Tucker: The Man, the Car, and Coppola’s Dream

September 5, 2018 | By

Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) has a special place in my heart because it’s about a charismatic dreamer who built a gorgeous car with then-revolutionary safety features, design & engineering elements, and it represents the best film I saw in one of the city’s most sublime cinemas before it was shuttered and reworked into an event space.


Toronto’s Deco-styled Eglington Theatre.


The Eglington Theatre (now the Eglington Grand) was for many in Toronto a premiere single screen cinema – not massive, but like the Tucker car, a 1940s Deco creation with streamlined features built for comfort and maximum enjoyment. Its gentle sloped floor negated the need of a balcony in spite of the seating areas being bisected in two, and the screen and acoustics were wide, clean, and cozy.


Interior and ‘slight’ balcony area of Toronto’s Eglinton Theatre.


The bucket chairs were spacious, leg room was ample, and during Tucker’s release The Eglington was certified as a THX equipped cinema, boasting the pristine sound system offered by the film’s producer, George Lucas. The closing of the theatre in 2003 was a huge loss to fans of classic venues; it was a bit too far from the Yonge & Eglington intersection, and people were starting to make the multiplex at the corner mall their movie hub.

But Y&E was part of a movie hub blessed with two great sounding cinemas – The Eglington, and the long-forgotten 2-screen York Theatre, where Coppola’s Dracula (1992) was screened and introduced mainstream audiences to Poland’s gift to modern classical and film music: Wojceich Kilar.

I loved the York, and was disgusted when it closed, sat unused, was gutted, became a yoga place, and was razed for another banal condo, but The Eglington was spared such indignities, and although it seems unlikely to ever return to its film exhibition days (I imagine the seats were sold off / junked long ago), its external and internal designs are intact, and it continues to enjoy the company of patrons.

For those who caught Tucker in theatres, it was a little gem, and perhaps remains a bit of a secret; it’s a lesser-known car movie starring Jeff Bridges during what appears to be his busiest career period (although in plain fact, he seems to appear in 1-2 movies every year, rarely in a dud or in a role beneath his talent.)

Its emergence on home video ensured private ownership and archiving in one’s personal library, but Tucker also offered Joe Jackson a rare perfect project for his skills as a film composer, evoking zippy 1940s orchestral jazz with a shinier sound, and Jackson’s energetic instrumental performances.

The score’s greatest cue isn’t the main titles nor the love theme for the devoted couple and family, but “The Trial,” which builds towards and hits every dramatic beat as the maverick engineer, entrepreneur, and innovator realizes he may well lose his company, and is ultimately only able to produce less than 50 cars in what was the world’s largest auto factory. At (6:45), it’s the score’s longest cue and most majestic and magnetic, and the album was released around the world on LP, tape, and later CD.

Jackson scored some TV (Where is a boxed set of Private Eye’s jazz music by Jackson, Shorty Rogers, and Lalo Schifrin? Where is a DVD release of the series? Eh?) and the odd feature, but perhaps his first film left a distaste for Hollywood – after writing score & songs for Mike’s Murder (1984), much of his work was dumped after James Bridges’ film was recut, and rescored with music by John Barry. You can understand why the next project would have to be worth Jackson’s time, and although the score proper is fairly concise – most cues run just a few minutes – it’s perhaps his best work in the medium, and fits Coppola’s glossy production like a glove.

I have some issues with the sound mix on Lionsgate’s Blu-ray, but fans of Jackson, Coppola, Bridges, Martin Landau, and that gorgeous car will be pleased this secret gem has finally leaped from OOP DVD to Blu-ray, with maybe a 4K not far off. (If Tucker: The Man and His Dream does materialized on 4K, the label should take it easy on the price point. Lionsgate’s U.S.-only releases are quite costly once they’re imported and priced in our sagging Canuckle dollar.)

I also examine the vintage 1948 promo that Tucker used to sell his car to investors, dealers, and the public. That short is actually an edited version, so I indulged in comparing the home video edit with the longer version that’s (naturally) on YouTube.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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