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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Action > Slapstick > Satire > Cars > Racing > Mixed Martial Arts > Contest > Competition > Cannonball Run (1981/HBO Blu-ray)/Le Mans (1971/CBS/Umbrella Region Free PAL DVD)/UFC Ultimate Fight Collection: 2011 Edition (Anchor Bay DVD Box Set)

Cannonball Run (1981/HBO Blu-ray)/Le Mans (1971/CBS/Umbrella Region Free PAL DVD)/UFC Ultimate Fight Collection: 2011 Edition (Anchor Bay DVD Box Set)


Picture: B-/C+/C+     Sound: B-/C+/C+     Extras: C/C+/B     Main Programs: C/C+/B+



PLEASE NOTE: This PAL DVD of Le Mans can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Zero/0/Free PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.  The back of this one is misidentified as Region 4.  The rest as U.S. releases.



And now for some new releases that are meant to offer old fashioned action fun, though in varying degrees.



After the Smokie & The Bandit films made Burt Reynolds as big as star as he ever was, he started slacking and people still paid for a time to see his films.  Trusting former stunt coordinator Hal Needham with his future, he would direct The Cannonball Run (1981) for him and it was a surprisingly big hit that horrified critics and made a ton of money.


By this time, the bandit/chase cycle of the 1970s was over, so the makers decided to do a broad all-star cast comedy and be bonkers about it.  The cast is impressive and reminded unkind critics of the disaster films of the 1970s, but the film could also be seen as one of those final over-the-top films that are really the peak of 1970s excess (think Caligula, Can’t Stop The Music, Xanadu and others) but a real hit.


A very politically incorrect film, the stars take up in a race in which they intend to win at any cost.  Among those in the running are Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett in the biggest hit film of her career (more than Logan’s Run apparently), Roger Moore sending up his James Bond persona at a time when it looked like Moonraker (1979) would be his last film, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Adrienne Barbeau, Terry Bradshaw (at his Steelers peak), Mel Tillis, Jackie Chan in his first U.S. film, Jack Elam, Bert Convy, Peter Fonda, Bianca Jagger, John Fielder, Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder, an uncredited Valerie Perrine and Jamie Farr as an Oil Sheik!


Yes, you have to see it to believe it, but it is remarkably coherent after all these years, especially in an age of more “serious” commercial blockbusters with mindless scripts that make this look ambitious.  No, it is not a great film by any means, but we have seen much worse and it is more of a time capsule of an era sadly goner (including some of its stars sadly gone too soon) than anyone could have imagined at the time.


The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can definitely show the age of the print used, but it does not look that bad overall with some nice shots and good color throughout.  It is far from perfect, but I doubt the film could look too much better unless they spent much more money to fix it up.  Director of Photography Michael C. Butler (Harry & Tonto, Charlie Varrick, The Missouri Breaks, Jaws 2) does a better job of capturing the stunt work than he ever got credit for.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is towards the front speakers, but this was a film originally monophonic, so it is impressive they got as much out of the film’s sound as they did.  Al Capps’ score features prominently.  The only extra is an interesting feature length audio commentary track by Needham and Producer Albert S. Ruddy.  Two sequels followed.


While that film was originally intended for Steve McQueen, he passed away and Reynolds finally took it over, but it was not the first time McQueen missed out on staring in a film intended for him as he missed out on staring in John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix (1966, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), Steve McQueen intended to correct missing out on that film by making Le Mans in 1971.  John Sturges was originally hired to direct, but McQueen kept second-guessing him and drove him off the film, so Lee H. Katzin took over and though the film was not a hit, it is not a bad flipside film to the Frankenheimer epic.


He plays the star driver who may be in decline and may or may not make it, but this is as much about watching the cars race and seeing this in raw terms as much as Grand Prix was and I liked that aspect of the film very much.  Both have narrative limits, but they are also two of the few good films ever made about car racing and certainly two of the most realistic with a narrative.


Bullitt (1968, also reviewed on this site and now on Blu-ray) permanently cemented McQueen with the idea of fast cars and this film more than any other takes that to its ultimate conclusion.  He gets good support from Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Siegfried Rauch, Elga Anderson, Christopher Waite, Luc Merenda, Louise Edlind, Jean-Claude Bercq and Peter Huber among others and the fact that most of these faces are unfamiliar further the documentary feel of the film.  Though not perfect, it is a film worth your time and it is nice to see it get such good treatment.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is colorful, but a little soft, though it looks like it comes form the new HD master used for the U.S. Blu-ray and was shot in real anamorphic Panavision by two Directors of Photography: René Guissart Jr. (Girl On A Motorcycle) and Robert B. Hauser (Willard (1971), A Man Called Horse, The Night Strangler) that match up very nicely, , while the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a little better than the compressed Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono option, but still shows the age of the film’s soundtrack which at its best was offering in 6-track magnetic stereo in 70mm blow-up prints.   Michel Legrand’s odd score also benefits.  Extras include a trailer and 24-minutes-long Filming At Speed featurette.



Finally we have UFC Ultimate Fight Collection: 2011 Edition, the biggest UFC DVD release to date; a 20-DVD box set (very fancy in a hard slipcase as large as a coffee table book!) that marks the franchise’s biggest year yet and they’ve got the fights to show for it.  I have never seen any fighting franchise (especially mixed martial arts or MMA) have a set this fancy and for sports on DVD in general, one of the nicest sets to date.


You get regular UFC events 119 – 131, Fight Night 22 – 24 and Live 2 - 4 events, plus 10 hours of content not on DVD before.  You can look up more UFC DVDs and Blu-rays on the site to see the events we have covered as well as ones we will that follow this box set release, but there is no doubt the franchise is going places and not going away anytime soon.  Fans will love this set!


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image has it usual mix of older analog videotape and low definition digital footage throughout, but is consistent with the better DVDs ion the series we have covered over the years.  Of course, some UFC Blu-rays are also out there on the market, but this is a nice set.  Dolby Digital 2.0 Sound is the standard sound across the DVDs and you sometimes get Pro Logic type surrounds, but not always.  You also get location audio limits and some monophonic audio.  Extras in this great slipcase packaging include a bonus DVD and almost every piece of content is a fight, but there are three Best Of pieces on that 20th DVD.



As noted above, you can order the PAL DVD import version of Le Mans exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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