2007 was one wild ride for car-mageddon lovers, with pedal-to-the-metal automobile action featuring extensively in films like The Bourne Ultimatum and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, which matched a 1969 Dodge Charger against Barry Newman’s 1970 Dodge Challenger from Vanishing Point ( Rather than favouring soulless CGI action, the revival in car chases reflects the audience desire for the kind of old school action seen in 1968’s gear-grinder Bullitt (

In Death Proof, Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike gives a sentimental speech about how ‘back in the all or nothing days, they had real cars crashing into real cars and real dumb people driving them’, and the film references the mid-70s heyday of John Hough’s Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (, a nihilistic classic which ends with hero and heroine driving off into the sunset in shocking style.

Dangerous driving is best left to the experts, so sober up for 2008 with the cautionary tale of HB Halicki, writer and director of lost masterpiece The Junkman ( After the success of his debut film, the original Gone in 60 Seconds (1974), car dealer and filmmaker Halicki somehow drew up an equation about how the number of cars crashed onscreen could equal box-office success. Hence, 1981’s The Junkman, the Heaven’s Gate of car crash flicks, a millionaire’s amateur dramatics piece featuring the destruction of cars, trucks, planes, trains and buildings, all of which were owned by Halicki, who made the Guinness Book of Records for wrecking the most cars in one film (

His ‘row of sunglasses on the dashboard’ trademark was lifted by Tarantino for both Kill Bill and Death Proof, but sadly Halicki’s career didn’t run so smoothly. Two weeks into the filming of his Gone in 60 Seconds 2, Halicki neglected to drain a tank of water he was driving under, and was crushed when the tank dropped faster than expected. Halicki’s cinematic legacy may not be remembered by many cinephiles, yet he left behind the world’s largest collection of automotive toys, models and cars. The ultimate independent cinema entrepreneur, Halicki had the satisfaction of knowing that he quite literally died with the most toys.

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