I was born in 1960. I point that out so I can share this anecdote. When I was six I was riding with my father in our family station wagon. We were leaving the grocery store and, as he turned the corner, my door popped open and out I tumbled. As we were only going a few miles an hour I wasn’t hurt. Still, it would have been nice to have something inside the car to keep me in my seat. Preston Tucker had an idea for something like that in 1948, one of many innovations that were scoffed at then but almost taken for granted today. It’s been 70 years since Preston Tucker gave us his car and it’s been 30 since the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s film TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM.
Jeff Bridges stars as Preston Tucker, a dreamer if there ever was one. Enthralled with the automobile he strikes out to design and build his own. Sadly, like many dreamers before him, Preston must deal with all of the negatives that go with dreaming, from family disapproval to rival businessmen trying to destroy what you’ve built up. Bridges has always been the best at portraying characters like Preston and here he does an outstanding job. He is surrounded by an amazing cast, including Joan Allen and Martin Landau, who earned the first of his three Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominations for his performance (he would later win the award for his work in ED WOOD).
As for atmosphere and technical beauty, you can never go wrong when Francis Ford Coppola does a period film. From THE GODFATHER to THE COTTON CLUB, no detail is spared to give the film an authentic look. To be honest I’d never heard of the Tucker Torpedo (the name of the car) until I saw the film when it was released. To be sure, it was not pretty to look at (three headlights gave it a very unusual look) but it was built in an age where a lot of the things Tucker tackled were mostly ignored by the other car manufacturers. Having an actual car (or cars) on screen helps the viewer travel back to a time when gas mileage was not a problem because everyone got 10 miles to the gallon! The film also earned Academy Award nominations for both its Set/Art Direction and Costume Design, accolades very well deserved.
Though the extras included are your standard fare, there are a couple of nuggets that make the viewing more enjoyable. First, while sharing family stories in his very entertaining commentary, director Coppola notes that his father was an initial investor in the Tucker Corporation, an investment that did not go as planned. Also included is an amazing promotional film from 1948, introducing the Tucker to the world. Very nostalgic if you’re a fan of that period of history.
I should point out that the United States did not insist that new cars came with seatbelts until 1964. So in an older car there was nothing to keep me from rolling out. Even if I’d been in a Tucker I would have suffered the same fate as Tucker was persuaded by a business partner NOT to put seatbelts in the car as he felt they might give the impression that the car was unsafe. I guess in a way he was right.
Video: The film is presented in its original 2:39.1 aspect ratio and looks amazing. Coppola never skimps on period films and every dime spent jumps off the screen.
Audio: The audio is in Dolby TrueHD 5. and is well recorded. Dialogue is well received while the Joe Jackson inspired soundtrack plays well behind it.
Audio Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola: Full of funny stories and amazing facts.
Francis Ford Coppola Introduction (3:40): With an original Tucker behind him (Coppola and George Lucas each own (2) of the (50) produced, the film’s director talks about the history of the film and its desirability.
Deleted Scene (4:11): Thanks to the invention of Video Assist, this scene is poorly presented and not missed from the finished product.
Under the Hood: Making “Tucker” (10:02): A look at the filming of “Tucker. Standard EPK stuff.
Tucker: The Man and Car – 1948 Promotional Film (14:55): An amazing original promotional film telling you all you need to know before your purchase. Comes with an optional commentary by Francis Ford Coppola.