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Some people have complained that director Blake Edwards’ THE GREAT RACE ($20) is too much of a good thing. Film comedy is such a delicate art form, that many individuals believe that movies of this genre it is difficult to sustain for much more than a ninety minutes running time. With THE GREAT RACE clocking in at a whopping one hundred and sixty minutes, including Overture, Entr’acte and Exit Music, I can see their point. While I find myself continually laughing throughout the course of THE GREAT RACE, the numbing of my buttocks at the two and a half hour mark indicates that the film’s Prisoner Of Zenda subplot probably could have used some trimming. Still, I out and out love THE GREAT RACE and will continue to watch this delightful film over and over again (my buttocks be damned).

THE GREAT RACE is a slapstick comedy on an epic scale; with the film dedicated to Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, one knows what Blake Edwards’ intentions are from the get go. The plot of THE GREAT RACE concerns a heroic daredevil named The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis), who in 1908, proposes that American automobile manufacturers sponsor a long distance race that runs from New York to Paris. Of course, The Great Leslie’s arch nemesis Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) also enters the race, with the intention of using every dirty trick in the book to finally come out on top. Fate’s henchman Max (Peter Falk) manages to immediately wipe out most of the competition, except for Leslie and Maggie DuBois (Natalie Wood), the beautiful suffragette and lady newspaper reporter who is covering the race. Like the intercontinental auto rally that it depicts, THE GREAT RACE moves at a steady pace, allowing Edwards to perfectly set up each and every one of the film’s numerous gags. The cast of THE GREAT RACE also includes Keenan Wynn, Arthur O'Connell, Vivian Vance, Dorothy Provine, Larry Storch, Ross Martin, George Macready, Marvin Kaplan, Hal Smith and Denver Pyle.

Warner Home Video has made THE GREAT RACE available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is an utterly glorious transfer that had my mouth hanging open for two and a half hours. The transfer either comes from an original IB Technicolor source or has been digitally doctored to appear that way. Colors are so richly saturated; they virtually leap off the screen- check out the pie fight if you want to see what I mean. Man, these colors are so good; one should be eating them with a spoon. The image itself is wonderfully sharp and finely detailed. Additionally, the transfer comes from a film element with virtually no age related flaws and very little appreciable grain. Blacks are suitably inky and the picture has very smooth contrast and fine shadow detail for a 1965 release. The dual layer DVD doesn’t betray any signs of digital compression artifacts.

For this release, THE GREAT RACE has been remixed to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. While this track doesn’t compare to modern motion picture sound mixes, Warner has done a fine job of breathing new life into these old recordings. The new mix opens up the track and allows it to spread across the forward soundstage. Surround usage is somewhat limited, but when the rear channels do kick in for a sound effect, they really enhance the moment. While Henry Mancini’s music doesn’t have the fidelity of a modern recording, his score is well represented in the new sound mix, with a greater sense of presence than it had in the past. Dialogue is very clean sounding and always completely understandable. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features as well as a couple of extras. Running fifteen minutes is the theatrical featurette Behind The Scenes With Blake Edwards’ The Great Race. The featurette is pure promotion and plenty entertaining for an extended theatrical trailer- one that gives away a good deal of the plot. Of course, there is some actual behind-the-scenes footage, but it doesn’t offer too much insight into the production. A theatrical trailer, plus an Academy Awards list, cast & crew listing and a Blake Edwards filmography close out the extras.

Although a bit long, THE GREAT RACE remains a whole lot of fun. Warner should be congratulated for producing a fantastic looking DVD. If you are a movie buff, then you are going to want to own THE GREAT RACE on DVD. If you have never experienced this epic comedy, then by all means, check it out for the first time on disc.


The Great Race (1965)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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