Written by / 12/05/2021 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , ,

STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS KURT RUSSELL SELLING 'USED CARS'

Title: USED CARS Producer: Steven Spielberg Director: Bob Zemeckis Year: 1980 Rates: ***1/2

Around the time that Steven Spielberg's WWII comedy started vanishing from the collective moviegoer memories, the entire 1941 team, also including producer John Milius co-writing with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, had a new movie out that bombed in theaters, unlike 1941 that, despite its maligned reputation, did turn a profit...

The irony is the Robert Zemickis directed USED CARS, co-written by Gale and produced by Milius and Spielberg, was getting the kind of "sleeper" attention within its predecessor's ebbing wake...

Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Deborah Harmon

As the decade drove on, thanks to cable and the video boom, USED CARS became a beloved comedy classic while 1941 was mired in every "worst movie" list: And CARS is a terrific little film taking place on a used car lot, of course... or rather two of them, each owned by twin brothers, both played by Jack Warden...

Luke Fuchs is the underdog with an underdog staff led by Kurt Russell in his first real chance to grow beyond the previous two decade's worth of Disney flicks (right before John Carpenter turned him from a bland TV Elvis into a hard-edge science-fiction Clint Eastwood ala ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE THING)...

Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Garrit Graham and Frank McCrea

As salesman/would-be politician Rudy Russo, Russell embraces the attributes of a likeable anti-hero scumbag alongside neurotic schemer Gerritt Graham, giant black mechanic Frank McRea and a trained beagle named Toby... 

They're all fighting the evil corporate-backed brother Leo (aided by lawyer Joe Flaherty and an intense Harry Northup): his "gallant" car lot economically trouncing the dilapidated "goofus" across the street...

Gerrit Graham in USED CARS with Cheryl Rixon and Frank McRea

Therein USED CARS proudly touts the unapologetic R-rating, which probably kept it from being initially successful: a shame because the curse word overkill (in particular Jesus Christ, uttered more than a Billy Graham sermon) and a few nude shots aren't entirely necessary... 

Although, as a dressed-down conventional comedy mixed with a supped-up drive-in exploitation, it's glaringly obvious Zemeckis/Gale were, before igniting the mainstream with BACK TO THE FUTURE, proving to Spielberg they could do their own raunchy thing their own raunchy way, more ANIMAL HOUSE than CLOSE ENCOUNTERS...

Opening credit from USED CARS

And in that, the first half is the most entertaining and humorous, providing glimpses into various creative/crafty stages of sheer unbridled dishonesty, wielded by these tattered lowbrow salesman... 

From, right off the bat, changing a speedometer to the most involving sequences making "illegal commercials" (with the help of early hackers Michael McKean and David L. Lander of Lenny & Squiggy fame): breaking into a live football game and even President Jimmy Carter's televised address...

Kurt Russell and Deborah Harmon in USED CARS

And while the gluttonous glee's eventually curbed by a sweet-natured yet ultimately equally-crooked woman-next-door Deborah Harmon as Russell's subtle love-interest, so much downright fun's had early on that the second half drags comparably once these lovable liars are literally taken to court... 

At which point USED CARS, like 1941, goes all-out with enough action-packed/vehicle-smashing distractions to sell this gloriously addictive wreck into something that feels brand spanking new. 

Gerrit Graham and Peanut as Toby in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Gerrit Graham and Frank McRea
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Gerrit Graham, David L. Lander and Michael McKean
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Betty Thomas
Harry Northup in USED CARS
Claude Earl Jones, Gerrit Graham and Peanut in USED CARS
Gerrit Graham and Peanut in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Frank McRea and David L. Lander
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Jack Warden, Joe Flaherty and Gerrit Graham
Michael Talbott in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Gerrit Graham
Used Cars Japanese Poster
Lobby card for USED CARS
Jack Warden and Harry Northup in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Deborah Harmon
USED CARS with Deborah Harmon
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Deborah Harmon
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Garrit Graham and Frank McCrea
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS with Deborah Foreman
Michael Talbott greets Harry Northup and Jack Warden in USED CARS
Garrit Graham and Toby in USED CARS
Garrit Graham in USED CARS
Garrit Graham and Toby in USED CARS
Garrit Graham and Toby in USED CARS
Michael Talbott with Harry Northup and Jack Warden in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell in USED CARS
Kurt Russell fishes for customers in USED CARS

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