Blu-ray Review: Tucker: The Man and His Dream | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Studio: Lionsgate

Sep 21, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Preston Tucker was an American automobile entrepreneur who came to initial fame in the 1930s by pioneering a electric-powered gun turret (the Tucker Turret) which was to be used in World War II bombers. Though this design was originally intended for a ground combat vehicle called the Tucker Tiger, it was scrapped by the US government after the prototype proved too fast (able to travel up to 100mph), and subsequently none of the turrets actually were fitted for use on any bombers during the war. It would also come to light that Tucker's patents were supposedly stolen, resulting in several years of his life hallmarked by lawsuits for unpaid royalties. However, that all pales in comparison to his most famous achievement coinciding with his most infamous scandal: the Tucker 48.

The 1948 Tucker Sedan was a massively-hyped automobile that was confronted with a stock fraud scandal and trial brought on by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This was due to the company’s consistent press and promotional material marketing questionable (and often changeable) statements, despite having no running prototype. It would later be revealed that the case against Tucker and his car was mostly baseless attempt by Michigan Senator Homer Ferguson, General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler to put a stop to the startup’s breakthroughs by publically destroying its popularity. Though his company never recovered from the scandal, many of Tucker’s original innovations have become standard design elements on many modern cars (such as disc brakes, directional headlights, and fuel injected engines). Only 50 cars (and one partial) were made, and all have become valuable collectors’ items, many of which remain roadworthy and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

Francis Ford Coppola had envisioned a biopic on Tucker for nearly a decade before he and George Lucas were able to bring it to life in 1988, with it undergoing many changes before reaching the screen (being almost emblematic of the design and production process of the Tucker 48). Involving Tucker’s actual children and grandchildren as resources, it began first as an dark experimental musical in the late 70s. However, upon bankruptcy filings for American Zoetrope in the mid-80s, after several of Coppola’s previous films (primarily One from the Heart and The Cotton Club) failed so abysmally at the box office, he shelved the project.

Lucas would eventually convince Coppola to return to the subject while dropping the musical aspect, favoring a homage to Frank Capra and classic Hollywood movies (which is abundantly clear from the very first frames of the film). As both Lucas and Coppola were riding a then-current wave of financial flops, production studios were reluctant to fork over the desired $24 million production budget. This prompted Lucas to attempt to cover the budget personally, and produce the work through his companies Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. He would eventually convince Paramount Pictures to finance the film’s completion, and to distribute it stateside.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream was released on August 12, 1988 to a mostly positive critical response, primarily directed toward the film’s purposefully zany throwback design and its solid performances of its leads. However, the film grossed several million dollars under its production budget and was declared a box office disappointment by the end of its theater run. It became available for home consumption when Paramount Home Video released a VHS in 1991, and a DVD in 2000, the latter of which included an audio commentary by Coppola, a making-of featurette, and the 1948 promotional film Tucker: The Man and the Car.

A 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray was released by Lionsgate Films on Aug 28, 2018, equipped with a high definition remaster of the film. This latest offering is buttressed by the original DVD’s supplemental material, a newly released deleted scene with optional commentary, and a new introduction to the film by Coppola.

The film brims with wildly imaginative aesthetic choices; primarily hallmarked by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly’s immersively frantic editing, the vivid (and almost cartoonish) color palettes, and Arnold Schulman and David Seidler’s hilarious screenplay. There is an abundance of adoration for the film’s titular dreamer (which is supported by Coppola and Lucas publically affirming their version of Tucker was purposefully sympathetic), which is heartwarmingly satisfying, though it eventually succumbs to utterly predictable genre plot points, such as overly-demonizing individuals for easy villians when the reality was far more complex. As the film diverts strongly from historical accuracy in several key instances to maintain its thematic throughlines, the film has to be observed in a quasi-fictional sense, which (in turn) makes some of the more batty elements in the film that actually were historically accurate harder to believe. This doesn’t hurt the film in a severe way, however, and it should be appreciated in the same vein as Miloš Forman’s Amadeus and Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind; where there is a sizable amount to respect, admire, and enjoy, but that “based on/inspired by a true story” must be taken with a sizable supply of salt.

Almost equally serving as an existential allegory for Coppola’s cinematic career, Tucker: The Man and His Dream is a highly-stylized and romantic homage to a crazy idea struggling against insurmountable odds to become a new American dream, and an absolutely essential addition to any avid fan of Coppola, Lucas, or the Tucker 48.


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October 23rd 2018

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