DVD: Grandprix (1966 Film)


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For those of you who haven't seen this film the simple question is why not?

This remains the seminal and classic formula one movie and given that there were very few cameras at tracks in the 60's you will not find better footage of such classic tracks as Spa any where else. The races were real with the actors usually filmed immediatly before or after the GP so the director could edit the scripted race result into the actual race result.

Motorsport fact fans: The first race for a Mclaren (at Monaco) wasn't in the eventual colours of the team but those of a fictional team from the film.

The real drivers themselves actually have lines in the film to make it seem even more authentic. Graham Hill seems to love his roll.

It's best if we sum up the plot in a few brief lines because there isn't very much of it. James Garner plays an American F1 driver who races with his British team mate for a team that could almost be Lotus (but not quite). (strangley Lotus is quite absent from this film with most of the work being done by Ferrari, Mclaren and BRM) During the Monaco GP Garner crashes into his team mate and causes an horiffic accident. The team blame Garner and he's sacked. After trying to get a race seat with several other teams and spending time as a pit lane reporter he finally is given a chance by a Japanese buisness man who is setting up a new team. The remainder of the film follows a 3 way struggle between Garner and the two Ferrari drivers one of whom is a fresh faced young Italian and the other an ageing former champion in the style of Fangio, for the world drivers championship.

Now none of that is important because it's about the racing. Each of the GPs (I can't remember how many off the top of my head but I do know the film features, Monaco, Brands Hatch, Spa and Monza) is fillmed in slightly different style from pure racing to something that looks more like motorsport ballet. Trust me, those mid 60s cars have never looked so good.

Another Motorsport fact: During a scene where Garner's car breaks down with a burning engine, Garner leaps out of the car like a scolded cat after he pulls over. This is because he has actually been burnt on the back of the neck. Watch carefully later in the film and you can still see the burns on his neck.

The film opens with a black screen and as the camera pulls back you realise it's emerging from an exhaust. There is no music at the start of the film just the sound of engines being rev'd. It's enough to give a petrol head goose bumps.

Final motorsport fact: All the actors in the film were sent to America to be trained in driving the F1 cars. Garner was so good that the instructor felt he could have raced for real. The two actors playing the Ferrari drivers were deemed safe providing they didn't have to turn too many corners however the guy playing Brian Bedford (who looks more than a little bit like Jim Clark) was so bad that some one else had to do the driving on his behalf. That's why for most of the film that Character has a scarf around his face.

The 2007 release of this film is a 2 disc special edition which features more making of documentries than you could possibly wish for.

This film is a must for any F1 fan. Just forget the plot and enjoy the cars. It's a classic.
The nice people at TMC run this film every now and again but with ad breaks it runs for nearly 4 hours so a huge time commitment. I just checked to see if it is out on Blu-Ray yet but it appears not to be. This will be a feast in HD so if you can wait...
Sorry, TCM - Turners Classic Movies on Sky and Virgin. Can't find when it's on again, the website is "well mingin' " as my 15 year old son would say...
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