Le Mans (Paramount) (1971)

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Released 2-Jul-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 104:11
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Subtitle Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lee H. Katzin
Studio
Distributor
CBS
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Steve McQueen
Siegfried Rauch
Elga Andersen
Ronald Leigh-Hunt
Fred Haltiner
Luc Merenda
Christopher Waite
Louise Edlind
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Michel Legrand


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Portuguese
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Le Mans is a film centred on the 1970 running of the legendary French twenty-four hour car race that features some of the fastest cars in the world.

    Michael Delaney (Steve McQueen) is a professional American racecar driver for the Gulf Porsche racing team. A year earlier he was involved in a major accident but luckily avoided serious injury, unfortunately a driver from the Ferrari team lost his life in this same incident. Michael is the lead driver for the Gulf Porsche team and he is competing against his close rival Erich Stahler (Siegfried Rauch), from the Ferrari team. Also at the track is the widow of the driver who was killed the previous year and the wife of a fellow team mate who plans to retire after the event. As Michael competes in the event he must battle with the opposing drivers as well as his memories from the previous year's race.

    The famous Le Mans 24-hour race is named after the small French town it is located near. It was first run in 1923. The race follows a 13.5 kilometre circuit that is comprised of both highway and smaller country roads. There are six different classes of cars within the race, ranging from standard production models to unique prototypes, and all of these different classes compete on the same track at the same time. Each car has a team of two drivers who share the driving, with each driver having a maximum of four hours at the wheel before a minimum rest period of one hour. By the completion of the race neither driver may exceed a total driving time of fourteen hours.

    This film relies heavily upon the fantastic racing scenes and contains very little dialogue or significant sub-plots. The film was actually shot in part during the 1970 Le Mans and this footage was then integrated with footage specifically shot for the film. McQueen, a recognized driver in his own right, had originally planned to participate in the actual race, and had convinced Jackie Stewart to partner with him in a Porsche 917. Unfortunately the executives of CBS/Cinema Center Films put a stop to this as they felt the risk to Steve would be too great and they would be left with a half-finished film and no star.

    McQueen was able to enter his own Porsche 908 Spyder into the race and this was driven by Herbert Linge and Jonathan Williams. The car was fitted with three different cameras and it was this vehicle that captured most of the actual race footage. In addition to these cameras the production also placed sixteen cameras at different points around the track and additional lighting at Tertre Rouge, Maison Blanche and the pit area.

    The movie ran into an unforeseen problem when Enzo Ferrari personally announced a boycott of the production, when he discovered that a Porsche would be the winner. Luckily the Belgian importer of Ferrari came to the rescue and provided four Ferrari 512's and a 312 for the shooting of the additional footage. The film was also struck by tragedy when stunt driver David Piper lost his leg in an accident; during the closing credits a special mention is displayed thanking him for his sacrifice.

    While this movie may really only appeal to viewers who are motor sport fans, as Steve McQueen says in the film "When you are racing ... it's life. Anything thing that happens before or after... is just waiting".

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. During the opening credit sequence the 2.35:1 image is window boxed within a 2.64:1 frame and this lasts until 10:41 when the image is subsequently displayed as a full 2.35:1 frame.

    The image is quite sharp throughout and while the footage shot from the cars on-board cameras is slightly softer this is never distracting. No low-level noise was detected. The shadow detail is acceptable, but is occasionally lacking definition during the night-time race scenes. This small problem with shadow detail seems to be related to the original source material and not specifically a problem with the transfer.

    The colours are slightly muted as is typical of films produced in the early 1970s. In a number of scenes there is an obvious slight red push in the palette and this is most notable in the skin tones of characters and the red of the Ferraris and their supporters.

    No MPEG artefacts were detected at any time.

    A small number of minor aliasing artefacts may be seen. Some examples of these artefacts may be seen at 2:33, 2:52, 6:43, 10:57 and 14:12. All of these artefacts are quite minor and are not distracting.

    There are a number of minor film artefacts. Examples of these artefacts may be seen at 0:57, 1:16, 1:33, 1:42 and 7:16, but they are all quite minor and are not disruptive. There's some obvious film grain but this is also not disturbing.

    The image occasionally seems to vary slightly in brightness during single scenes. This problem is only very minimally distracting and appears to be due to the original source material.

    A rather disruptive artefact may be seen around the edges of brightly coloured objects. This artefact appears as dot crawl and is most easily seen around red objects but is also present around other coloured items. Some examples of this artefact can be seen at 11:24, 14:08, 14:42, 15:11 and 15:38, and it is moderately annoying.

    English, Greek, French, Dutch and Portuguese white subtitles are provided for the feature. I extensively sampled the English stream and found it to be consistently accurate.

    The layer break occurs at 60:00 towards the end of chapter seven and while not significantly disruptive would have been better located at the end of the scene thirty seconds later.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    An English Dolby Digital 448 kbps 5.1 track, and German, French, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 192 kbps 2.0 surround tracks are included on the disc. I listened to the English track in full and briefly sampled the other tracks.

    The very minimal dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, but occasional announcements over the track PA system are slightly difficult to distinguish due to the noise from the racetrack.

    No dropouts or problems with audio sync were detected.

    The musical score by Michel Legrand is typical of early seventies films but never draws attention to itself and is used sparingly throughout the film.

    The surround channels are used effectively to create an enveloping soundfield during many of the race scenes. The LFE channel is also used effectively to add to the superb sounding race engines.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Unfortunately this disc contains no extra features. If you are a fan of the film you should take a look at the book by Michael Keyser and Jonathan Williams - A French Kiss with Death: Steve McQueen and the Making of Le Mans: The Man - The Race - The Cars - The Movie (ISBN 0-8376-0234-3). This book contains the history of Le Mans as well as a very detailed account of the making of the film.

Menu

    The basic non-animated menu is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 or 1.33:1 depending upon the player setup.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this film appear to be identical, but as the R1 version possibly does not have the issue with dot crawl, as seen on the R4 release, it would currently be my version of choice. I hope to directly compare the R1 and R4 versions and will update this section as soon as possible.

Summary

    While this film is arguably lacking in the areas of plot and dialogue, any fan of motor racing will definitely want to take a look at this highly enjoyable film that captures the true spirit of the legendary race.

    The video transfer is acceptable but is marred by the excessive amount of dot crawl.

    The audio transfer is excellent and is able to capture the feel of the race environment.

    Unfortunately, no extras are provided on the disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Kable (read my bio)
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationFront left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)
SpeakersFront left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259

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