used car dealers. When impending freeway construction threatens to destroy bad brother Roy's dealership and make the good brother Luke rich, Roy finds a way to speed the demise of Luke's bad heart and Rudy makes good on his promise to keep Roy from taking over the lot. Rudy has his own, more immediate motivation, of course--he's trying to buy his way into the local political machine and he's still a little short on the down payment--but it's also personal. Luke is something of a father figure to the crew, which makes them the mischievous sons who break the rules whenever dad's back is turned. After Luke dies, their antics more outrageous, from secretly burying Luke on the lot (his beloved convertible fittingly serves as his casket) to jamming satellite signals with wild pirate commercials replete with gratuitous nudity and senseless destruction of private property. The plot seems to careen from one comic collision to another but there's a nicely-constructed plan under it all, simple but ingenious enough that you don't actually see how the pieces are laid in place until it all comes together in the ragged spectacle of final act. It's not really a satire of American business so much as a wicked lampoon: lie, cheat and steal as the American way, as long as you do it with a sense of fun. Kurt Russell was just breaking out of his clean-cut post-Disney persona when he took on the role and he sinks his teeth into Rudy, turning the brash characters into the epitome of the smiling mercenary selling lemons to suckers with dirty tricks and phony promises. Gerrit Graham is his partner in commercial piracy, unfazed by anything but harbingers of bad luck, notably red. Deborah Harmon is both romantic interest and plot complication as Luke's long lost daughter, who shows up just after dad's death. Jack Warden has a field day playing twin brothers and Frank McRae is hilarious as the giant adrenaline-pumped mechanic. The crotch-grabbing Mexican junk car wholesaler is ubiquitous character actor and future director Alfonso Arau in his first great comic role in an American film (Romancing the Stone and Three Amigos soon followed). But the entire cast is in danger of being upstaged by the adorable dog Toby, who has his own role to play in the sale stunts. This pooch's hilarious performance makes him one of the greatest movie dogs. Zemeckis matured into a polished filmmaker and an ambitious storyteller and went on to make more sophisticated, more provocative, and certainly more subtle films, but he never made anything as savagely funny as Used Cars. Its banged-up ingenuity and rough-and-tumble energy and warped mirror reflection of the American Dream as a snatch and grab free-for-all is wickedly funny. Everyone is a crook here and the epilogue even enshrines mendacity as a virtue, at least when it comes to stepping into the used car game. Used Cars has a remarkably tidy visual aesthetic for a film about a seedy, shabby culture, with a screen that is uncluttered and flooded with desert sunlight in day scenes and blasted with floodlights as bold as a football stadium night game for the after-dark stunts. The new HD transfer shows a well-preserved print and is sharp and clear. Simply put, it looks superb. The commentary track with Zemeckis, Gale, and Russell, carried over from the 2002 DVD reelease, is almost as fun as the movie. "We wanted Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life, except he's totally corrupt," is how Zemeckis explains the genesis of Rudy. Kurt Russell laughs back: "So you cast me!" These guys are having a blast laughing their way through their remembrances, but they manage to stay on track and keep the production stories coming. Few commentaries manage to balance the information and entertainment so well. There's a four-minute reel of outtakes (apparently taken from surviving video dub; it's all quite hazy), a radio interview with Russell, a car commercial featuring Russell, galleries of art and stills, and not one but two isolated score tracks: along with Patrick Williams' musical score heard in the film is an alternate, unused score by Ernest Gold. We don't quite get it in the context of the film (at least not with dialogue and sound effects) but it's a more conventional, less satirical approach. The accompanying 8-page booklet features another fine essay by Julie Kirgo. By Sean Axmaker

Wendie Jo Sperber (1958-2005)


Wendie Jo Sperber, the zany comic actress who had appeared on several movies and sitcoms since the late '70s, died on November 29 of breast cancer at her Sherman Oaks home. She was 47.

Born on September 18, 1958 in Hollywood, California, Sperber made an impression from the beginning when, at just 19 years of age, she was cast as Rosie Petrofsky, the hyperactive, dreamy-eyed Beatle fan who will stop at nothing to see them on their Ed Sullivan debut in the charming Robert Zemeckis' period comedy I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978). The film was a surprise smash in the Spring of '78, and she proved that her comic chops were no fluke when Stephen Spielberg cast her as a lovestruck teenager in his overblown spectacle 1941 (1979); and as a naive car buyer in Zemeckis' funny Kurt Russell outing Used Cars (1980).

As hilarious as she was in those films, Sperber earned her pop culture stripes when she played Amy Cassidy in the cult comedy series Bosom Buddies (1980-82). This strange sitcom, about two pals (Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari), who dressed in drag so they could live in an all-girls residential hotel might have had a flimsy premise - but the actors played it to the hilt. Hanks and Scolari were fine, but Sperber stole the series with her incredible physical display of pratfalls, comic sprints, splits and facial mugging. Indeed, here was one comedic performer who was not afraid to go all out for a laugh. Even after the cancellation of the show, Sperber continued to work in comedies throughout the decade: Bachelor Party (1984), Moving Violations, and in Back to the Future (both 1985).

Tragically, Sperber's career was halted in 1997 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a brief remission, she played a cancer survivor in a final season episode of Murphy Brown (1997-98). The warm reception she received from her appearance influenced her decision to become an active campaigner for cancer awareness and fundraising. The culmination of her humanitarian efforts resulted in 2001, when she founded weSPARK Cancer Support Center in Sherman Oaks, a nonprofit center that provides free emotional support, research information and social activities for cancer victims and their families. Despite her altruistic causes, Sperber still found time in recent years to make guest appearances on such hit television shows like Will & Grace and 8 Simple Rules...for Dating My Teenage Daughter. She is survived by a son, Preston; a daughter, Pearl; parents, Charlene and Burt; sisters, Ellice and Michelle; and a brother, Richard.

by Michael T. Toole

Wendie Jo Sperber (1958-2005)

Wendie Jo Sperber, the zany comic actress who had appeared on several movies and sitcoms since the late '70s, died on November 29 of breast cancer at her Sherman Oaks home. She was 47. Born on September 18, 1958 in Hollywood, California, Sperber made an impression from the beginning when, at just 19 years of age, she was cast as Rosie Petrofsky, the hyperactive, dreamy-eyed Beatle fan who will stop at nothing to see them on their Ed Sullivan debut in the charming Robert Zemeckis' period comedy I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978). The film was a surprise smash in the Spring of '78, and she proved that her comic chops were no fluke when Stephen Spielberg cast her as a lovestruck teenager in his overblown spectacle 1941 (1979); and as a naive car buyer in Zemeckis' funny Kurt Russell outing Used Cars (1980). As hilarious as she was in those films, Sperber earned her pop culture stripes when she played Amy Cassidy in the cult comedy series Bosom Buddies (1980-82). This strange sitcom, about two pals (Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari), who dressed in drag so they could live in an all-girls residential hotel might have had a flimsy premise - but the actors played it to the hilt. Hanks and Scolari were fine, but Sperber stole the series with her incredible physical display of pratfalls, comic sprints, splits and facial mugging. Indeed, here was one comedic performer who was not afraid to go all out for a laugh. Even after the cancellation of the show, Sperber continued to work in comedies throughout the decade: Bachelor Party (1984), Moving Violations, and in Back to the Future (both 1985). Tragically, Sperber's career was halted in 1997 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a brief remission, she played a cancer survivor in a final season episode of Murphy Brown (1997-98). The warm reception she received from her appearance influenced her decision to become an active campaigner for cancer awareness and fundraising. The culmination of her humanitarian efforts resulted in 2001, when she founded weSPARK Cancer Support Center in Sherman Oaks, a nonprofit center that provides free emotional support, research information and social activities for cancer victims and their families. Despite her altruistic causes, Sperber still found time in recent years to make guest appearances on such hit television shows like Will & Grace and 8 Simple Rules...for Dating My Teenage Daughter. She is survived by a son, Preston; a daughter, Pearl; parents, Charlene and Burt; sisters, Ellice and Michelle; and a brother, Richard. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer July 11, 1980

Released in United States Summer July 11, 1980