REVIEW: Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Bit by bit, the cool, overlooked films of previous decades are finally being spruced up and released on Blu-ray. The most recent example comes from Lionsgate and is Francis Ford Coppla’s terrific Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Starring Jeff Bridges, it tells the story of Preston Thomas Tucker, a man who saw a different, better way to design, build, and sell cars. Many of his inventions attracted attention and were clearly ahead of their time.
Ever see a Tucker Torpedo? Not a surprise the answer is a no since only 50 true Tuckers were ever manufactured. Tucker (1903-1956) was an inventor and engineer, including auto racecars, a combat car and gun turret during World War II, and even aircraft. Once the war ended, he was determined to build cars, dreaming of models, as Detroit’s Big Three were content with the models form 1941.
The 1988 film shows how Tucker was thinking big and as early as 1946, had an idea for new features — disc brakes, seat belts, a pop out windshield, and head lights which swivel when you turn – for the next generation of automobile. The war weary public is fascinated and the Tucker Corporation sells many shares and there’s general excitement.
Under Coppola’s steady hand, we watch how the dream turns to ashes, one disappointment at a time, and his various innovations are discarded by a nervous Board of Directors. Tucker also had to deal with the wrath of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler in addition to Michigan Senator Homer S. Ferguson (Lloyd Bridges) orchestrating government interference.
You admire Tucker and root for him thanks to Bridges’ winning performance. He’s surrounded by a strong supporting cast including Joan Allen as his wife Vera, Christian Slater as their son Preston Jr., Martin Landau as Abe Karatz, his lead financier, Elias Koteas as his engineering partner Alex Tremulis, and Dean Stockwell as Howard Hughes.
The film is a story of American innovation, chasing the American Dream, and a cautionary tale about corporate power. There’s a definite Frank Capra quality to the narrative, which makes sense since the screenplay comes from Capra collaborator Arnold Schulman, who shares the credit with David Seidler.
It’s a fine drama and well worth watching. Interestingly, Coppola initially considered this as a musical, similar to his One from the Heart, and in one extra, we see a shot of him with the legendary Leonard Bernstein, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden discussing the project. Coppola, a better filmmaker than businessman, never got to realize that dream, but got some financial help from George Lucas, to make this movie.
The movie never connected with its audience, despite solid reviews, and Paramount Pictures took a loss on the release. Even Landau being nominated for an Oscar and winning a Golden Globe Award as Best Supporting Actor, didn’t help the film’s home video release.
Tucker: The Man and His Dream gets a loving 1080p transfer in 2.39:1 and in addition to the Blu-ray disc, you get a 4K Digital HD code, which is cool. We can appreciate the work from cinematographer Vittorio Storaro with rich colors that have been well presented. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is just about a solid match.
We also get Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, a Francis Ford Coppola Introduction (3:39), which goes into the background; a Deleted Scene (4:11) with optional commentary by Coppola; Under the Hood: Making Tucker (10:02), assembles archival material complete with comments from Lucas; Tucker: The Man and the Car 1948 Promotional Film (14:54), a promotional piece that clearly inspired the director, who provides optional commentary.