Grand Prix: 40th Anniversary Special Edition (1966)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Formula One in the 60's
Featurette-The Style And Sound Of Speed
Featurette-Brands Hatch: Behind The Checkered Flag
Featurette-Grand Prix: Challenge Of Champions
|Year Of Production||1966|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||John Frankenheimer|
Warner Home Video
Eva Marie Saint
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.1 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.20:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.20:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch Alternate Subtitles
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Why is it no-one seems to be able to write a good storyline around car racing films? They all suffer from weak plots away from the track and always feel compelled to ask "the question". "The question" is inevitably asked by the wife/girlfriend of the central character and is always a variation on "why must you risk your life racing?"
Filmed in the mid 1960's during the glory days of Formula One racing, it contains what is still some of the best footage of Formula One racing ever. The cinematography was ground-breaking in its day, with on-car shots that were unheard of prior to this movie. So advanced were the techniques that director John Frankenheimer used what he learnt filming Grand Prix to film the chase sequences for Ronin 38 years later. Frankenheimer was a car enthusiast and Formula One fan, and this shows in the way the racing is filmed and edited, providing a realistic feel that puts you in the cars with the drivers.
For all the praise the film justly deserves for the racing sequences, it does not rise above average as a complete movie. Being no exception to the rules I outlined in the first paragraph, Grand Prix suffers from a mediocre plot. When the race engines stop the movie drops into first gear and plods its way through a slim plot that follows the lives of a number of drivers vying for the 1966 Drivers' Championship, examining their rivalries, love affairs and motivations. "The question" is asked a number of times during the film by a number of the characters, including some of the drivers, but at least the answers given are not as trite and cringe-worthy as some I have heard in other race movies.
The real stars of the film, and its raison d'être, are the cars. Filmed in an era before rampant sponsorship turned the cars into mobile billboards and when wings were something found only on aircraft, the cars were not the soul-less, clinical missiles of today's Formula One; but rather had character and a mechanical beauty. Likewise, the circuits had not yet been inflicted with the safety regulations we know today with crash fences and gravel traps. They were certainly much more dangerous, but also much more scenic. Frankenheimer makes good use of both the cars and the scenery to capture both the power and danger, as well as the grace and beauty, of this sport.
The film is split over two discs, presenting it as it was originally released to theatre, complete with a 4:25 overture prior to the start, an intermission and a 1:45 entr'acte prior to the commencement of part 2. The film changes discs at the intermission. Those who have the Lawrence Of Arabia collector's edition will be familiar with this approach.
Grand Prix is the grandfather of race-car movies. While the off-circuit plot is less than thrilling, perhaps this is the reality of those who raced during this dangerous and exciting era; their lives off-circuit seeming sedate and ordinary compared to their lives in the car. Fortunately most of this movie tells the story of a Grand Prix season, not through dialogue but through the cars and races, and this is where Grand Prix shines - it is simply the best motor racing film ever. Frankenheimer's attention to detail and realism is unsurpassed, placing the viewer on the ride of their life in actual Grand Prix races of 1966 - yes the Monaco race is actually the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix. Grand Prix is still head and shoulders above later incarnations of this genre such as Days Of Thunder and Driven, and is even more impressive when you consider the camera technology of 1966 and the lack of digital editing and video overlays when making the montages. A worthy winner of three 1967 Academy Awards for best film editing, best sound and best effects.
Not much to complain about here. On offer is a very nice 2.20:1 16x9 enhanced transfer that is a delight to watch. Originally presented in Cinerama, 2.20:1 is a good compromise given it had to be reformatted from the curved screen Cinerama environment for DVD authoring. Colours are crisp and vibrant, shadow detail good and details are sharp. There are only a few film artefacts in this near-pristine transfer. A large stain, possibly water damage, runs vertically the full length of centre screen for a few seconds around 92:38 and again at 93:35. This is the most obvious of the film artefacts. Aside from this there are some occasional small flecks that do not detract from the film and some telecine wobble on the title credits.
The overall transfer, though, is extremely good. So good, that you can almost forgive the water damage marks.
The audio has been remixed to Dolby Digital 5.1. Usually I do not like these remixes as they tend to be heavy-handed and ruin the feel of these older movies. This is an exception. The remix has been done sympathetically and is barely noticeable. The surrounds are used for ambience, giving a subtle enveloping sound stage, particularly during the racing scenes. Similarly, the sub-woofer's use is restrained and just give a fuller feel to the sound, rather than announcing its presence with great rumbles and thumps. A very pleasing remix.
Dialogue is clear and easy to follow. The dynamic range is well used with the engines roaring loudly, but not annoying so, and the volume dropping to an appropriate level for the dialogue.
|Surround Channel Use|
A nice collection of extras is included, accessible from the static menu with the theme music looping in the background.
The original theatrical trailer for the film.
Pushing The Limit: The Making Of Grand Prix (29:09)
A special featurette made for the 40th anniversary of Grand Prix on the making of the film. Cast and crew discuss their experiences making the movie and some archival footage of John Frankenheimer talking about the movie is included.
Flat Out: Formula One In The Sixties (17:26)
Interviews with Formula One drivers from the 1960's as well as team crews and racing historians all discussing what Grand Prix racing was like in the mid 1960's. Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss feature along with a number of their contemporaries.
The Style And Sound Of Speed (11:40)
A look at the work of Saul Bass, the film's visual consultant. It was Bass who created the then ground-breaking montages used in the movie. The featurette also investigates the use of sound and music in the film.
Brands Hatch: Behind The Chequered Flag (10:36)
A look at the famed British motor racing circuit that is featured in the film. Former Formula One driver Jonathan Palmer takes us on a walk around the circuit discussing the difficulties of driving a race car there. There are also comments by other former drivers about their experiences at Brands Hatch.
Grand Prix: The Challenge Of Champions (12:14)
A making of featurette from the 1960's filmed during the Monaco Grand Prix and documenting the actual filming of the movie Grand Prix. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
Speed Channel (0:32)
A letterboxed 1.33:1 commercial for road safety from the US Speed Channel. Probably included to be politically correct.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
As far as I can ascertain, the Region 1 release is the same as Region 4 except Region 1 misses out on the Italian soundtrack.
A film about Grand Prix racing, it is the racing sequences that make the movie. Even if you are only mildly interested in motorsport, these sequences will draw you in. I have commented on the averageness of the plot, but I must stress that it is not bad, just lacking after the excitement of the racing footage, and certainly much better than most other movies in this genre.
Grand Prix deserves its reputation of being the best motor racing film ever and should be required viewing for anyone intending to film motorsport. Realistic and exciting, its cinematography and editing are second to none and is worth watching if only to see the excellence of these skills. If only they could have avoided asking "the question".
A great video transfer despite a few artefacts, a skilful and intelligent Dolby Digital 5.1 remix and quality extras mike this a worthy addition to your DVD collection; particularly if you enjoy Formula One racing.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-1200Y, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-42PV500A 42" HD Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Richter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer|