Francis Ford Coppola directed my favorite film of all time Apocalypse Now and it was released in 1979. It lost the Oscar to Kramer vs. Kramer in easily one of the worst decisions ever made by the Academy. In the Eighties, Coppola’s work was given fairly short thrift. I am glad that in recent years this work has started to be reassessed. Criterion recently released Rumble Fish on Blu-ray and now Lionsgate has released his 1988 film Tucker: The Man and His Dream. I had never seen the film but I did not hesitate to preorder it when it became available.
Jeff Bridges plays Preston Tucker an eccentric and visionary man who had an idea for a car of the future. Tucker had already proven his ingenuity by designing an armored car that the armed services deemed was far too fast and for designing the gun turrets that were used during World War II. Tucker manufactured all of the turrets out of his barn. One day Tucker comes home and informs his wife Vera (Joan Allen) and oldest son Junior (Christian Slater) that he is going to create a revolutionary car. He had come up with several revolutionary safety devices for the car but when he realizes that it will be difficult to find investors he decides to create an advertisement based on his drawings. The advertisement lies and says that there is a working prototype. When letters of support come through, Tucker is able to find an investor named Abe (Martin Landau) that puts together an investment group and begins selling car dealership rights for the car of the future. Tucker is able to convince the government to give his company a large factory in Chicago that was abandoned after the war, but in order to keep the factory he must have fifteen million dollars in cash and produce fifty cars the very first year. Tucker convinces the government to give the factory by displaying all the safety features unique to the car. In his excitement he mentions that the big three in Detroit should be put on trial for manslaughter. This gains the attention of the big three in Detroit and with the help of Senator Homer Ferguson (Lloyd Bridges) they begin to do anything in their power to stop Tucker from achieving his dream.
Coppola first envisioned this film as a musical. Some of that energy makes its way into the film. It is a beautiful film full of color and is relentlessly upbeat in its depiction of Tucker. I love books and films on businessmen and this is a great story. Coppola caught some flak for showing Tucker in such a favorable light, but as a film I thought it was a fantastic piece of entertainment. Jeff Bridges is dynamite as the exuberant Tucker. He is given free rein to give one of his most joy filled performances. For myself, I thought it was great.
Lloyd Bridges turns in a good performance as the villainous Senator from Detroit. Martin Landau was always a great actor. His turns in Crimes and Misdemeanors and Ed Wood remain my two favorite performances by him, but I will consider this role a close third. Landau has a few moments late in the film that I found particularly moving. The performance by Elias Koteas as Tucker’s faithful designer was also a highlight of the film. There is also a brief cameo by Dean Stockwell as a large historical figure that I will not ruin for you. It is one of the best scenes in the film.
The score by Joe Jackson is a burst of sustained energy that from the first frame to the last keeps the film light and whimsical. The cinematography by the legendary Vittorio Storaro is excellent, but this should come as no surprise given his incredible track record.
The finale of this film is when Coppola and the script by Arnold Schulman and David Seidler knocks it out of the park. Jeff Bridges gives a speech that every businessman will enjoy. I love a good defense of free enterprise and this is a great speech about the David and Goliaths of the world. The finale of the film made me feel tremendous pride as an American.
This film comes highly recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
Coppola has always done an incredible job of taking delicate care of his films and making sure that they are personally supervised by himself in their transition into new formats. His films The Godfather and Apocalypse Now are sterling examples of how beautiful the Blu-ray format can be. This is the same case with this presentation. This new transfer is from a 4K scan and it looks marvelous. Vitorrio Storaro is one of my favorite cinematographers of all time and he does an exceptional job here. The film looks gorgeous.
Audio: How’s it sound?
For this film Coppola relied on an incredibly upbeat score by Joe Jackson that keeps up with the frenetic pace of the film. Lionsgate has provided a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 that does great justice to Jackson’s score and the original stereo sound design of the film. It sounds great. Coppola proves once again what an amazing perfectionist he is.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola – This is a great commentary track. The love that Coppola feels for this film and the story in the film is infectious. Fans of the film will enjoy this track.
Francis Ford Coppola Introduction – Coppola explains why he had chosen to work on this project. His father had actually lost ten thousand dollars in his purchases he made into the Tucker company. A really enjoyable intro.
Deleted Scene (Sc. 142 Stove Sequence) – this deleted scene is fairly interesting but is from VHS elements. In the scene some Dalmatians interrupt an important procedure. There is an optional commentary from Coppola that explains the procedure they were attempting more thoroughly.
Under the Hood: Making Tucker – ten minutes of enjoyable archival interviews pieced together to form a piece on the film.
Tucker: The Man and the Car 1948 Promotional Film – this promotional film is fantastic for fans of the film. It was great to see the man himself trying to push these automobiles of the future. There is an optional commentary with Coppola available as well.
The Bottom Line
Tucker: The Man and His Dream is a blast of energy from one of the greatest American directors to ever work in the industry. Coppola did not receive enough credit for what he had done here at the time of the release, but the film has aged incredibly well. Jeff Bridges and Martin Landau are both excellent in the film and the script is fantastic. I loved this movie and hope that it finds a better audience now. Lionsgate have provided a drop-dead beautiful transfer of the film and some great supplements for the 30th anniversary release. Highly recommended.