This 1980 comedy has been described as "appealing to those with a warped sense of humor." I must have one. I laugh just as hard on the tenth viewing as the first. Sure it's outlandish, but even the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW has its following. And critics should note that the STEVEN SPIELBERG is listed as an executive producer. (Now you can say what you want about me but I dare you to criticize Spielberg.) Jack Warden plays the good/evil twin Fuchs brothers, Luke and Roy, with car lots across the street from each other. Gerrit Graham is hilarious as the ultra-superstitious Jeff who's terrified of red cars; and the ever versatile Kurt Russell shines as the fast-talking, manipulating but loyal Rudy determined to keep his promise to a dead old man.
Rudy "Trust Me" Russo needs to raise $10,000 in six weeks to buy the nomination for state senate. (He's making a natural progression from shady salesman at the New Deal Used Car lot to politics.) "The party's looking for somebody who can tell the people what they wanna hear..Luke, they're looking for me!" And he can. He's Rudy Polanski to Polish customers or Rudy O'Brien if your name sounds Irish. The film opens with him turning back the mileage on a car's odometer and baiting a customer over on Roy's lot with the old ten-dollar-bill on a fishing rod. The poor guy dodges cars chasing it across a busy highway right into Rudy's clutches and behind the wheel of a Buick that has fenders stuck on with chewing gum. Luke doesn't approve of Rudy's tactics; he's afraid of the Consumer Protection Agency so he agrees to loan Rudy the $10,000. But before they get to the bank Luke suffers a fatal heart attack. That's just what Roy was anticipating. His bribing local officials into making sure a new freeway ramp runs through Luke's lot didn't work. "It used to be when you bought a politician he stayed bought!" he complains to Sam (JOE FLAHERTY), the District attorney. So he sends a demolition derby expert to pose as a buyer and destroy Luke's prized 1957 chevy. Luke's heart couldn't take it, but before he dies he makes Rudy promise to "..keep my mercenary brother from getting his hands on this lot." Knowing that Luke only has one daughter who hadn't seen or spoken to him in years, Rudy figures on Roy inheriting the lot so he has to pretend Luke is still alive.
In the middle of the night he, Jeff, and Jim, the mechanic (FRANK MCRAE) eulogize Luke as they bury him in his beloved edsel in a pit behind the car lot. In the morning they try to convince Roy that Luke drove the edsel to Miami Beach for a vacation. Rudy still has his cash flow problem so he hires two techno wizards, EDDIE & FREDDIE (DAVID L. LANDER & MICHAEL MCKEAN), to help him bring in customers. They break into the middle of a major football game by jamming the satellite broadcast. TV viewers will see an ad for the car lot with half-naked women and Jeff in a Groucho Marxist disguise. (Lander and McKean are better known as Lenny & Squiggy from the 70's sitcom, "Laverne & Shirley.") Jeff discovers the car he's leaning on is not maroon but red, he catches a girl's dress on the hood ornament, it rips, and viewers get a look at more than cars. Just the reactions of the people at home watching their sets is worth the rental price of this movie.
It works! The next morning finds the lot full of horny middle-aged men. Another funny segment occurs here. TOBY the beagle (who incidentally knows the difference between a Phillips and a regular screwdriver) assists Jeff in conning a customer. Toby crawls under the car as the poor sucker is about to take a test drive. When he takes off, hitting a block that Jeff pushed under the wheel, Toby plays dead and a hysterically sobbing Jeff makes a quick sale: "I can't bring your dog back, Mister, but the least I can do is buy the car."
After Rudy hires strippers to pull customers away from Roy's, Roy tries to sic everybody from the EPA to the FCC on them but they're free. They only work there...only the owner can be fined. So they hire Freddie & Eddie to jam President Jimmy Carter's address to the nation, this time with Jeff disguised as a cowboy with a rifle literally shooting Roy's cars because the sticker price is too high. (And you thought only Elvis shot appliances.) Counting on Roy's attempt to have them arrested they intend to claim it was a college prank or, in a now dated piece of dialogue, Jeff tells the police he saw "..Iranian students with guns yelling Ayatollah Khomeini.." What they don't count on is the beautiful woman who shows up and knows a painted-over yellow taxi when she sees one. "She drove up in a red car. That means trouble," Jeff fears, "I'm telling ya she's from the Consumer Protection Agency." WORSE. She's Luke's daughter.
I won't go any further with the plot in order to leave you many more laughs and surprises. Remember when your old car starts costing you more than you earn, don't take it to a used car lot and pass it off on some poor soul. Just shoot it.
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