Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Left Behind: 'Grand Prix'

There are a number of great movies that have been 'left behind' in the digital revolution. While some of these movies may actually be available on DVD, many have not received the kind of treatment they deserve. One of the best examples of this is 1966's 'Grand Prix.'

Directed by John Frankenheimer, who at that time was best known for the magnificent but controversial 'The Manchurian Candidate,' the American director wanted to put his love of open-wheel racing on the big screen. A film like this would not fly today, but in the late 1960s, the sport of open-wheel racing was perhaps at its peak in America. Much of this fascination was with the exotic nature of the international series of Formula 1, which raced all around the world and created superstars akin to the NASCAR drivers of today.

Frankenheimer would take his cameras where no one had ever been before, literally on the extremes of the 180 mph spartan racers. Toting a cache of Super Panavision 70mm cameras, Frankenheimer would film from all sides of Formula 1 cars as they sped around hairpin curves. James Garner provided star quality, but the real headliners were the speed machines themselves, as well as their high profile drivers.

Because of the way it was filmed, 'Grand Prix' would be an amazing DVD. The use of Super Panavision cameras mean Frankenheimer's film defines 'widescreen' and his liberal use of split screen techniques puts the viewer right in the middle of the tension-filled races. I can't imagine how amazing this movie would look if it was remastered, or if it was viewed on an appropriately widescreened monitor. At the same time, the sexy sounds of wide open F1 throttles would assault your senses if mastered in Dolby Digital or DTS.

I've read that MGM's explanation to 'Grand Prix' not being on DVD is that there is not enough interest to make it feasible. But 'Grand Prix' has driven under the radar for a decade without much buzz, so it's not fair to fault it for that. If anything, today's increased interest in racing should help spur a new DVD release that, if properly handled, could entice a new generation of racing fans.

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