HTF REVIEW: "The Great Race" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 4, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]

    The Great Race




    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1965
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 160 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)



    The movie with the 20,000-mile
    or one-million-laugh guarantee

    Wow! Where did this movie come from?
    As a fan of big-screen comedies, I never knew
    about The Great Race. Imagine my delight
    at spending nearly three hours with this almost
    perfect comedy.
    [​IMG]
    From Pink Panther Director Blake Edwards,
    comes a textbook model of the big-screen comedy
    adventure. Arriving two years after It's A
    Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
    , Edwards assembled
    an all-star cast and a fast-paced script that
    told the story of a turn-of-the-century whacky
    New York to Paris automobile race across three
    continents.
    [​IMG]
    What makes this film so fun is that it plays like
    a cartoon episode of Dastardly and Muttley,
    where you have good guy The Great Leslie (Tony
    Curtis) being chased by his arch-rival, the
    mustached and black-attired Professor Fate (Jack
    Lemmon)and his cohort Max (Peter Falk). The bumbling
    fiends are hilarious to watch as invention after
    invention built to destroy Leslie, ends up turning
    on the evil duo.
    [​IMG]
    The Great Leslie, after setting many world records,
    proposes a great car race to begin in New York and
    end in Paris. Of course, Professor Fate vows to
    enter the race and win, and thus starts the chase
    where anything and everything happens along the way,
    including the beautiful Maggie DuBois(Natalie Wood),
    a headstrong female reporter whose out to prove
    that women can press the pedal to the metal just
    like any man.
    [​IMG]
    I was glued to my screen for the first half of
    the film, enjoying the shenanigans of Professor
    Fate and sidekick Max. It was like watching a
    live-action cartoon, and I really was having a
    grand time with it all. There were some really
    cool contraptions such as the submarine, rocket
    sled, and pedaled air balloon. The film also
    features one of the most extravagant barrom brawls
    I have ever seen. However, after the first hour,
    the film takes a bit of a nose dive as the story
    turns to double identities and royalty being
    crossed in the town of Potzdorf. The film just
    becomes too long, and by the time it picks up in
    its final 10 minutes, you are nearly in a daze.
    [​IMG]
    Still, so much credit has to be given to the
    entire cast that seems to be having the time
    of their lives. Dedicating this film to Stan
    Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Director Blake Edwards
    has loaded this film with every sort of sight
    gag imaginable, and you can readily feel the
    spirit of the comedy team throughout the movie.
    I also enjoyed the grandeur of watching a by-gone
    era of film that comes complete with an OVERTURE,
    INTERMISSION, ENTR'ACTE and EXIT MUSIC --
    all scored by the great Henry Mancini.
    How is the transfer?
    This is another gorgeous technicolor transfer
    that just shines on DVD. Warner has created a
    brand new digital transfer that looks sensational.
    The quality of the print is immaculate with nary
    a sign of film blemish. There are vivid colors
    to be seen in just about every frame, keeping
    well balanced and never becoming oversaturated
    (especially the reds). In fact, the clarity
    of this film is so perfect, you can see the
    imperfection seams from the movie's optical effects.
    [​IMG]
    This DVD sports a brand new restored and
    remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that sounds, well,
    just okay. Most of the film soundtrack remains
    in the front three channels. There is surround
    information being sent to the rears, but alas,
    it is recorded at such low levels that it never
    gets noticed. In fact, you really can count on
    one hand how many times you actually hear information
    from the rear speakers. Though there is nice
    stereo separation across the front, the soundtrack
    doesn't seem to pack a lot of punch, often sounding
    more "tinny" than robust.
    If you still take into consideration the beautiful
    job that Warner has done restoring this film, you
    can easily overlook the 5.1 mix that was never
    part of the film's original release.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Special Features
    [​IMG]
    An original 1965 Warner promotional featurette,
    Behind the scenes with Blake Edward's The
    Great Race, takes us on a movie sound stage
    where the famous barroom brawl is about to take
    place. On the sidelines, the actresses are
    putting on their makeup, and Tony Curtis and
    Jack Lemmon are enjoying a game of pool. We get
    a glimpse of some of the choreography being put
    together for the barroom fight. Want to see how
    the balloon escape was done at the start of the
    movie? You'll be amazed at how it was done without
    the help of trick photography. We watch the stars
    arrive in Vienna, Austria to a welcoming crowd of
    fans. Once in Vienna, Blake Edwards and Producer
    Martin Jurow are seen scouting out locations that
    were used in the last hour of the film. This is
    quite an interesting featurette that is quite
    enjoyable thanks to the fact that it feels like
    you are watching a movie star's home movies from
    a foreign country where a big movie is being filmed.
    (length: approx. 15 minutes)
    The film's original theatrical trailer is
    included as well as a one-page Cast listing
    and a wasted page dedicated to the one Academy
    Award the film received.
    Final Thoughts
    If you are a big fan of the over-the-top
    comedy productions of the 1960's, you owe it
    to yourself to pick up a copy of The Great
    Race. Visually, this movie is a work of art,
    and for at least its first hour, it plays out
    like one of those hilarious cartoons that you so
    fondly remember from your childhood. Jack Lemmon
    and Peter Falk steal this movie and never give
    it back. For that alone, it's worth a purchase.
    Release Date: June 4, 2002
     
  2. Sarah S

    Sarah S Second Unit

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    Thanks Ron. I've been planning on picking it up, but was uncertain what I would actually buy. It's great to hear about all the attention given the print. Now I just have to find it...[​IMG]
     
  3. BrianP

    BrianP Supporting Actor

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    Anxiously waiting for this to arrive in the mail, but the post office let me down today. Well now I am stuck to choose between watching the Hustler and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon tonight. A great week for classic movies!
     
  4. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    I can't wait to pick up this disc. Great news! Look fast for Vivian Vance in a cameo role. Go Ethel Mertz!
     
  5. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I loved this film when I first saw it on the huge curved Cinerama screen. I haven't seen the roadshow version since then, so this will be a real nostalia trip. Hopefully my copy should wing it's way from the States this week (along with the greatest western She Wore a Yellow Ribbon).
     
  6. jeff peterson

    jeff peterson Supporting Actor

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    Ron, you young pup! [​IMG]
    The Great Race plays like an episode of Dastardly and Mutley because the cartoon was based on this movie!
    Signed,
    A child of the 60's
     
  7. Bob Taylor

    Bob Taylor Auditioning

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    And any movie with Natalie wood in a corset covered with cherry pie and whipped cream has got to be good. [​IMG]
     
  8. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

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    I was a 15 year old high school student, when I saw this movie at the theater in San Francisco on its opening debut, an I have to say that the DVD gives me an utter thrill[​IMG] to see & to hear this film in such a pristine condition. It’s like being at the opening all over again! The sound also has been phenomenally restored to its original quality!
    Paul
     
  9. Greg_M

    Greg_M Screenwriter

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    Ron,
    Check out "The Wacky Racers" this was the cartoon originally based on "The Great Race" it featured Dasterdly and mutley with Peneople Pitstop (Natalie Wood's character)and a bunch of other weird and wacky racers.

    Also check out the film "Those Maginifecnt Men in Their Flying Machines" which was released the same year, pretty much the same stuff as "Great Race" & "Mad Mad World" only in the air.
     
  10. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Mine arrived last night and was immediately popped into the player for a quick look/see. The picture came up and the vivid pristine technicolor literally sent shivers up my spine.

    This has always been one of my favorite comedies, and having such a gorgeous copy to watch whenever I want is sooo cool.

    The second half is actually a sendup of an old 30s Ronald Colman film called Prisoner of Zenda, in which an innocent Englishman on a hunting trip is kidnapped and forced to impersonate a soon to be assasinated Crown Prince.

    Ross Martin (Artemus Gordon on Wild Wild West TV show) is great as the evil bad guy.

    The pie fight is the prototype for every food fight in every movie since.
     
  11. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark Second Unit

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    I watched this movie in the 1960s when I was young and it left a big impression with me because of all its wackiness and of course because of Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis, two very charismatic performers. Now do not get me wrong, this is not Wood's or Curtis's best stuff. Throw in very good performances by Lemmon and Falk and you have one fun movie that falls just short of being a classic IMO.
     
  12. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    I also remember this movie from my childhood. However I’m not that old and didn’t see it on the opening day, year or decade! Saw it in the 70's and remember very fund memories. I have to see it again and see if it’s still as great as I remember!

    Many childhood movies could turn out dull when you see them as an adult but I’m hopeful because I had a great recent experience with “Party”. I enjoyed it even more now than when I was a kid!
     
  13. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    A customer review of The Great Race at amazon.com says that there's a mistake in the opening credits with the effect of booing the villain and cheering the hero -- it says that the DVD has it mixed up so there's cheering for Jack Lemmon and booing for Tony Curtis's name! Is this mistake present on anyone else's copy? I was going to get this DVD, but now I'm wondering if I should wait and see if Warners will correct the mistake...
     
  14. Jens Raethel

    Jens Raethel Second Unit

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    Ohh no, now I have to buy this movie!
    Thank´s for the review.
    [​IMG]
     
  15. Trace Downing

    Trace Downing Supporting Actor

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    Every Thanksgiving, KTLA 5 would play this movie, and it became a ritual for us when I was growing up. I loved it. Since I don't live in LA anymore, this DVD is a perfect way to make me feel right at home, since Denver already has a beautiful brown sky, and bad traffic.[​IMG]
     
  16. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

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    The audio error in the credits is present on my dvd also. It is correct on the mono French soundtrack.
     
  17. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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  18. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    Yep. The mistake is definitely there, marring an otherwise wonderful transfer. Darn the luck.[​IMG]
     
  19. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    Does anyone have any problem with the audio? The first 20 minutes I thought that the dialog was very low. I could hardly hear the actors!
     
  20. John Morgan

    John Morgan Supporting Actor

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    I think the audio problems were introduced when they remixed to 5.1 sound. Also, the flashbulbs sound during the preparation of the race are missing. They must have had separate sound stems and somehow left some out and placed others in the wrong place.
    I think they also added reverb to the intermission and exit music, however the picture looks great and the sound, despite these problems is first-rate.

    I put this film right under MAD WORLD for fun, big comedies.
     

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