In this cinematic labor of love from "Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now" director Francis Ford Coppola, actor Martin Landau (who won a Golden Globe and earned an Oscar nomination for his incredible performance in this film) confesses to his costar Jeff Bridges that he only became his automotive business partner to make money--and then he adds, "But, Tucker, how could I have ever known that in the end I'd actually wind up CATCHING YOUR DREAM?!"
And the real life businessman Landau was playing in this film, Abe Karatz, wasn't the only one who caught Preston Tucker's futuristic dream that year; investors from all over the country put down their hard earned money to purchase dealerships, while would-be customers put their names down on long waiting lists--all for a machine that didn't even exist yet. You see, all of them had caught Preston Tucker's wonderfully contagious dream too.
The setting of this amazing true story is America in the late 1940s. World War II was finally over and the country was at last returning to normal. Surveys said that what Americans wanted most was a new car, and Preston Tucker's perfectly in-sync dream was to change the then opposed-to-innovation American car industry permanently for the better by offering people a dramatically superior automobile--something unlike anything they had ever seen before.
Instead of delivering a car no different from those offered by Ford, Chrysler and GM that year, and the year before that, and the year before that--vehicles that were nothing but the same old cars wrapped up in new car bodies--Tucker dreamed of offering people something fundamentally different; he would give them the automobile of tomorrow, and he would give it to them then instead of all those decades into the future.
Tucker dreamed of building affordable cars that were as safe as they were sleek, beautiful, futuristic, technologically advanced and reliable. He wanted to equip his cars of tomorrow with what were then cutting edge innovations the Detroit car industry didn't yet offer, many of which are now commonplace on the cars we drive today--and a few of which are still uncommon even after seven decades have passed.
From it's rear engine to it's third headlight (which shined around corners during turns), his car would be nothing like the repackaged, ten years outdated 1930s technology Detroit was palming off on people as the newest and the greatest. The Tucker automobile would be many, many decades ahead of anything else that had ever existed before it--it would be the greatest car ever built!
Preston Tucker went ahead and actually built one of his futuristic dream cars, too--and when it was shown to the world it was a truly beautiful thing to behold. People who saw it fell instantly in love with the Tucker while Preston Tucker himself was busily gearing up for mass-production of his incredible automobile.
But, big-business Detroit didn't want to have to spend millions just to keep up with such highly advanced competition, so they decided instead that it would be much simpler to crush Tucker and his fledgling car business--and to do it before they grew too strong to be eliminated.
They tried to destroy his reputation. They tried to drive the price he paid for steel sky high to bring up the cost of his cars so that few would be able to afford them. They tried to wrest control of his company away from him. When none of that worked they even enlisted the Washington politicians they had in their pockets and had him wrongly charged with fraud.
But Preston Tucker didn't just roll over and admit defeat. He kept fighting for his dream tooth and nail.
This his the incredible true story which tells why only 51 of these amazing Tucker vehicles ever made it out of the biggest automotive factory building in existence to see the light of day. And amazingly, most of those 51 Tuckers that made it to the outside world are still on the road today, still running strong, still serving as steel and glass testaments to their own superlative build-quality, durability and design.
George Lucas owns one of these incredible automobiles. So does this film's director, Francis Ford Coppola (who's own father was one of those who'd purchased a dealership for these cars once upon a time). Even I'd like to own one of these fabulous machines after seeing this inspiring movie. I tell you, these beautiful cars really got under my skin. I fell utterly under their enticing spell.
Just like the businessman Martin Landau portrays, Abe Karatz, and just like so many others who came before me; by the time this movie was over, I'd caught some of Preston Tucker's wonderful dream too.
I know now that we really could have had one hell of a car all those decades before Detroit ever offered us anything even remotely like it. And I also know that, amazingly, even after almost 70 years have passed, some of the Tucker's clever and innovative features still haven't been offered to us again on any other car that's been built since it.
This really was a fascinating story, and one which was very well told by an experienced and talented filmmaker. Mr. Coppola's heart was clearly in this movie one hundred percent of the way--that fact shows unmistakably throughout every aspect of this superlatively crafted production.
From the cleverly applied recurring promotional-film motif, to the beautifully shot photography, to the costumes, the sets, and even to the wonderful period music, everything is absolutely top flight here.
Jeff Bridges and Martin Landau both gave very memorable performances in this fine film--and were given a script that allowed them to really shine as actors (and Preston Tucker's self delivered closing argument to the jury when he was wrongly accused of fraud was amazingly prescient and is just as thought provoking today as it was back then). As always, that ever reliable actress Joan Allen also gave a very good performance in this movie--this time around playing the role of Tucker's gutsy wife.
This film about the long standing American dream to build a "better mousetrap" (in this case, a radically better car) is a very good movie, and one which tells a fascinating true story more people really should know about.
I heartily recommend this eye-opening and entertaining film to anyone who either loves cars or is even remotely interested in stories about the kind of entrepreneurial dreamers who try (and sometimes actually manage) to revolutionize whole industries.
Tucker, attempting to be much like an automotive equivalent of Steve Jobs to his own era, was definitely one of these dreamers--and one who came within a hairs breadth of succeeding at it too.
If only the Detroit car industry hadn't conspired to crush his dream, Preston Tucker would have changed the American automotive industry forever for the better, doing what Apple would one day do with the cell phone industry, advancing it technologically by literal decades practically overnight.
The Tucker automobile really was one hell of an amazing car, and "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" is a movie I recommend very, very highly. Watch it and don't be surprised if you discover yourself unexpectedly falling under the very enticing spell of Tucker's wonderful dream too. I certainly fell under it big time--and I'm so very glad that I did.
Do yourself a favor and do not miss a chance to see this very good movie about a fascinating true story and a little known far-seeing dreamer. You won't be disappointed.