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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Grand Prix [Blu-ray]


(John Frankenheimer, 1966)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Warner

Video: Warner Home Video



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:55:57.880

Disc Size: 40,022,722,925 bytes

Feature Size: 35,126,353,920 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.94 Mbps

Chapters: 45

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 24th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2589 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2589 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio German 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB



English (SDH), Danish, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, none



Pushing the Limit: The Making of Grand Prix (29:08)
Flat Out: Formula One in the Sixties (17:26)
The Style and Sound of Speed--a look at the style of Saul Bass and the film's sound design (11:40)
Brands Hatch: Behind the Checkered Flag--Behind the scenes tour of the famous raceway used in the movie (10:36)
Grand Prix: Challenge of the Champions--1960s featurette behind-the-scenes at the Grand Prix (12:45)




Description: Formula I drivers compete to be the best in this slam-you-into-the-driver’s seat tale of speed, spectacle and intertwined personal lives. John Frankenheimer (who 32 years later would again stomp the pedal to the metal for the car chases of Ronin) directs this winner of 3 Academy Awards,* crafting split-screen images to capture the overlapping drama and orchestrating you-are-there POV camerawork to intensify the hard-driving thrills. Nearly 30 top drivers take part in the excitement. Buckle up to race with the best.


Nine races. One champion. James Garner, Yves Montand, Brian Bedford and Antonio Sabato portray Formula I drivers competing to be the best in this slam-you-into-the-driver's seat tale of speed, spectacle and intertwined personal lives. Eva Marie Saint and Toshiro Mifune also star. John Frankenheimer (who 32 years later would again stomp the pedal to the metal for the car chases of Ronin) directs this winner of 3 Academy Awards - crafting split-screen images to capture the overlapping drama and orchestrating you-are-there POV camerawork to intensify the hard-driving thrills. Nearly 30 top drivers take part in the excitement, so buckle up, movie fans. Race with the best to the head of the pack.



The Film:

Hollywood has always had a love affair with fast cars. If you've ever been stuck in L.A. traffic, it's easy to understand why. Who wouldn't yearn to tear past the other cars, leaving your fellow drivers to cower in your wake, and pedestrians to stare open-mouthed at your car as it blows past them in a blur, covering their ears from the deafening roar as they at once fear and marvel at your power? It is that feeling exactly that John Frankenheimer sought to capture on film with Grand Prix (1966).

In order "to show what racing was really like," Frankenheimer molded an amalgam of events and drivers into the story of Pete Aron, played by James Garner. After causing an accident at the Monaco Grand Prix that injures colleague Scott Stoddard (Brian Bedford), Aron is fired from his team. Literally adding insult to injury, Aron takes up with Stoddard's wife, Pat (Jessica Walter), who is bored by her husband's "brooding-in-the-shadow-of-my-dead-brother" routine. Along with all this, we are introduced to Jean-Pierre Sarti (Yves Montand), a two-time world champion on the brink of retirement, and his lover, Louise Frederickson (Eva Marie Saint), a magazine editor who is touring the racing circuit.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

As it stands—or as it runs—this three-hour picture about the professional and romantic rivalries of four drivers making the grand-prix circuit in the season of 1966 is a smashing and thundering compilation of racing footage shot superbly at the scenes of the big meets around the circuit, jazzed up with some great photographic trickery.

Starting off with the meet at Monte Carlo, where the cars race ferociously through the streets, filling that beautiful seaside city with deafening noise and the fumes of burning oil, the settings and the action move successively to the course at Clermont-Ferrand in France, Brands Hatch in England, Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, Zandvoort in the Netherlands and wind up at Monza in Italy.

Excerpt from Bosley Crowther at the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The DVD of Gran Prix, reviewed HERE, looked smashing and Warner's Blu-ray this Cinerama delight looks similarly... marvelous.  The 3-hour film was divided into 2 discs on SD-DVD with an average bitrate of around 6.5 mbps but the 1080P advances upon producing a highly impressive image. Colors (reds, yellows, greens) are vibrant and detail superb. The split-screens connote a bit of the Cinerama effect but it doesn't come into play excessively. This is dual-layered and may have been chosen for upgrade to the new format because the source was in such sterling condition. Skin tones can be a shade warm but contrast exhibits healthy black levels. I see no untoward evidence of digital manipulation. This Blu-ray probably looks just like the film Grand Prix did 45 years ago and it advances beyond the last DVD editions in two key areas - notably detail and colors. This provides a very pleasing and dynamic presentation. All good.

















Audio :

The racing sequences are rife with powerful audio that the DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2589 kbps picks up very adeptly. Separation has some surprises and depth is a key component to the engine roar. Maurice Jarre's original score adds some nice flavor and it sounds crisp in lossless.  Having the 'Overture', 'Entre Act' and 'Intermission' pauses is a reminder of the theatrical roots - it gives an authentic feel to the viewing presentation. There are foreign language DUBs and subtitle options and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.




Extras :

The supplements appear to duplicate the 40th Anniversary DVD (minus the trailer) with 5 featurettes totaling almost 1.5 hours. The piece on Saul Bass and the film's style was quite educational and the two 'behind the scenes' features were also worthwhile. These are solid extras and the length of the film negates the possibility for a commentary.



Seeing this and Le Mans in the past week or so has really cranked-up the race bug in me. Grand Prix is a long film - almost 3-hours (a little draining) - it has a an epic and international spice with Montand, Sabato, Mifune... and the hunky Garner. This has solid drama/excitement and the Blu-ray provides the best way to see, and hear, Grand Prix in your home theater. Certainly more than race fans can enjoy this - recommended! 

Gary Tooze

May 25th, 2011

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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