- Apr 16, 2008
- Hawthorne, NV
- Real Name
- Todd Erwin
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.