10 August 2009

The Junkman

United States - 1982
Director – H. B. Halicki
Trans World Entertainment, 1984, VHS
Run time – 1 hour, 33 min.

This is something of a sequel to the 1974 film Gone In 60 Seconds which I’ve never seen. I’ve never really been into car movies, but for a dollar can you blame me? As soon as I saw the soft white-plastic clamshell I was sold. There was only a brief period at the beginning of the VHS age when regular movies were sold in this type of case. Later on most of the Disney type animation was released this way, but for a few minutes it was an industry standard.

In the late 70’s/early 80’s there was a strange period of time that I may never understand when it was broadly considered cool and heroic to destroy things and see if you could hurt yourself publicly. Nowadays these things are still popular but they’ve become part of the distinct profile of the Culture War. Monster trucks and Nascar simply no longer appeal to the entire country simply because the driver is wearing a flag outfit and stuff gets broke. Maybe it was because of Vietnam, and everybody was depressed and needed to feel good about a guy in a flag suit trying to do pointless shit at the risk of his life.

Think back to when Evel Knievel was more or less at the peak of his popularity, by the time Junkman was made, three movies had already been made about Evel. So other people who liked to drive cars and hurt themselves saw the opportunity and went for it. Case in point, H.B. Halicki, a minor stuntman guy who collected stuff, including cars and toys, and decided to make a movie more or less about himself. That was Gone In 60 Seconds, in which he had a used car dealership. In The Junkman we get more of the inflated story, this time about Halicki’s actual junkyard business. Here, despite what I’m sure is supposed to be dramatic tension and an interesting plot is a movie about a guy, written directed and produced by the guy. In effect it’s a 90 minute ego trip, and that’s sortof whats supposed to make it mildly interesting. Halicki apparently was a fairly eccentric character before he got killed on the set of the actual sequel to Gone In 60 Seconds.

None of these people is Halicki. All these pictures are random because I was drinking homemade raspberry wine when I watched this movie.

Unfortunately as Junkmans hubristic protagonist he’s pretty unsympathetic, and since it’s supposed to be an exaggerated version of Halicki, I get the impression he was pretty full of himself in real life too (confirmed if you trust the poorly written Wiki entry). The Junkman spends most of his movie barely escaping bumbling assassination attempts as he leaves a wake of dismissively arrogant destruction (“Over 150 Cars Destroyed”). Why, he can’t seem to figure out, would anyone want to kill him, the coolest most enviable B-list stuntman ever? I’m guessing it wasn’t his penchant for philanthropy.

Admittedly much of my take on the mud-boggin’ truck-stompin’ sidespin of Americana is colored by my metropolitan mindset and I cant help but wonder what the fuck people find so entertaining about spending loads of cash on stuff just to get the thrill of breaking it. I was born and raised in prime shitkicker territory, but I guess I never quite understood the appeal.

I was both pleased and disappointed to discover that Junkman did make it to a DVD with shitty cover art. I was hoping I had a rare VHS gem, but I’ll take solace in my clamshell with crappy painting art and in knowing that this piece of Americana, if puzzling, hasn’t been completely subsumed by pop.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

actually you do have a gem with the VHS copy, the DVD had all the Halicki music removed due to rights issues and was replaced with bland lift muzac.