The Great Race (1965) (NTSC)

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Released 13-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Listing-Cast & Crew
Filmographies-Crew-Blake Edwards
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Awards
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1965
Running Time 159:48
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (90:15) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By Blake Edwards
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Natalie Wood
Tony Curtis
Jack Lemmon
Dorothy Provine
Vivian Vance
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Henry Mancini


Video (NTSC) Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Japanese
Chinese
Thai
Korean
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    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?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    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.

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

Audio

    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.

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

Extras

Listing-Cast & Crew

    A static screen listing the cast with a link to the filmography of director Blake Edwards.

Filmographies-Crew

    Navigated to from the above screen. Several pages of films that director Blake Edwards had involvement with over many years.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

    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.

Theatrical Trailer

    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.

Awards

    A pretty pointless one page static screen highlighting that the film won the Oscar for Best Sound Effects.

R4 vs R1

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.

Summary

    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.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Thursday, November 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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Comments (Add)
What? "Not The Same Color" again??!! - CatonaPC© (read my bio)
What? "Not The Same Color" again??!! - CatonaPC© (read my bio)
Expect a PAL re-release, perhaps? -
NTSC? foo! - DMM (yeah bio whatever)