on May 31, 2003
As a kid, I remember seeing "The Great Race" at least twice on those long Sunday afternoons after football season, usually when there was nothing else to put on TV. Everything in the movie worked for me back then--the slapstick, the sound effects, even the ending--and it was a joy to watch.
Imagine my delight, then, when I found out that "The Great Race" was available on DVD. Though it looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous--the boos and cheers in the opening credits were in the right places on my copy--it didn't make me laugh very much. In fact, Natalie Wood's character began grating on my nerves. Even the ending (I won't spoil it for those of you who've never seen it) doesn't ring as true to how I remember it. And given what that ending is, it might not pass muster in today's climate.
It's very possible that the length of time that passed between last seeing "The Great Race" on TV and watching it on DVD has biased my opinion. While it is funny in spots, it was simply too long and too dated to enjoy, and that's a shame. The one movie that keeps getting compared to this, "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World", is infinitely funnier, and I'd recommend it over "The Great Race."
Incidentally, there's a reason the sound effects are so familiar. Treg Brown, who worked for many years on the Warner Bros. stable of cartoons, also did the sounds for "The Great Race". The Academy Award the movie won for sound effects was indeed well-deserved.
on May 26, 2003
This flick originally hit the streets about the same time as Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. A local critic here in Minneapolis compared Race with Magnificent Men in a somewhat unfavorable vein. One evening I found myself casting about for a movie to see and found nothing more interesting than The Great Race available; I went in with that review somewhat souring my attitude. When I left the theatre almost 3 hours later my ribs literally ached from having laughed so hard and often. All I can ask today is, "So who watches Those Magnificent Men . . . once or twice a month?"
A few years back I got the VHS and introduced my then 5 year old daughter to The Great Leslie, Maggie DuBois, Professor Fate, and Max. She laughed about as much I had the first time and the pie fight nearly finished her off. Recently my 3-year-old son saw it for the first time and watched enraptured. Now he understands "Push the button, Max."-Before this he'd always respond with "I'm not Max!"
One thing I don't think I've seen mentioned in any other reviews is the uncanny impression of Richard Nixon that Jack Lemon seems to be doing in his portrayal of Professor Fate--and this before we got to see [him] at his best during his presidential reign.
on May 13, 2003
At last this 1965 slapstick goodie from the pen of Blake Edwards has made it to widescreen DVD! I first saw it when I was a kid, and I've never forgotten one of my all-time favorite comedic moments: Jack Lemmon, as the dastardly, nefarious Professor Fate, his faithful manservant and whipping boy Max (played wonderfully by Peter Falk) arrive at one of their stopover towns for refueling and refreshment. Lemmon sees that their arrival is going improperly unheralded, so he rises slowly, majestically, removing his tall black hat, and announces, "I. . .AM PROFESSOR FATE!"
He perfectly reverses the rise, as if he is being agonizingly rewound, the hat going back on his head. His handlebar moustache, which all true Villains must have, twitches slightly.
Max tells the villagers that they are connected with the Great Race, and happy pandemonium erupts.
Some may say that the movie is too long, that it's too big, that it's too over the top, but that is the point. Edwards wanted to pay tribute to his comedic heroes, most especially Laurel and Hardy, and this is his love letter. And don't forget to listen for one of Hank Mancini's funniest scores.
Highly recommended to those with a bent toward divine silliness. Ya gotta love a movie in which the hero's teeth literally glint at you!
on April 10, 2003
I first saw this movie on network TV when I was a kid back in the 60's. They aired it over two nights due to length. I've seen it again a few times since then and, unlike a lot of movies and TV from childhood, this one was actually as good as I remembered it.
Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis are absolutely hilarious in their roles as Professor Fate and The Great Leslie. Natalie Wood and Peter Falk are equally delightful in their supporting roles as a reporter and Professor Fate's not-very-bright henchman. One of the other pleasures this movie offers is spotting all the movie and TV stars in small roles. Keenan Wynn, Vivian Vance, Larry Storch, and Ross Martin are among the faces you might recognize.
To people whose ideas of movie comedies have been shaped entirely by such fare as "Airplane" or "Me, Myself, and Irene" this flick may seem kind of leisurely in its pacing and tame in its jokes. What can I say? If you think somebody getting slugged with a sex toy is funny, but a pie fight isn't, then you may not enjoy this movie. It is, though, an excellent movie that one can sit down and watch with kids without fear of inappropriate material.
Big budget comedies like this are not something produced very often these days. Buy this one and see how it used to be done.
on January 27, 2003
I have loved "The Great Race" since I first saw it on network TV sometime in the early 1970. And I still enjoy it in spite of its flaws I couldn't detect when I was younger -- it's just too darn long, the Prisoner of Zenda takeoff needs to be edited more tightly, and the Maggie DuBois character is just plain annoying. But when it's funny, it's hilarious, with one of the most underrated punchlines in film history (the response to the line "Leslie just left town with a friar.").
So I'd love to be able to recommend the DVD, but I can't give it more than a passing grade.
First, the pluses. It's nice to have it presented in a roadshow format, with an overture, intermission and exit music. And it's past time this movie was released in widescreen (you can see the stack of pies before the fight breaks out, where I've seen cropped versions that leave you wondering where all the pies came from). The digital transfer produces a clean, sharp picture. And I'm not a stickler for pristine sound, so the remix of what is, after all, a nearly 40-year-old movie is serviceable enough. The performances (save Natalie Wood's) are quite good. And I've always thought this was one of Henry Mancini's best scores, especially the theme that plays over the beginning and end of the race.
But the minuses are huge. The movie cries out for commentary, if not from Blake Edwards, then at least from Tony Curtis and Peter Falk. The making-of feature is from 1965 and is representative of the studio hype of the time, but it adds nothing to the enjoyment of the film. A documentary about the making of the film (and the real-life 1908 race New York to Paris race that inspired it) are sorely missed. And I hope whoever screwed up the sound cues during the opening credits (cheers for Professor Fate???) had their mustache snapped off.
If you like the film, buy it. The price is right and this is likely to be the only DVD edition we're going to get. If you're only mild about the film, never mind. There's nothing here to change your mind.
on December 6, 2002
Though I don't love it quite as much as I do "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" (another movie comedically focusing on an early-20th-century technology and a race), I added this title to my video collection very soon after I bought my first VCR, and there it has remained. "Race" is at once a headlong adventure and a spoof of old silent melodrama, with Lemmon as the black-clad and black-hearted Professor Fate, Curtis as the spotless hero The Great Leslie (a professional daredevil), and Wood as Maggie DuBois, suffragette and would-be reporter (a character clearly modelled on Nellie Bly). It also includes a send-up of Anthony Hope's swashbuckling novel "Prisoner of Zenda" in which Lemmon takes on a secondary role, as the cackling, far-too-fond-of-wine king whom Fate is coerced into replacing on the throne. Peter Falk as Fate's assistant Max steals every scene he's in (the man should have gotten the Best Supporting Actor Oscar), and such veterans as Keenan Wynn (as Leslie's assistant Hezekiah) and Ross Martin (as a sinister but suave nobleman) add their high-octane skills. Though more slapsticky than "Magnificent Men" (I could have done without the pie fight, personally), it's still great lighthearted fun and suitable for the entire family.
on November 22, 2002
THE GREAT RACE is a lavishly-filmed comedy on the grandest scale. Director Blake Edwards' unmistakeable touch is all over this sprawling comedy about a long-winded race from New York to Paris, and is highlighted by Henry Mancini's delightful score.
The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) challenge each other to win 'the great race', a foolish flight of fancy that will take them through the Wild West, fighting off polar bears in the Artic and thwarting Royal imposters in Europe.
Coming along for the ride is feisty sufragette Maggie DuBois (Natalie Wood at her loveliest), and Fate's dimwitted assistant Max (Peter Falk). Watch the hopeless quartet as they attempt to win the greatest race of the century - with hilarious results!
Featuring Vivian Vance and Dorothy Provine (as the sexy saloon singer Lily Olay). Henry Mancini's score includes "The Sweetheart Tree" and "He Shouldn't-a, Hadn't-a, Oughn't-a Swang on Me".
The DVD presents the film in a wonderfully clean print, in its 2:35:1 cinema ratio, complete with the Overture, Intermission and Exit Music sequences. The soundtrack has been newly-remastered in dynamic 5.1 from the original session tapes.
The DVD also includes a Making-of featurette and the trailer. (Single-sided, dual-layer disc).
on August 29, 2002
Blake Edwards' The Great Race starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood is a fun filled and entertaining comedy for probably the whole family. Sure, it's a it old and the jokes are classic type and not the parody type we have today but who cares. It's still a great comedy from the director of the Pink Panther.
Jack Lemmon is Professor Fate (not really the bad guy but the villain), a grumpy insulting man who always wants to beat the Great Leslie (Tony Curtis), his arch-nemesis who always wins and is supported by everyone. Professor Fate is supportd by his henchman max (Peter Falk) a real idiot. When the Great Leslie proposes a race from New York to Paris, Professor Fate and Max sign up and build themselves an ultimate car to win. And now the race is on with laughs all the way including a cake-throwing contest , a battle in a castle, and cars crashing into stores.
Highly recommended especially for the late and great Jack Lemmon. When you think about it, he really is the main character in this movie. I wont tell you who wins. You'll have to watch it yourself. It's definetely worth owning. You'll laugh every time.
on August 9, 2002
When I think of big-budget comedies of the 1960s, the only one that I remember with any fondness at all is It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. That was hilarious. But The Great Race, right from its theatrical release, just struck me as so broad and cartoonish as to be unwatchable for anyone over the age of maybe 10. I mean literally I didn't laugh out loud once, and I didn't laugh once when I saw it on video recently (checking to see if my memory was faulty). Just a big clunking thud of a movie that reminds me of "Life with Lucy," Lucille Ball's ill-fated attempt to revive her sitcom persona decades later but with her same "I Love Lucy" writing team, who hasn't realized that comedy tastes had changed. When The Great Race stages a chase or a pie fight, it's not like watching a witty 60s homage to 20s physical comedies -- it IS a 20s comedy, but in cumbersome 60s clothing. Has Jack Lemmon made a worse movie (besides Under the Yum Yum Tree)? I give this one star for its Oscar-winning song, "The Sweetheart Tree," which deserved a better vehicle. See It's a MMMM World if you want to laugh.
on July 25, 2002
The Great Race is a fantastically funny film. Directed by Blake Edwards (Mr. Julie Andrews and director of movies like The Pink Panther and 10.) this film is the hilarious story of to aristocratic racers racing from New York to Paris. Set in the year 1908 at a time were classic cars were really classic cars the movie has slapstick, special effects, wonderful period costumes and the most important element of all - humor.
This movie was made in the in style of not taking itself seriously enough to break the fourth wail. The fourth wall is when a character in a movie looks into the camera and allows the audience to interact with him or her. Either with the eyes or actually speaking to the camera while performing in the scene in real time. There is also a magic charm about the good guy (Tony Curtis) smiles and an animated 'sparkle' appears in his teeth.
Jack Lemon is the one who is having the most fun. As you'll read in my other reviews, you'll discover that my favorite actor of all time is Mr. Lemon. He plays the incredible evil Professor Fate. He play is way over the top down to his mustache and evil his walk. The most creative part about Jack was his other character he played as the drunk and obnoxious Prince of Bulvergaria.
Natalie wood plays an overbearing reporter, Ed Wynn plays Tony Curtis' (The Great Leslie) right hand man and mechanic and a stellar performance by Peter Falk as Professor Fates bumbling sidekick. There is also a reoccurring role by Viviane Vance. Also another great villain performance was by Mr. Ross Martin of TV's The Wild Wild West fame. He wields a mean foil and saber!
The DVD extras are great. The original behind the scenes look and some interesting cast and crew notes. The DVD and the movie are great examples of movie making at its best. You'll laugh a lot and even sing-along (with the bouncing dot) with a couple of clever and original songs by Henry Mancini. I loved this movie a lot! You will to!