Tag Archives: Universal Pictures

Stunt Drivers For Fast and Furious


This action series is really ratcheting up the car chases, races and fights scene more and more after each installment. This is the fourth movie in the series and hits it’s stride confidently and collectively.  With an opening weekend in the US at $72 Million, Fast and Furious (2009) was the highest grossing car-themed movie up to this date, as well as the biggest April opening ever.fast-and-furious-1

The movie cars were built in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. Around 240 cars were built for the film. However, the replica vehicles do not match the specifications they were supposed to represent. For example, the replica version of F-Bomb, a 1973 Chevrolet Camaro built by Tom Nelson of NRE and David Freiburger of Hot Rod magazine, included a 300 hp crate V8 engine with a 3-speed automatic transmission, whereas the actual car included a twin-turbo 1,500 hp engine and a 5-speed transmission.

The original Dodge Charger 426 Hemi R/T that was used in the original movie was a 1970, but the car in this movie was a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 426 Hemi with a slightly modified front grill to appear as a 1970 car; the original 1970 Dodge Charger was in pieces, being totally disassembled for restoration.Fast-furious-2009-dodge-charger

The most radical vehicles built for the film were the Chevy trucks constructed for the fuel heist. Powered by 502ci GM big block motors, the ’67 had a giant ladder-bar suspension with airbags using a massive 10-ton semi rear axle with the biggest and widest truck tires they could find. The ’88 Chevy Crew Cab was built with twin full-floating GM 1-ton axles equipped with Detroit Lockers and a transfer case directing power to both axles and capable of four-wheel burnouts.

Another vehicle built for the film was the blue Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 owned by an uncredited owner who modified the vehicle to 1,200 horsepower and drove it at Japan’s Shuto Wangan Expressway at 241 miles per hour. It was a hard car to build by the production so they made clones by acquiring Nissan Skyline 25GT’s and made them look like the original car. The Skyline that was also used at the desert was actually a dune buggy using a Skyline R34’s shell.fast_and_furious_movie

There are some really good behind the scenes on the stunts in this film on the DVD and Blu-Ray two disc versions.  They include High Octane Action: The Stunts, Shooting the Big Rig Heist, and Driving School With Vin Diesel.  Fast and Furious was directed by Justin Lin for Universal.

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

  • Justin Lin
  • Vin Diesel
  • Universal Pictures

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Stunt Team for The Blues Brothers


The nod for Best Movie Stunt for 1980 goes to the stunt team for Blues Brothers.  The last 20 minutes of the film is one long car chase! 103 cars were wrecked during filming. At time of release, this was a world record, not beaten until 104 cars were wrecked in filming ‘Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)’.  At one point the blues mobile really was driven 118 mph under the elevated train line in Chicago.  They had to get special permission to do this.blues-brothers (1)

Producers rented the Dixie Square Mall in south suburban Harvey, Illinois for the mall chase scenes. The mall had been closed for over a year. (False) rumors began in the community that the mall was being refurbished and would be reopened after filming was complete. Universal was later sued for over $87,500 for failure to make good on a deal to “return the mall to its original condition” which was never agreed upon.  After years of political wrangling that saw only the the Montgomery Ward anchor store and mall power plant being demolished while the rest of the dead mall rotted unused, deals were finally struck that led to every part of the structure being torn down and cleared away in 2012.  By the way, it’s the director, John Landis, driving the second police vehicle in this chase.  He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to trash a mall.Blues_Brothers_car_chase

In the final car chase scene, the production actually dropped a Ford Pinto, representing the one driven by the “Illinois Nazis,” from a helicopter at an altitude of more than a mile—and had to gain a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration to do it. The FAA was concerned that the car could prove too aerodynamic in a high-altitude drop, and pose a threat to nearby buildings. The shot leading up to the car drop, where the “Illinois Nazis” drive off a freeway ramp, was shot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin near the Hoan Bridge on Interstate 794. The Lake Freeway (North) was a planned but not completed 6-lane freeway and I-794 contained an unfinished ramp that the Nazis drove off. Several Milwaukee skyscrapers are visible in the background as the Bluesmobile flips over, notably the U.S. Bank Center.

The film used 13 different cars bought at auction from the California Highway Patrol to depict the Bluesmobile, a retired 1974 Mount Prospect, Illinois Dodge Monaco patrol car. The vehicles were outfitted by the studio to do particular driving chores; some customized for speed and others for jumps, depending on the scene. For the large car chases, filmmakers purchased 60 police cars at $400 each, and most were destroyed at the completion of the filming. More than 40 stunt drivers were hired and the crew kept a 24-hour body shop to repair cars.  For the scene when the Blues Brothers finally arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center, a mechanic took several months to rig the car to fall apart. In the end, it was the most expensive sequence ever filmed in Chicago at over $3.5 Million.  Blues Brothers was directed by John Landis for Universal Pictures.blues_brothers_original

Things to look up (go to IMDB page):

  • John Landis
  • Universal Pictures
  • Blues Brothers
Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!
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Paul Mantz and Air Mail


Paul Mantz, Air Mail:  Although Mantz performed many different stunts over the years, he specialized in flying through buildings. In 1932, he guided a Stearman plane through a 45-foot-wide aircraft hangar with only 5 feet clearance off each wing for this film. Just the year before, Mantz flew the climactic stunt in The Galloping Ghost which required him to fly down a canyon and just miss a prominent sycamore. Misjudging his approach, Mantz crashed into the tree but the film crew got their shot and he got his AMPP card.air-mail

Paul Mantz developed a number of camera and aeronautical innovations to improve aerial photography, and continued as a stunt flyer (he once flew under the Golden Gate Bridge for the movie “This is Cinerama”), a director of aerial photography, and a supplier of aircraft and pilots for the movies for two decades after the war.

Air Mail (1932) was directed by John Ford for Universal Pictures. air-mail-1932

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Audie Murphy and the Stuntmen go To Hell and Back


A very successful war film when it came out, it was Universal’s biggest hit until Jaws came out over two decades later. War films get a little overlooked when considering stunts, but it’s because stuntmen are more crucial to a war picture from when the cameras start running all the way to the end, that they are sometimes forgotten about. A war picture automatically ups the danger factor for everyone involved on the picture. To give you an example, to film the war scenes on this film, a total of 50,000 rounds of ammunition, 300 pounds of TNT, 600 pounds of blasting powder and 10 cases of 40% dynamite were required. Many of the battle scenes were re-used for Universal Studio’s later picture The Young Warriors.to hell and back audie murphy

This film is highly unusual as it’s about Audie Murphy and stars Audie Murphy as himself.  The son of poor Texas sharecroppers, Audie Murphy became a national hero during World War II as the most decorated combat soldier of the war. Among his 33 awards was the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery that a soldier can receive. In addition, he was also decorated for bravery by the governments of France and Belgium, and was credited with killing over 240 German soldiers and wounding and capturing many more.  His story caught the interest of superstar James Cagney, who invited Murphy to Hollywood. Cagney Productions paid for acting and dancing lessons.

He bumbled about in bit parts for many years and then finally became the lead in a few films when he was ultimately offered the opportunity to play himself in this autobiographical film based on his time in World War II.  He originally declined the opportunity to portray himself in the movie, not wanting people to think that he was attempting to cash in on his role as a war hero, but reluctantly took the role eventually.  The rest is film history and makes for the ultimate Hollywood success story.to hell and back tank

It’s interesting to mention that even though the country though of him as a hero, Murphy didn’t think of himself as one.  In his book, Murphy modestly described some of his most heroic actions – without portraying himself as the hero. He did not mention any of the many decorations he received, but praised the skills, bravery, and dedication of the other members of his platoon.  Murphy once said, “I never liked being called the “most decorated” soldier. There were so many guys who should have gotten medals and never did–guys who were killed.”   To Hell and Back was Directed by Jesse Hibbs for Universal.

Things to look up (go to IMDB page):


Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Frank Merrill and Tarzan the Tiger


Frank Merrill, Tarzan The Tiger: Best Stunt Award for 1929 goes to Frank Merrill, born Otto Poll, for the 15-part serial Tarzan the Tiger. Serials of the 20’s and 30’s were a great source for stunts in the early days of film due to the nature the studios wanting to leave the audience with thrills so they would come back the next week to see how they ended. This one has the distinction of being the last silent film version of Tarzan AND the first talkie version of Tarzan when sound was recorded and the film was then re-released.

Frank Merrill was a national title-winning gymnast, winning the national championships 1916 to 1918 and winning over 50 Southern California titles in Roman rings, high bars and rope climbing. The rope climbing especially came in handy when he the first Tarzan to swing from vine to vine that was used from then on in all the following Tarzan movies.  He was also the first one to give voice to Tarzan and created the “Tarzan Yell”, popular in sound versions for the character.tarzan07

Tarzan the Tiger was directed by Henry MacRae for Universal Pictures.

Things to look up ( go to IMDB):

Frank Merrill

Henry MacRae

Tarzan the Tiger

Universal Pictures

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Serials – More specifically known as Movie serials, Film serials or Chapter plays, are short subjects originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film. They were related to pulp magazine serialized fiction. Also known as “chapter plays”, they were extended motion pictures broken into a number of segments called “chapters” or “episodes”. Each chapter was screened at the same theater for one week, and ended with a cliffhanger, in which the hero and heroine found themselves in a perilous situation with little apparent chance of escape. Viewers had to return each week to see the cliffhangers resolved and to follow the continuing story. Serials were especially popular with children, and for many youths in the first half of the 20th century a typical Saturday at the movies included a chapter of at least one serial, along with animated cartoons, newsreels, and two feature films.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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