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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Used Cars (1980)

"Do you think we like being associated with the President of the United States? We run an honest lot here."
- Jeff (Gerrit Graham)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: February 04, 2002

Stars: Kurt Russell, Jack Warden
Other Stars: Gerrit Graham, Frank McRae, Deborah Harmon
Director: Robert Zemeckis

Manufacturer: DVDS
MPAA Rating: R for nudity, violence, language
Run Time: 01h:52m:32s
Release Date: February 05, 2002
UPC: 043396058514
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB-B B+

DVD Review

I was a salesman in my previous job, and suffice it to say I hated it. Drudging through the store to my department when I arrived at work was sort of like that long walk death row inmates take to the electric chair. I did this for two long years, and although the paychecks were nice, I always felt I had sold whatever decency I had in my body in order to make a dirty buck. So, with a little understanding, I found Used Cars in my hands.Used car salesman Rudy Russo (Russell) works at the New Deal Used Car Lot, but business is sagging. The owner Luke Fuchs (Warden) is constantly having to refuse offers for the lot made by his brother Roy (Warden again), who runs the lot across the street. Rudy has aspirations of being a state senator, but needs the necessary $10,000 to get his name on the ballot. After Luke agrees to loan him the money Rudy thinks everything is going to be fine, that is until Luke dies leaving Rudy in charge of the dealership with only one salesman, no money, and a battle with Roy for control of the lot. Soon there is an all out war between the dueling lots with everything from interrupting national broadcasts, false advertising claims, and a very funny television commercial.Hailed as one of the better "raunchy" comedies ever made, Used Cars seems to be a bit better than that label in my opinion. Screenwriter's Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis do a nice job of creating a broad sense of humor in the situations they create. Missing are the cheap gags that were so popular during the time of the film's release. Several of the films best lines are in fact just simple throw away pieces of dialogue (a jab at protesting nuns had me laughing well into the next scene) that may well be lost if you don't pay close attention. Where Zemeckis and Gale stumble is in their development of the characters. Russo is perhaps the best developed, as we understand a lot about his ways and his political aspirations that help us develop a sense of caring for his character, but others do not fare as well. The character of Jeff is saddled by superstitious beliefs that I think is needless, and we never find out why exactly Luke and his daughter were estranged. The script also sidetracks from the car lot into a romantic subplot, where the scenes between Russo and Barbara Fuchs lack any sort of emotional or real life sense, slowing the film down.Coupled with the humor, the performances make Used Cars a joy to watch. Russell is terrific as Rudy in one of his first features with a performance that, in my opinion, he has never been topped. Warden brilliantly plays the dual role of the feuding brothers, though his performance as Luke takes up only a handful of screen time. Look for Michael McKean and David Lander (LENNY and SQUIGGY!!!!) as bumbling electronics experts in small but important roles. My introduction to Robert Zemeckis' Used Cars came at an early age thanks to my father. God love my dad, because like any other wonderful parent he exposed my brother and I to comedies including Animal House, Slapshot, Vacation, and of course Used Cars. As a kid I found the picture to be funny, although I don't think I got many of the jokes; I just laughed when my older brother and father did. But now, some fifteen years later, I get the jokes and believe Used Cars is one of the funnier films I have ever seen.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ration for what I believe is the first time, Used Cars has never looked better, although there are still a few problems with this transfer. The largest being that for the first 15-20 minutes the print is littered with a large amount of dirt and print flaws. Things clear up afterward, with a nice, much cleaner, transfer that boasts good color and even better sharpness and detail. Take for instance a shot in chapter 23 that shows the exterior of the county courthouse. The green lawn of the courthouse looks terrific while the detail and sharpness of the exterior of the building looks crisp and distinct. Overall this is a mixed bag of a transfer that looks poor at the start but great at the finish.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, and Portugeuseyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio mix for Used Cars appears to be Dolby Surround though neither the menu or packaging indicates what the exact mix is. My receiver identified the track as a two-channel mix, though after viewing the film the results appear to be a largely mono mix. Dialogue is clean and understandable with only a few moments of harshness during shotgun fire and explosions. A serviceable mix, whatever it is.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portugeuse, Chinese, Korean, and Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Multiplicity, So I married An Axe Murderer, and Groundhog Day
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Robert Zemeckis, writer Bob Gale, actor Kurt Russell
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio spots
  2. Outtakes
  3. Advertising Gallery
Extras Review: I was delighted to find that this disc is loaded with extra features. First is an absolutely hilarious audio commentary by Director Robert Zemeckis, Writer Bob Gale, and actor Kurt Russell. The three have a tremendous amount of energy together and it shows as several times the three laugh hysterically for what seems like minutes. There are some nice stories, including the truth that live ammunition rounds were used on the set, and that the shoot had its share of near accidents. This is one of the better commentary tracks I have heard recently and when added with The Thing it proves that Kurt Russell is a welcome addition to any track. Next are a selection of TV Spots and Radio Spots, and a Radio Interview done with Kurt Russell at the time of the film's release. The TV spot features Russell, on the car lot where the film was shot, pitching both the film as well as the car behind him. The collection of radio spots is a welcome addition as several are very funny, and the one showcasing Yankee Stadium is a real treasure. Three other Columbia films receive mention on the disc as Multiplicity, So I married An Axe Murderer (god, what a funny trailer) and Groundhog Day are each showcased in the Bonus Trailers section. Filmographies for Russell, Zemeckis, Gale, and McKean are offered as text screens with the respective filmmakers' work shown. A collection called the Vintage Advertising Gallery is largely made up of lobby cards and posters and is quick to go through. Finally we come to the Outtake reel that while funny is really sort of uninteresting as we see Russell mess up pitching a car as well as other gags.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Used Cars has long been at the top of several DVD enthusiasts' wish lists and I am happy to say that this disc will satisfy nearly everyone longing to add it to their collection. As a whole the DVD is impressive with one of the best commentary tracks in recent memory, as well as a host of other special features.For a low retail price passing on Used Cars would be silly cause ya know I have someone else interested in this beauty. And just remember; "Fifty bucks never killed anyone." Recommended.


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