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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Making Of Grand Prix

The Making of (John Frankenheimer’s) GRAND PRIX


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Main Program: B-



John Frankenheimer left a great legacy of films behind, and one of the most complex he ever took on was his 1966 mega-production Grand Prix.  The film was not just any other race car film, it was a huge production funded by M-G-M, shot on location, shot in 65mm negative (Super Panavision 70) for big screen presentation that included blow-ups to three-projector Cinerama, had a big all-star cast and broke ground in filming and editing the racing like no film prior to it had attempted.  Frankenheimer was already being lauded for films like All Fall Down, The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days In May, and Seconds, even where they did not have great commercial success.  They are now all classics.


This new Making of DVD is issued at a time when the actual film has yet to be issued on DVD!  When MGM/UA Home Video could issue it, they did not, then Warner Bros. bought the Turner Entertainment catalog and they have yet to issue it.  It was available letterboxed on 12” LaserDisc many years ago, but that transfer is old, the one used on TV now.  This DVD offers the original trailer, a featurette M-G-M commissioned to promote the film by showing the massive efforts behind the scenes.


Instead of a new analysis of the film, interviews with those still with us who made the production, and others who have something to say about it, we have trailer collections of the films of co-stars James Garner and Eva Marie Saint.  I give the producers credit for digging up some rarely-seen trailers, but then they padded the DVD with film reels about racing and cars that have nothing to do with the film.  Though listed as extras chapters, they are within the program, meaning the DVD really has no extras to speak of.  Those are on the Indianapolis 500, Grand Prix/Le Mans, Hot Rods/Stock Cars and Stunt Driving.  Car fans will be happy, since who knows where else you could find these classic reels.  They should be available on DVD, but there were other talents the DVD makers could have looked at.


The legendary Saul Bass created the title sequences.  A list of these and talk about his other graphic arts contributions would have made this a stronger DVD.  Maurice Jarre did the music, is one of the premiere composer/conductors in film history and could have used a retrospective.  An explanation of Cinerama and Super Panavision 70 would not have hurt either.  Something on Frankenheimer would have been really since, especially since he just recently passed away.  They could have done all this, still kept everything that was here, and had room on the DVD for everything.  It has a great low price, but many would have been willing to pay a bit more for more.


The various aspect ratios on the DVD average out in picture quality, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 is usually Mono.  The box claims surrounds, but they simply do not exist here.  The menu has the irritating problem of the highlighting not being bright enough, so you have to look close to get use to it.  They did not make to distinct enough shades of green.  Scene selection will give you full access.


The film itself ran nearly three hours, working best in the racing scenes, though this had to have worked much better on a big screen.  Warner Bros. is WAY behind in issuing this and many other films on DVD, so fans will have to do with this one until that street date is announced.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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