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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2011

ARTICLE INDEX

"Grand Prix" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2011-grand-prix

Synopsis

Grand Prix is the story of an entire season of Formula 1 racing beginning with the famous street race at Monaco.  For the Jordan/BRM team we have drivers Scott Stoddard (Bedford) and Pete Aron (Garner).  Piloting the Ferraris are Jean-Pierre Sarti (Montano) and Nino Barlini (Sabato).  The story of their lives unfolds not only during the races but off the track as well.  A terrible crash at the very first event puts Stoddard in the hospital and Aron out of a job.  Sarti is the seasoned veteran looking for his fourth championship and perhaps an end to his career.  Barlini is the fearless young Italian looking to make his mark.  Joining in the traveling circus of F1 is Louise (Saint), a reporter from the US; Stoddard’s wife Pat (Walter) who can’t stand the stress of watching her husband risk his life every week any longer; and Barlini’s mysterious girlfriend, Lisa (Hardy).  By the last race, all four men are vying for the championship and the winner will take the ultimate prize.  Grand Prix is an intimate look at the men, the cars and the people for whom winning is the only thing that matters.

Specifications

  • Metro Goldwyn Mayer
  • 1966, Color, Not Rated, 2 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montano, Toshiro Mifune, Brian Bedford, Jessica Walter, Antonio Sabato, Francoise Hardy
  • Directed by John Frankenheimer
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Grand Prix is without a doubt the greatest racing movie ever made, bar none.  The story is a fascinating one.  The on-track footage is breathtaking.  Race fans will see recognize real drivers of the day in many scenes.  Phil Hill, one of only two Americans ever to win the F1 championship, even gets to deliver a few lines of dialog as one of the Japanese team drivers.  And the cars!  There are so many beauty shots of era race cars both parked and in their element, I lost count.  The track footage never gets old and of course, it’s all real.  Watching the excellent documentaries will show you what lengths director John Frankenheimer was willing to go to to get a shot.  Another technique that gets a fair amount of play is the split screen shots.  They are especially effective during the build-up to the start of a race.  The camera zooms in on some detail like an exhaust pipe or throttle linkage.  Then the screen splits in progressively more frames creating a kaleidoscope feel.  Truly groundbreaking for 1966!  Grand Prix gets my highest recommendation and should be a must-own for any racing enthusiast.

Technical

The restoration is of reference quality.  Film grain is tight to the point of being almost non-existent.  This is no doubt due to the excellent 70mm original used for this Blu-ray.  I did occasionally see dirt and slight discoloration but this is not the fault of the transfer.  This is easily among the very best-looking vintage movies on disc today.  Color was beautifully saturated.  Combined with razor-sharp detail and a complete lack of edge enhancement, foreground objects popped out with a truly 3D effect.  The lighting is always bright, which I appreciate.  There is one tough nighttime scene when Pete Aron’s race car is fished out of the sea.  Every bit of shadow detail was perfectly preserved.  You will be hard-pressed to find a better-looking Blu-ray, period.

Audio is also of reference quality, exceeding that of any other movie of the era in my experience.  The sound of different race cars both at idle and at speed will not fail to get your heart pounding.  Dialog is clean and clear at all times.  The only downside is it becomes very obvious when actors looped their lines on a soundstage.  I’m not sure Yves Montano had a single word that wasn’t overdubbed.  Still, I can’t fault the transfer.  It could not have been done better.  Music is somewhat trite in style but the fidelity is superb.  Maurice Jarre’s orchestral score was originally presented in a six-channel mix and the wide soundstage and deep imaging is perfectly preserved in the 5.1 soundtrack.

Extras

There is a nice set of bonus features; perfect for fans of this classic film.  Five documentaries on both F1 racing and the making of the movie total nearly 90 minutes.  The only bummer is they’re all in SD.  Also included is the original theatrical trailer.