Grand Prix–Are You Ready to Race?

March 8th, 2010 by Matt

Grand Prix, 1966

Grand Prix, 1966

I recently bought and watched the new DVD release of perhaps the greatest of the racing movies, Grand Prix. I remember seeing this as a kid of eight in 1966. (You do the math!) What an impact it had…the stunning cinematography and vibrating, road–level views of the famous Formula 1 racecourses really thrilled me! It also featured James Garner, who has always been a favorite actor of mine.

Having been years since I last saw this movie, I was really looking forward to seeing it again. I also wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered…to see if it still stood up after all these years. So…has it?

Well, in pure racing terms, it sure has. The DVD transfer is crisp and clean, the colors pure with no bleeding. And the racing scenes…fantastic! There is no other word for it. After all these years, it still has the most exciting racing scenes of any movie ever made, period! You get a view of the racing that actually makes you feel like a part of it. Another thing that makes the racing so special is that it featured the actual Formula 1 racing stars of the day driving in the racing scenes! If you’ve ever heard of Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Jimmy Clark, or Phil Hill, well, they’re in here driving! And the cars of this period were so beautiful…It takes me back to those days as a kid collecting the Matchbox replicas of the cars that are featured in this movie.

But, on the negative side, I also didn’t remember the cheesy melodrama in–between all the racing scenes. Jessica Walter, of psycho–“Play Misty For Me” fame, really revs the cheese meter, and most of the “drama” really rings false, like something from daytime soaps. Luckily, James Garner is his usual likeable leading–man self, while Yves Montand also brings a likeable characterization as an “old–pro” F1 racer coming to the end of his career. Thankfully, this movie is mostly racing, so these temporary drama “breaks” aren’t too irritating.

This DVD also has some great special features, including some really interesting documentaries about the making of the film and the staging of the racing scenes. These scenes were staged at the same time as the actual Formula 1 races were being held, so there was a ton of prep work involved in this movie. And now that the sport has been highly corporatized and become super expensive, a movie like this will probably never be shot again, at least in true live–action! So if you are ready for some real Formula 1 race action, pop this in, grin through all the racing magic, and grit your teeth slightly at the melodrama in–between. Cheer up though, the next racing scene is just around the bend!

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