Although the mediocre remake was one of producer Jerry Bruckheimer's few misfires in the past decade, H.B. Halicki's 1974 original feature was an enormous hit - a fun ride that managed a respectable amount of character detail and gave the audience what it wanted - spectacular (for the time) car chases and crashes that weren't achieved with CGI or any other tricks - just lots of cars getting smashed up good.
After a successful run as a body shop owner in the Northeast, Halicki began real estate investment, which eventually lead to successful holdings and a prosperous junkyard business. Halicki was also one of the world's most widely-known auto collectors. In 1974, he not only starred in "Seconds", but managed to write, produce and direct the picture, as well. Halicki also distributed and marketed his films successfully, doing so completely outside the Hollywood system.
Tragically, Halicki was killed on the set of "Gone in 60 Seconds 2", where an accident occured as the director/star was preparing for a stunt sequence. The action sequences for the sequel were apparently about finished, but the sequel as a whole was never completed. This DVD edition provides the action footage that was filmed, which seems to involve hundreds of cars. Watching the original (as well as the sequel), it's remarkable how well Halicki, not a trained director, was able to choreograph the many stunt sequences.
"Deadline Auto Theft" is a similar effort to "Gone in 60 Seconds" - it's the third picture in the trilogy, after "60 Seconds" and "The Junkman". Once again, the master thief (Halicki) sets out to steal a car that just happens to belong to the daughter of the LAPD captain, who sets out to stop the thief at all costs. The acting's a little bad and the film as a whole is a bit corny, but the crashes are still impressive and the film still has that "cult classic" appeal.
VIDEO: "Gone in 60 Seconds 2" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame. Considering the footage is somewhere around fifteen years of age, it's really pretty impressive how good it looks. Some footage does appear slightly soft, but most of it appears surprisingly crisp, bright and detailed. According to the credits, the footage has been restored. There are a few little specks on the print and some minor edge enhancement, but other than that, the picture quality is pleasing.
"Deadline Auto Theft" fares a little worse, but its remastered presentation still is decent in appearance. Sharpness and detail are inconsistent, as the picture generally looks soft, but can seem a bit more well-defined at times. Some specks, grain and other wear can be seen here and there, but the majority of the presentation looked pretty clean and clear of such faults. Colors were decently rendered, appearing slightly smeary at times.
SOUND: Both films are presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, as well as Dolby 2.0. The remastered and repurposed soundtracks are generally pretty good, and fare better than the image quality. The score sounds particularly full and clean, getting some reinforcement from the rear speakers. The surrounds also kick in with a few sound effects here and there. Dialogue is clear, but certainly, recording quality isn't modern.
EXTRAS: The main supplement is a 45-minute documentary that aired on the Speed Channel about Halicki. It's a fun look at the actor/director's history, as there's plenty of involving stories from Halicki's wife, Denise, as well as many other crew members that worked on his films. We learn more about how stunts were accomplished, as well as more about how the films were done for a very minor budget. It's especially fascinating to hear how the director was able to promote and successfully get his film played, despite how Hollywood was trying to keep his films out of the theater chains. Trailers for all three films in the "trilogy" are also included, and Denise Halicki introduces both films.
Final Thoughts: "Deadline Auto Theft" and the footage from "Gone In 60 Seconds" are entertaining; despite some so-so acting, Halicki really was skilled at crafting enjoyable chase scenes. The DVD offers pretty good picture and sound for both, as well as a few extras. Recommended for those interested.