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Blake Edwards
Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk
Blake Edwards, Arthur A. Ross

The movie with 20,000-mile or one-million-laughs guarantee!
Professional daredevil and white-suited hero, The Great Leslie, convinces turn-of-the-century auto makers that a race from New York to Paris (westward across America, the Bering Straight and Russia) will help to promote automobile sales. Leslie's arch-rival, the mustached and black-attired Professor Fate vows to beat Leslie to the finish line in a car of Fate's own invention.
Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Sound Effects.
Nominated for Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing; Best Song-"The Sweetheart Tree"; Best Sound.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 160 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 9/9/2014

• “Behind the Scenes With Blake Edwards’ The Great Race
• Theatrical Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Great Race [Blu-Ray] (1965)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 17, 2014)

They sure did like their epics back in the 1950s and 1960s, didn’t they? That era packed in a lot of oversized flicks, and even comedies entered the fray. Usually that genre works best when done in a concise manner, but I guess even funnymen thought that bigger was better.

Whether one agrees or disagrees will remain a matter of taste, I suppose. I rather liked 1963’s It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the best-loved of the “epic comedies”, but I thought 1965’s The Great Race needed some judicious editing.

From famed director Blake Edwards, The Great Race doesn’t boast the same continued high profile of hits like The Pink Panther and ”10”. However, it actually features a better cast than many other Edwards efforts, as it stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood as well as a number of other noted actors in smaller roles.

Set in the early 20th century, The Great Race follows the competition between two showmen: The Great Leslie (Curtis) and Professor Fate (Lemmon). The first segments depict their stunts, and it takes awhile before the plot starts in earnest.

To help tout a certain make of automobile, Leslie suggests a race from New York to Paris that will progress west across North America into the Bering Straits, Asia, and eventually Europe. Of course, Professor Fate - aided by moronic sidekick Max (Peter Falk) – needs to try to beat his rival so he enters the race with a car of his own devising.

In addition, headstrong suffragette Maggie DuBois (Wood) forces NY newspaper chief Henry Goodbody (Arthur O’Connell) to hire her to be the paper’s first female reporter. She takes on the race as her first assignment, and decides she’ll drive a car as one of the competitors to ensure she’ll be there for every step of the way.

The race takes off and we watch our three main characters as they head west. The majority of Race deals with their interactions. They get into fights in an Old West town, and they become stranded on an ice floe near Alaska. Plenty of other shenanigans ensue as well.

The Great Race has some potential, and does offer occasional humorous moments. However, these occur far too infrequently for such a long movie. At 160 minutes, I thought Race would never end, and the plot seems way too thin to hold up to such extended scrutiny. Do we really need so many minutes of antics to introduce Fate and Leslie? No - those segments could have been sliced radically.

Really, this self-indulgence causes most of Race’s problems. It packs in every gag it can conjure and doesn’t discriminate between them. The movie easily could lose an hour of its running time and succeed better.

Ironically, I have to admit that I feel the movie’s funniest moments come from its most extraneous part. From a storytelling POV, a segment in a fictional European land with a fictional leader who looks just like Professor Fate serves no purpose. It has nothing to do with the main thrust of the film and it easily could get the boot. However, it also offers the most entertaining material, largely thanks to Lemmon’s exuberant take on Prince Hapnik.

Lemmon’s the main reason the material we find here works as well as it does. He goes totally over the top in both his roles, and his manic energy makes them more amusing than they might have been. Wood also brings a forceful broadness to Maggie that works nicely for the part; she seems like a stereotype, but she’s a fun one.

Only Curtis seems to falter, though he gets stuck with the most thankless role. This kind of perfect character possesses little room for growth or life. I suppose Curtis does his best, but Leslie presents a void at the heart of the movie; he’s such a bland personality that he drains the life from most of his scenes.

In the end, The Great Race has a few moments of funniness, but overall it leaves me cold. The movie runs far too long, and it contains too little real humor as it piles on slapstick that goes nowhere. Some of the actors bring a little pizzazz to the project, but too much of the film remains forgettable and uninvolving.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

The Great Race appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie barely showed its age via this excellent transfer.

Sharpness almost always came across well. A few wide shots displayed a minor amount of softness, but those issues appeared infrequently – and they usually seemed connected to various effects and camera techniques that made them inevitable. The vast majority of the movie displayed terrific delineation.

I detected no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes were a non-factor; some appeared due to process shots, but again, those were unavoidable and they didn’t stem from transfer-related issues. Grain seemed natural, and print flaws failed to appear, as this remained a smooth, clean image.

Colors looked truly marvelous. Race boasted a vivid and broad palette that favored many bright and lively hues, and the Blu-ray replicated them with vivacity. The tones always looked accurate and distinct, and they showed no signs of bleeding, noise, or other issues.

Black levels also seemed very deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly dense. Even some “day for night” shots came across with nice definition and clarity. I felt delighted with this impressive presentation.

Despite its age, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack to The Great Race appeared strong nonetheless. The soundfield showed an emphasis on the forward speakers, and it generally presented a nice array of elements there. Music offered pleasant stereo separation and presence, and effects cropped up in the correct locations. Those elements also seemed to blend together well, and the pieces moved cleanly across the spectrum.

The surrounds didn’t add too much, but they provided some good reinforcement at times. A few of the louder sequences benefited from rear elements. For example, a plane swooped nicely from front to back, and a few other scenes followed suit. The soundfield seemed ambitious and active for its age.

Audio quality appeared good for a movie of this vintage. Speech seemed a little thin and tinny at times, but I expected that given the film’s period. I felt dialogue consistently sounded accurate and distinct, and I heard no issues related to edginess or intelligibility.

Effects were similarly clear and concise, and they lacked notable signs of distortion. They also boasted good oomph at times; for example, explosions and blasts kicked in some solid bass response.

Music seemed bright and lively, and the score also showed nice depth. I heard no indications of source noise or other concerns. Overall, the audio for The Great Race fared quite well.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2002 DVD? The lossless audio boasted a but more pep and depth, while the visuals seemed cleaner, more vivid and tighter. I thought the DVD was a good release, but the Blu-ray improved on it well.

Audio footnote: on the 2002 DVD, the mix reversed some elements during the opening credits. An off-screen crowd booed the hero and cheered the villain. The Blu-ray corrected this goof. (Apparently subsequent pressings of the DVD fixed it as well, but I only ever heard the original releasel.)

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find Behind the Scenes With Blake Edwards’ The Great Race, a 15-minute, 25-second featurette that first appeared during the film’s theatrical release. Breathlessly narrated by an unnamed commentator, this piece mixes clips from the movie and shots from the set. The latter don’t include the natural audio, as we hear music and the narrator on top of them. The show seems very promotional in nature, but the behind the scenes material can be fun to see.

While not a bad comedy, The Great Race suffers from an excessive running time. It lasts far too long, which wears weak jokes even thinner. The cast makes it sporadically amusing, but overall it lacks much humor. The Blu-ray presents excellent visuals and very good audio but lacks substantial supplements. Although the movie doesn’t do much for me, I feel very pleased with this terrific Blu-ray; fans will adore it.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THE GREAT RACE

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