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Grand Prix Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Todd Erwin

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Grand Prix


Studio: Warner Home Video
US DVD Release Date: May 24, 2011
Original Release Year: 1966
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 176 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.2:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish), Dolby Digital 1.0 (French, German, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English (SDH), French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish)

Movie: 3.5 out of 5
When it comes to auto racing, there are three films that, today, still standout as major achievements in bringing this sport to the silver screen. Universal Studios had Winning from 1969 with Paul Newman, set against the Indianapolis 500. Paramount had Le Mans from 1971 with Steve McQueen, set against the infamous 24-hour race in the French city of the same name.


The first film out of the gate, so it were, was 1966's Grand Prix from director John Frankenheimer and starring a very young James Garner. In a way, Frankenheimer set the mark for racing films that followed by deciding to shoot the racing sequences in a documentary style by strapping Super Panavision 70mm cameras to the racing cars and filming portions of the race with the actors driving Formula Three cars (made to look like Formula One cars) along the actual race routes, and intercutting with footage from the actual races that his crew filmed just days before. This is where the movie excels, visually immersing you into the driver's seat at times, with its POV shots at 150+ miles per hour. To tops things off, Frankenheimer enlisted the aid of Saul Bass to create montages through the use of split-screen imagery, often incorporating more than 24 images at one time on the screen.


However, the film gets bogged down through much of its nearly 3 hour running time with soap opera subplots involving four of the drivers. Pete Aron (James Garner) gets into an accident in the first race, seriously injuring his team mate Scott Stoddard (Brian Bedford). As a result, Aron loses his sponsorship with Jordan-BRM, and after a brief stint as a broadcaster covering the Formula One circuit, finds a place on the Yamura Motors team, and has an affair with Stoddard's estranged wife (Jessica Walter). Stoddard spends about half of the movie recovering from his injuries (both mental and physical), leaving the audience to wonder if he will race again. Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre Sarti (Yves Montand), from the Ferrari team, begins an affair with a journalist (Eva Marie Saint) while wondering if he is tiring of the sport. Sarti's team mate, Nino Barlini (Antonio Sabato), allows his success to go to his head and becomes a playboy, eventually dumping his girlfriend (Francoise Hardy).


Grand Prix is presented here as it was shown in its 70mm roadshow engagements in 1966, complete with opening Overture and Intermission music by composer Maurice Jarre. The film went on to win 3 Oscars for Sound Effects, Film Editing, and Sound.

Video: 4.5 out of 5
Nearly five years after being released on both DVD and HD-DVD, Grand Prix finally arrives on Blu-ray. Is this a new transfer? The artwork states the transfer was created from the original 65mm elements, but so did the HD-DVD release, and the $19.98 price point leads me to believe this is the same transfer. However, I can say that this is definitely a new encode. The previous HD-DVD release utilized a VC-1 video encode, and this new Blu-ray release sports an incredibly clean and crisp 1080p AVC encode, retaining the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.2:1. Colors are accurate and well-saturated, with deep blacks and amazing detail while retaining film grain, with no hint of any edge enhancement or noise reduction. Compression artifacts are also virtually non-existent. For a 45-year old film, Grand Prix looks pretty good. I wish I had aged this well!

Audio: 4 out of 5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack provided on this new Blu-ray is incredibly aggressive and immersive, especially for its time. Channel separation is superb, with dialogue spread across the soundfield as it appears on screen. When James Garner is on the left, he sounds like he is speaking on the left side of the room. Dialogue is intelligible (despite some of the thick accents by the international cast), and fidelity is quite good, although the dynamic range does seem constrained at times due to the technology of the time the film was made. There is not a whole lot of LFE in this mix, but there probably wasn't much there back in 1966, either. However, because this is a lossless soundtrack, it becomes more obvious that most of Antonio Sabatto's dialogue was later re-recorded in a studio, and even more obvious that Paul Frees was brought in to dub Toshiro Mifune's English dialogue.

Special Features: 4 out of 5
Warner has ported over all of the special features from the prior HD-DVD and 2-Disc DVD release, all in standard definition.


Pushing The Limit: The Making of Grand Prix (29:08): This documentary tells the story of how the movie was made, despite the many hurdles thrown at them by racing sponsors, drivers, as well as the technical challenges, utilizing new (2006) interviews with James Garner, Jessica Walter, Eva Marie Saint, Peter Yates, among others, and intercutting with behind the scenes footage and an archival interview with Frankenheimer from the SPEED channel.


Flat Out: Formula One in the Sixties (17:26): A brief look at the history of racing.


The Style and Sound of Speed (11:40): Saul Bass' accomplishments on this film in what was then an analogue world is discussed, as well as the movie's sound design.


Brands Hatch: Behind The Checkered Flag (10:36): A tour of the race tracks used in the film are showcased here.


Grand Prix: Challenge of the Champions (12:45): A travelogue on Monte Carlo and the Grand Prix.


Theatrical Trailer (4:00): The film's re-release trailer is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.


SPEED Channel Promo (0:32): A public service announcement on the dangers of speeding, brought to you by the SPEED Channel.


Overall: 4 out of 5
Paramount released Le Mans on Blu-ray earlier this month, and now Warner has finally made Grand Prix available on the format as well. Now all we need is for Universal to release Winning on Blu-ray for the big trifecta of racing films. Grand Prix sports a breathtaking video transfer and an equally stunning lossless soundtrack, as well as porting over all of the special features from the previous releases on other formats. With a $19.98 price point (which can likely be found for much less), this is a well-recommended catalog title, despite the film's melodramatic filler.

 

Robert Crawford

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I have to wonder how much the audio will be improved from the HD DVD with its DD Plus 5.1?

I bought the BRD title because I made the decision to replace most of my HD DVDs.

Thank you for the fine review.





Crawdaddy
 

Nelson Au

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Yes, thanks for the review!
Interesting to read that this is a new encode and glad to read of your positive impression of the image quality.
Not so surprising that this title and Le Mans was not at my local Best Buy's very mainstream offerings. However I know I can pick it up at another venue, I look forward to playing it this weekend.
Sure its got the melodramatic soapy elements, but it's part of the fun!
 

Adam Gregorich

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Originally Posted by Robert Crawford
I have to wonder how much the audio will be improved from the HD DVD with its DD Plus 5.1?

I bought the BRD title because I made the decision to replace most of my HD DVDs.

Thank you for the fine review.


Crawdaddy
Thanks for the great review Todd. Crawdaddy, I am on the verge of a similar decision. Let me know if this is a worthy upgrade. Did you use WB red to blu for some of your upgrades? I wish they would update it with new titles like this as they are released.
 

Robert Crawford

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Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
Thanks for the great review Todd. Crawdaddy, I am on the verge of a similar decision. Let me know if this is a worthy upgrade. Did you use WB red to blu for some of your upgrades? I wish they would update it with new titles like this as they are released.
No, but I'm finding a lot of these titles already on sale and have purchased many of them for $8 or $9 each.







Crawdaddy
 

Nelson Au

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I got my copies of Grand Prix and Le Mans today at Fry's. At $14.99, even though more then what Crawdaddy paid, it's still a great deal for Grand Prix!
Too bad my HD-DVD player is no longer set-up as part of my HT. Would be interesting to compare, but I have a feeling the Blu Ray will be quite good. Can't wait to see and hear the cars scream through the tunnel at Monaco and through the rest of the course.:)
 

Videonut

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Nelson Au said:
I'm also replacing my HD DVD collection. I pre-ordered Grand Prix from Amazon and received it on its release date (14.99 with free Prime shipping). I had a great time viewing it last night with a few racing buddies, and I'm now anxious to get the ZO6 out for a nice ride today. This movie really helps to get those juices flowing!
 

Nelson Au

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I watched the Grand Prix blu over the last two evenings. I was really amazed how good it looked! I was mistaken, I thought I had the HD-DVD, so this was quite an experience. I've seen the SD-DVD quite a few times, so this was quite an upgrade.
I kept thinking as I watched this, from a transfer and image quality and cinematography point of view, The Sound Of Music. I know that sounds crazy. it was probably the European locations. But the images look similarly great, filmed during a similar period of course.
I sure hope to see The Great Escape soon on BD.
 

Ethan Riley

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Just got it today--Target has it for 9.99. I'll stop short of saying the movie looks like it was shot yesterday; maybe last week. But it makes me sad that all films of the past weren't shot in Cinemascope or Panavision simply because they'd eventually look that much better on bluray. And oh yeah--this film looks damn good on blu !
 

GMpasqua

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"Grand Prix" was shot in 70MM it should look better than most films shot in Cinemascope or Panavision

It's too bad "all films weren't shot in 70MM" - but the costs would have been so great most would never have been made
 

andySu

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Grand Prix on later today HD tv this afternoon in 2.2:1 Dolby 5.1?
RIP James Garner

Directional dialouge occasional panned to stage left right with half pans in-between.

Very loud!!! Racing car scenes. When the car goes flies and hits the track with huge kaboom eruption.

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FoxyMulder

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Personally i will go against the grain here and say i think this one could look better with a brand new film scan and encode.
 

andySu

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FoxyMulder said:
Personally i will go against the grain here and say i think this one could look better with a brand new film scan and encode.
It looked DNR on HD tv this afternoon.
 

FoxyMulder

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andySu said:
It looked DNR on HD tv this afternoon.
Was it original aspect ratio. ?

I would have recorded it if i knew it was on, yeah tv showings have to compress more, much lower bitrates.

I think Channel 4 do a fine job on many of their movies especially with the bitrate they work with, they tend to be one half more to even double the data size of the typical BBC transmission, not that impressed with the BBC broadcasts all the time, they have a Warner "keep the bitrate down attitude" about them. Sometimes it's fine, at other times it's not.
 

andySu

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FoxyMulder said:
Was it original aspect ratio. ?

I would have recorded it if i knew it was on, yeah tv showings have to compress more, much lower bitrates.

I think Channel 4 do a fine job on many of their movies especially with the bitrate they work with, they tend to be one half more to even double the data size of the typical BBC transmission, not that impressed with the BBC broadcasts all the time, they have a Warner "keep the bitrate down attitude" about them. Sometimes it's fine, at other times it's not.
Well it might be on again, in few years. I would guess they used same as what is on bluray, maybe?
 

FoxyMulder

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andySu said:
Well it might be on again, in few years. I would guess they used same as what is on bluray, maybe?
Sometimes the television company has an older version, sometimes it can look better, sometimes worse.
 

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