The versatile HB Halicki not only wrote, directed and starred in this grandaddy of the car-chase movie, he also supplied the vehicles – 93 of which ended up demolished.
Influencing a range of films from The Cannonball Run (1981) to Death Race 2000 (1975), Halicki’s story of a ring of professional car thieves (the title refers to how long it takes to steal a car) culminates in the now-classic 40-minute chase sequence.
The 1973 Ford Mustang (nicknamed ‘Eleanor’) driven by Halicki immediately earned its place alongside the Mustang in Bullitt (1968), the Challenger in Vanishing Point (1971) and the DB5 in Goldfinger (1964) in the movie petrolhead hall of fame.
The writer-director-producer-star suffered 10 compressed vertebrae during the film’s final set-piece – a jump clearing almost 130ft – but it wasn’t the first (or the last) of his injuries sustained during production, all of which were left in the finished film.
Slamming into a lamppost at 100mph after missing a mark, the first thing Halicki was reported to have said after regaining consciousness was, “Did we get coverage?”
The film was enough of a cult hit to warrant a sequel in 1989, during the filming of which Halicki was tragically killed performing a stunt.
The movie was given the big-budget remake treatment with Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie in 2000.
H B Halicki
H B Halicki