The Great Race (1965) (NTSC)
Listing-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||1965|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (90:15)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4||Directed By||Blake Edwards|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
They certainly don't make films like this any more. Some part of me says "well thank God for that", while another part is quite intrigued about why that is. Imagine if you will 160 minutes of cheesy slapstick. That's pretty much what you'll get with Blake Edwards' classic The Great Race, as it features all the hallmarks of the classic slapstick comedy, including plenty of old fashioned fisticuffs, unusual and way-out contraptions and even a colourful and extremely chaotic custard pie fight.
Set in the early 1900s, the holder of just about every daredevil record going, including land and water speed, The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) is the perfect hero's hero and all round nice guy. With his generous smile and glinting eyes he is a hit with the ladies while still retaining hero status among the men. Like all good heroes, The Great Leslie has a nemesis, and a suitably warped and evil one at that. Jack Lemmon is the evil Professor Fate, who with his sidekick Max (Peter Falk), attempt in vain to upstage all of The Great Leslie's stunts, either by sabotaging his efforts or trying to go one better. In fact, the early scenes of the film (well at least the first half an hour!) is dedicated to all manner of weird and wacky stunts involving hot-air balloons, speed boats, rockets, and other highly unusual contraptions. Finally we get some inkling of the coming race when The Great Leslie challenges all comers to an automobile race. And this will not just be any automobile race. This one will see competitors racing from New York to Paris, heading west across the states to Siberia and beyond, some 20,000 miles.
Finally, the day of the race arrives and the competitors are amused to see a female entrant in the form of Maggie Dubois (Natalie Wood), a free-spirited reporter for the New York Sentinel. Naturally enough her car suffers mechanical problems early on, so she tags along with The Great Leslie and falls under his charms despite offering token resistance. The whole film from this point on is then dedicated to the various situations that ensue with Professor Fate trying at all costs to be the first to finish in Paris. Some of the more humorous moments occur when the racers enters the fictional European country of Carpania and suffer the hospitality of Prince Hapnick (Jack Lemmon in another role).
Plenty of slapstick, scenes that defy physics completely, and even a pie-fight scene. What more could you ask for?
Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer also features 16x9 enhancement. This is the perfect aspect ratio to capture many of the ostentatious sets and marvellous landscapes so elegantly displayed throughout the film. It also makes the projected backgrounds look quite laughable at times.
This really is a rather nice transfer all round, and despite the NTSC tag (which means you will need a suitable display device to view it) is certainly among the better transfers burdened with that tag that I have seen in Region 4. There is a little edge enhancement here and there, but overall it is sharp and detailed. There are some problems during a couple of scenes with shadow detail. This is most notable in the dimly lit areas of Professor Fate's castle. Grain is a big surprise. I expected to see plenty, especially during the wide angle landscape type of shots. But it is extremely well controlled and mostly absent. There is also no low level noise. Colours, courtesy of the Technicolor process are extremely well saturated, with skin tones being probably the weakest aspect here. They tend to lean a little towards the reddish side at times. The other colours displayed are superb. Vibrant reds, blues, and greens all round with no evidence of any oversaturation or bleeding.
There are no visible MPEG artefacts. Film to video artefacts are pretty well summed up in two words. 3:2 pulldown. This horrid artefact introduced by the conversion from film to NTSC is pretty much dominant and very obvious whenever the camera pans left or right. The constant judder and jarring becomes quite annoying after a while and is the most disappointing aspect of this transfer. Thankfully, on the other hand, film artefacts should be present in abundance, but in this magnificently restored image they have been virtually eliminated.
Being a virtual copy of the North American Region 1 release, we see this disc feature the subtitles that dominate there. Therefore we get Spanish, French, Korean, and so forth. There are English subtitles available as well, and these are well placed, clear and easily read with only a few minor abridgements.
Obviously a film that runs for nearly three hours needs a layer change, lest there be all sorts of problems with compression. Thankfully this is a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting. This film is so long that it has an intermission and this is where the layer change occurs. At 90:15, the intermission slide pops up for a couple of minutes and the layer change is right at the start and virtually invisible. Great placement.
There are two audio soundtracks available for your listening pleasure. A fully remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for those that favour English and a very drab and dull Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtrack in French. Naturally enough the remastered track took all my attention. This film won an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects. The remastered track has been engineered to take full effect of all the front channels, though it is somewhat obvious and clumsy at times.
Dialogue often betrays the mono origins at times, being quite flat and occasionally coarse in delivery. There are no audio sync problems other than some obvious ADR work.
The score was composed by the legendary Henry Mancini. It bears his trademarks all over it. Shades of the Pink Panther at times, it instantly embodies the good guy versus bad guy ideals and while cheesy it is eminently well suited to the film's themes.
There is only minimal surround channel use. The subwoofer kicks in on occasion. There are a couple of decent explosions of various bombs and incendiary devices throughout, and for the most these are nicely pumped through the LFE.
|Surround Channel Use|
A static screen listing the cast with a link to the filmography of director Blake Edwards.
Navigated to from the above screen. Several pages of films that director Blake Edwards had involvement with over many years.
This featurette appears to have been made around the time of the film. It runs for 15:26 and despite mostly showing film footage and accompanied by a voiceover narration, it does offer some interesting behind-the-scenes sights of film making in the 1960s. It really does look like the budget was enormous for this film, judging by the costumes and locations used. Worth a look.
Quite a decent trailer this one, despite featuring that American voice-over guy that did all the early 60s films. Running for 2:53, it is of similar quality to the main film being presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and complete with 16x9 enhancement. Audio is only centre channel mono. It shows many of the slapstick moments featured throughout, but not in any real coherent order. In other words it really doesn't spoil the plot.
A pretty pointless one page static screen highlighting that the film won the Oscar for Best Sound Effects.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
No comparison needed here, since this NTSC Region 4 release is obviously the exact replica of its Region 1 cousin. Go for the Region 4 for its price advantage.
The Great Race is a long film. I know a race from New York to Paris is going to take a while, but with the first forty odd minutes dedicated to pre-race shenanigans, it is really stretched to the limit. It's slapstick all round, but thankfully the joke doesn't wear too thin, and the various contraptions that Professor Fate continues to wheel out are reminiscent of RoadRunner cartoons and always great fun. Jack Lemmon in particular is a real hoot in the role of the evil Professor Fate.
Despite the Region 4 NTSC label on the front cover, this video transfer is rather good, with a superb colour scheme and almost no film artefacts. The only negative is the rather obvious 3:2 pulldown artefacts evident whenever the camera pans around.
The audio is a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which while betraying its mono origins at times, is still good fun when coupled with the Oscar-winning sound effects.
The extras are limited, with the behind-the-scenes featurette being the most worthy addition.
|DVD||Loewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|