February 24, 2013

Used Cars (1980)
Starring Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, and Deborah Harmon

"These prices are too fucking high!"

Comments:   Used Cars is a fun little movie to write about because I am guessing that 90% of the people who are reading this countdown have never even heard of it before.  Hell, I only heard about it for the first time about nine years ago, and that is amazing considering the fact that it is A) from the 80's, B) a comedy, C) a really funny comedy with a huge fanbase from the 80's, and that D) I actually grew up in the 80's.  I remember seeing Used Cars for the first time around 2004, and I remember thinking it was hilarious.  And then I remember thinking, how is possible that I never heard of a movie that was this funny when I was growing up in the 80's?

By the way, it's not a family movie

If you have never heard of Used Cars before, it stars Kurt Russell and it came out in the summer of 1980.  And it would be much better well known today, and it would have made a buttload more money than it actually did, and it would have become much more popular and beloved than it actually did, if it would have been released at any other point in the decade.  Seriously, the summer of 1980 was the WORST possible time for a movie like this to have been released in the theaters.  Because, well, Airplane came out the exact same week.  And Airplane is widely considered to be one of the funniest movies, if not THE funniest movie, of the 80's.

So anyway, Used Cars came out in July of 1980.  Airplane also came out in July of 1980.  And guess which one made all the money and everyone went to see?

Here's a hint.  There is a reason you have probably never seen Used Cars before.

Used Cars is the story of a pair of brothers who own used car dealerships right across the street from one another.  They are named the Fuchs Brothers and they are both played by Jack Warden.  And naturally, since this is a comedy, one of the brothers is a nice kindly old man (Luke Fuchs), and the other brother is a potty-mouthed mean nasty son of a bitch (Roy L. Fuchs).

Luke Fuchs and Roy L. Fuchs

There isn't much of a plot to Used Cars.  It is basically just the story of how the mean nasty brother (Roy L.) is trying to steal the dealership and the customer base from the nicer brother (Luke).  Because, you see, Roy L. has learned from a political insider friend that a new freeway overpass is about to be put in right across the street.  And he knows that Luke's dealership (New Deal Used Cars) is going to be the optimal place to sell cars once that overpass goes in.

Roy L. knows that overpass is going to be built in the future, and he wants that location.

Roy L. plotting how to steal his brother's dealership

Most of Used Cars is made up of Roy L. Fuchs trying every dirty trick in the book to steal that business from his brother.  He just runs around like a maniac, pulling off schemes and tricks and scams like a motherfucker.  He tries to get his brother arrested.  He tries to get his brother's business dissolved.  Heck, at one point he actually even attempts to murder his brother.

However, Roy L. is never quite successful at getting what he wants.

Because there is one man across the street who always seems to be standing in his way.

The Commander  Snake Plissken  Jack Burton  Kurt Russell

Yes, Kurt Russell plays a "heroic" used car salesman named Rudy Russo.  And he happens to be the #1 salesman at New Deal Used Cars.  And despite the fact that he is an unethical sleazy lying son of a bitch who would lie to you to scam you out of your grandmother's funeral money (pretty much like all used car salesmen), he also happens to love his job.  And he also happens to love working for Luke Fuchs.  And he really needs to stay here at this job until he can raise 5,000 more dollars so that he can run for the senate.

Needless to say, the movie eventually breaks down into a war between Roy L. Fuchs and Rudy Russo to see which one can outwit the other one.  Which one can be the sneakiest nastiest son of a bitch.  Which one will gain control of the land where New Deal Used Cars currently sits.

And, uh, it gets pretty memorable.

Used Cars is one of those comedies that only could have been made in the late 70's.  Because it is pretty much the opposite of a family friendly comedy.  This is one of those comedies from the late 70's (like the Kentucky Fried Movie) that is just out of control.  Between the profanity and the characters having a complete lack of ethics, to the dark humor and the gratuitous nudity, this is one of those movies that I am shocked wasn't a bigger deal in the 80's.  Because if you like comedy, it really has a little bit of everything.  You know the dead guy who people pretend isn't dead in Weekend at Bernie's?  You know the dead dog tied to the back of the car in National Lampoon's Vacation?  Well Used Cars did both of those jokes first.  

Also, Used Cars has Lenny and Squiggy.  It also has way more tits.

I watched Used Cars for the first time in 2004, and I was just stunned that I had never heard of it before.  I mean, how can a movie THIS wild and THIS funny (and starring Kurt Russell!) never have made much of an impact in the world of 80's comedy movies?  It is just astounding.  The only explanation I can possibly come up with (aside from the obvious Airplane cockblock) was that it came out in 1980, which was about two years before everyone starting buying VCRs and rewatching their favorites comedies over and over.

Used Cars is one of those movies that came out about two years too soon.  Had it come out two years later, around the time of Vacation or Ghostbusters, I have no doubt that it is one of those movies that people would still be talking about today.  However, that didn't happen.  It was released in 1980, it bombed big time at the box office, and then it just sort of lounged in video store obscurity while all the other awesome comedies of its era developed a fan base.

Even though the dead dog scene makes me laugh every time I watch it

By the way, I should probably tell you about the first time I ever heard about Used Cars.  This is kind of a weird and personal story to be sharing on a website, but hey, people generally read my stuff because they like the honesty.  So here goes.  Nobody ever said that I keep secrets from you guys.

I first heard about Used Cars the night of my mother's funeral.  My mom passed away in 2004 after a year long battle with cancer.  And, naturally, the day of the funeral was very sad.  And then after the funeral was over my relatives just kind of hung around my dad's house and everyone was bummed and sad.

Well at some point during the evening I figured that my mom wouldn't want everyone to just sit around the house and be sad.  Because she wasn't a very sad person.  She liked it when people were laughing and having fun.  Heck, my mom's favorite movie scene of all time was the cowboys sitting around the campfire and farting in Blazing Saddles.  So I suggested to my dad that maybe I rent a movie or something and it would cheer everyone up.

"How about Used Cars?" suggested my Uncle David.

Huh?  I had never heard of Used Cars before.  What the heck was Used Cars?

"How can you claim to be the movie guy if you have never seen Used Cars before?" my uncle chastised me.  "It's easily the funniest comedy ever made.  It's only my all time favorite movie."

Used Cars?  The funniest movie ever?  How come I had never heard of this before?  


So anyway, that's how we watched Used Cars the night of my mother's funeral.  And I am guessing that mom would have been happy that we did.  Because I remember watching it with my uncle and we were just laughing our butts off.

Trust me!

And so there you go.  Used Cars.  A comedy that has almost no presence in the world of movies whatsoever, but the people who know about it and love it REALLY love it.  And yes, I know it is about 30 years too late, but one of those people is finally me.  This is one of my favorite comedies of the 80's.  

I really wish I had known about it twenty years ago but, hey, you can't have everything in the world.  There is a probably a very good reason my parents didn't want me to watch it when I was a kid.

Probably because of what happens about ten seconds after this

By the way, before I sign off, I should point out that Used Cars was made by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.  If you have heard of those names before, it is because they also made Back to the Future.  Robert Zemeckis also directed Forrest Gump (among other stuff).  He is a very well respected name in the world of movies.

Well five years before he wrote and directed Back to the Future, Robert Zemeckis wrote and directed Used Cars.

To this day, it is the only R rated movie he has ever made.

It is also the only movie he has ever made featuring a really awesome trained beagle (Toby)

If you like R rated comedies, you will like Used Cars.  If you like Kurt Russell movies, you will like Used Cars.  I mean, personally, Rudy Russo is my all time favorite Kurt Russell character.  This was one of the first comedies he ever did, and he was born for this role.

Rudy Russo

Heck, if you like movies that feature El Guapo (Alfonso Arau) other than Three Amigos, you will love Used Cars.  It is funny to see him running around in Used Cars and not doing El Guapo things.  Before seeing Used Cars, I had no idea that the feared and infamous bandito El Guapo often emphasized a point by grabbing his balls.

In the end, Used Cars is a movie that I would recommend to just about anyone who likes comedy movies.  It's not really family friendly at all, but hey it's a comedy, so who cares?  If you want family friendly go watch Willow.  Used Cars is a hilarious movie that should have a much bigger standing among 80's comedies than it currently does.

So let's get on that and let's get the word out.

"This car is so you.  Mrs. Lopez, do you realize that your hair matches the color of the tires?"

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Used Cars:

Toby would want you to watch this movie. - 7 April 1999
First time I watched this movie the pain from laughing was too much. The second time, it still hurt. Just watched it the other night for the nth time, and it still hurt.

This movie will make you laugh. Trust me.

Plain hilarious - 2 April 2004
One of the funniest movies ever made. I remember watching it on video in the early '80s and expected something really bad (from the cover on the video cassette). There was a movie released around the same time called GAS, which was awful, awful, awful. I saw Used Cars after GAS and expected the worst. And Used Cars is STILL as funny as ever. Perhaps even funnier now (and interesting to note that Kurt Russell really displays great comic timing in this, and it is director Robert Zemeckis' only R-rated film). Zemeckis was one naughty school boy with this film, and those expecting something along the order of Forrest Gump, Back to the Future or Castaway will be in for a surprise! If you're a fan, get the DVD - the commentary with Russell and Zemeckis and screenwriter Bob Gale is priceless. I think they were drinking a little when they did the commentary. It is one of the most entertaining commentaries I have heard.

A classic in bad taste, in the best Mel Brooks and Farrelly Brothers fashion--and 50 bucks never killed anyone!

Kurt Russell, Gerritt Graham, Frank McRae and Lenny & Squiggy sell cars. - 26 April 2001
Quite simply, the funniest film ever made. Period. Bar none.

It's Zemeckis' best film. It's Russell's best performance. Twisted, gutbustingly hilarious. Never has a movie made me laugher harder, longer and with such force. I've seen it over a hundred times and just keeps getting funnier.

Timeless - 27 October 2003
This is one of the funniest movies of all time. I saw it when it hit the theaters in 1980 and I bought it on videotape when I first saw it in the store. After seeing it more than just a few times over the years, I must say that it still keeps me rolling in laughter every time I see it. Until the automobile industry catches up with the electronics industry in making disposable cars (resulting in the inevitable demise of the used car salesman) this movie will maintain its own with its timeless humor. With the possible exception of his role in "Tombstone", this has to be the best role that Kurt Russell has ever done.

Damned Crazy Stuff - 11 October 2005
Just because it's been at least ten years since I last saw any part of this movie won't keep me from writing this review. Russell is hot shot salesman for Nice Jack Warden, who operates car dealership out in the desert across from his brother and rival Evil Jack Warden. Russell and his cohorts try and conceal Nice Jack's death (in hilarious fashion) from Evil Jack, the potential heir. Then an unexpected heir arrives to make things really interesting... You can look at this two ways - a TV sitcom with moments of high absurdity, or a hilarious movie that occasionally gets too silly. I prefer the latter characterization but can't argue against the former. Russell is great as the conniving salesman and Graham is fun as his overly-superstitious friend, but Warden is at least as good as either in his dual role. Scene where the good guys blow up Evil Jack's cars in live TV spot is a moment of comic brilliance. "Those prices are too ----ing high!!"

A perfectly good dark comedy -- my personal favorite! - 3 April 1999
Yeah, it's a sleeper. No one's ever heard of it. But that doesn't make it bad... in fact, it's my personal favorite movie.

Kurt Russell plays a sneaky used car salesman, in 1979-80. It's a dark comedy about two competing car lots, complete with sex, action, and a good soundtrack (for the time).

I definitely wouldn't mind seeing some car lots using the commercials they did, nor would I mind... well, I'll let you see it.

* My favorite trivia about Used Cars:

* According to Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the film's release was botched by the studio. The film tested extremely well in previews and Columbia Pictures pushed the film out of its original late-August release date to mid-summer with little publicity and poor advertising. The film only played across half the United States rather than receiving a true wide-theatrical release and consequently flopped upon release.

* If you look closely, the T-Birds' white convertible and the Scorpions' black Mercury with flames (both from Grease) are two of the cars that Rudy Russo palms off on the drivers ed. teacher.

* When Rudy (Kurt Russell) comes home from his promotional car spot with the hookers, he makes a nod to the statue of rock-and-roll legend Elvis Presley that's sitting on his dresser. Russell began his film career with a cameo in Presley's It Happened at the World's Fair, and later portrayed Elvis in Elvis. He also played an Elvis impersonator two decades later in 3000 Miles to Graceland.

* The scene where Rudy's commercial in the parking lot of the football game was re-shot because Columbia Pictures executives were appalled by the "Dicknose" glasses that Gerrit Graham wore in the scene. Snippets of it could be scene in the final cut of the film when Kurt Russell holds the glasses at the camera for an instant as his scenes were not re-shot.

* At the football game when Michael McKean and David L. Lander hack the satellite, just before the camera comes on you can see the two original "penis noses" in a box. These were the original gags for Gerritt Graham and Kurt Russell, but Columbia executives put the kibosh on those gags, replacing them with bouncing eyeball glasses.

* In the scene where Roy Fuchs (Jack Warden) walks up to Rudy (Kurt Russell) and Jeff (Gerrit Graham) as they're finishing shoveling dirt over the spot where they buried Luke, Graham didn't have any lines and kept pestering Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale for lines. Finally, he just decides to repeat whatever Russell said to Warden. Apparently Warden was unaware of what Graham was doing, thus his line "What're you? A fuckin' parrot?". It was Warden's genuine annoyance at Graham, which worked so well in the scene that it was included in the final cut.

* According to Bob Gale in the Commentary, producer Steven Spielberg was appalled by Rudy's line about President Jimmy Carter: "Hey, he fucks with us..." Spielberg was a supporter of Carter. Robert Zemeckis and Gale refused to remove the line because where they came from (Gale is from Missouri and Zemeckis is from Chicago) politicians are in their opinion corrupt.

* The reason Used Cars was made at Columbia Pictures was because Uinversal Pictures passed on it, but the head of Columbia had once sold cars, and he understood it right away.

* Jack Warden initially rejected the role of Roy L. Fuchs. Later, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale were told by an acquaintance that all actors like to do two things: they like to play dead and they like to perform two roles in the same film. Gale and Zemeckis then re-offered the movie to Warden with these two stipulations, and he accepted.

* My favorite scene in Used Cars:

The scene where Garrit Graham cons a family into buying a car by pretending they ran over his dog is awesome.  And I will never not laugh at "These prices are too fucking high!  *KABOOM*" on live TV.  I really do wish more people knew about this movie.  My Uncle David was right.

By the way my wife would like me to point out that Toby the Beagle is hilarious.  She wishes our dog was that awesome.  Sadly, he isn't.

Used Cars at the IMDB

Used Cars at Wikipedia

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