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Blu-ray Review The Great Race Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Richard Gallagher

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The Great Race Blu-ray Review

Warner Archive has just released the roadshow version of The Great Race - complete with overture, Intermission/entr'acte, and exit music - in an outstanding Blu-ray edition which will leave fans of the film smiling from ear to ear.

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Studio: Warner Brothers

Distributed By: Warner Archive

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 2 Hr. 40 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

Standard Blu-ray Case

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 09/09/2014

MSRP: $21.99




The Production Rating: 4/5

Blake Edwards' 1965 comedy epic The Great Race was billed as "the greatest comedy of all time." It does not quite live up to that claim - it is too long and drags in places - but it has a good number of laughs and a stellar cast headed by Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood. Edwards dedicated the film to the classic comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and it also is a paean to old-time movies.The opening scenes of The Great Race are very funny, and they strike me as live action versions of Road Runner cartoons. The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) is a handsome daredevil/escape artist who dresses all in white. His rival is Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon, dressed in black, of course, and doing his best Snidely Whiplash impression), a mustachioed ne'er do well whose mission in life is bringing down Leslie by whatever means are necessary. Professor Fate plays Wile E. Coyote to Leslie's Road Runner, with similar backfiring results. Professor Fate is "aided" in his sinister machinations by his bumbling assistant, Maximillian (Peter Falk).Leslie, who is unfazed by Professor Fate's attempts to do him in, persuades an automobile company to build him a custom vehicle and sponsor a near round-the-world road race from New York westward to Paris. Maggie Dubois (Natalie Wood), an aspiring newspaper reporter and a self-described "emancipated woman," persuades the editor of the New York Sentinel to let her cover the race. Professor Fate, seeing this as an opportunity to finally defeat The Great Leslie, enters his own custom-made car in the race. Maggie does her best to convince Leslie and Professor Fate to let her ride with them, but when she is rebuffed she enters herself in the race, sending her dispatches to the newspaper via carrier pigeon. Leslie has his own assistant and co-driver, Hezikiah (Keenan Wynn), who does not approve of Maggie's participation in the race.The race itself develops into a two-car contest after Maximillian successfully sabotages the vehicles being driven by the other contestants. As they circumnavigate the globe they are caught in a spectacular barroom brawl out west when a local badman named Texas Jack (Larry Storch) catches his girl, Lily Olay (Dorothy Provine) in an embrace with Leslie. Later both vehicles go adrift on an iceberg in Alaska, and when they reach Europe Jack Lemmon takes on the dual role of Crown Prince Frederick Hoepnick . Lemmon's performance as Professor Fate is deliberately over the top, and Tony Curtis is perfectly cast as the self-assured and unflappable Leslie. Natalie Wood is stunning as Maggie, an early advocate for female equality and suffrage. Peter Falk is immensely entertaining as Maximillian, who tries hard but almost always manages to muck things up. Other notable actors in the cast include Arthur O'Connell, Vivian Vance, and Ross Martin.Director Blake Edwards is a bit overindulgent with slapstick and allows the film to go on too long, which means that The Grace Race is not as funny as his early Pink Panther films. Nevertheless, there is much to like in The Great Race and this new Blu-ray is a pleasure to watch. The fact that it is the fully restored roadshow version makes it even more attractive.


Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

The video of this 1080p 2.40:1 AVC-encoded Blu-ray disc is simply spectacular. Russell Harlan's Academy Award-nominated cinematography has been beautifully replicated. The color palette is dominated by vivid, accurate primary colors. Our resident expert, Robert A. Harris, has given the transfer his highest recommendation, and readers are encouraged to read his remarks: A few words about...™ The Great Race -- in Blu-ray.



Audio Rating: 5/5

As Mr. Harris also points out, the English 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is very nearly the equal of the video presentation. Every word of dialogue is clear and understandable, the surround channels are effective in delivering ambient sounds, and the musical score by Henry Mancini is given a pleasing soundstage. The song "The Sweetheart Tree," with music by Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (it was a very good year for original songs - the winner was "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper, and the other nominees were "The Ballad of Cat Ballou" from Cat Ballou, "What's New Pussycat?" from What's New Pussycat?, and "I Will Wait for You" from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg).English SDH subtitles are available for those who need them.


Special Features Rating: 2/5

The extras on this Blu-ray disc include an enjoyable promotional documentary, "Behind the Scenes with Blake Edwards' The Great Race." This short is framed at 4:3 and is in very good shape. It also doubles as a travelogue of some of the European locations used in the feature. It has a running time of approximately 15 minutes.Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer, which is shown in anamorphic widescreen and looks as good as new (the trailer can be viewed at the Warner Archive website).The Blu-ray does not have any chapter markings, but viewers can use their Blu-ray remote to skip through the film from scene to scene. The intermission occurs at approximately the 90-minute mark.


Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Warner Archive continues its run of stellar Blu-ray releases with The Great Race. The film has a few shortcomings, and too often it is more frantic than funny, but that should not discourage anyone from buying this outstanding Blu-ray. It is a pleasure to watch and is one of the best-looking Blu-rays of the year. Readers who are interested in purchasing it can find it at the Warner Archive website.


Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher


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Carlo Medina

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Great to read about the A/V quality - been waiting for this one to come out for a while. Glad it got the treatment it deserved! Hopefully a new My Fair Lady BD will get similar A/V treatment!
 

Nick*Z

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If it does it won't be from Warner, since CBS/Paramount still retains the current distribution rights for My Fair Lady on Blu. But I wouldn't put it past Warner to license MFL again and frankly, would champion it if it did occur. I think the WB Archive has done some of its most impressive work in hi-def. I haven't had a bad experience with them yet. If it takes time to remaster something properly, I say 'hey, let's wait'. I would rather have it done right than done simply to satisfy an itch for more product slapped out in whatever condition it presently exists in. Quality over quantity, people. That's what it's all about. WB has done themselves very proud thus far with Archive hi-def releases. We'll see if they can keep it up in the future. My fingers are crossed.
 

ahollis

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Nick*Z said:
If it does it won't be from Warner, since CBS/Paramount still retains the current distribution rights for My Fair Lady on Blu. But I wouldn't put it past Warner to license MFL again and frankly, would champion it if it did occur. I think the WB Archive has done some of its most impressive work in hi-def. I haven't had a bad experience with them yet. If it takes time to remaster something properly, I say 'hey, let's wait'. I would rather have it done right than done simply to satisfy an itch for more product slapped out in whatever condition it presently exists in. Quality over quantity, people. That's what it's all about. WB has done themselves very proud thus far with Archive hi-def releases. We'll see if they can keep it up in the future. My fingers are crossed.
There's good news about MFL but not from Warner's.
 

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