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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Racing > Cars > Motor Science > Large Frame Format > Super Speedway – The Mach II Special Edition: IMAX (1997/Image Blu-ray)

Super Speedway – The Mach II Special Edition: IMAX (1997/Image Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B+     Sound: B+     Extras: C+     Film: B

 

 

So many IMAX shorts have been made since the mid-1970s and many have been very good and some especially memorable, but a few stand out so clearly that they become fan favorites.  A few are even classics and one of them is so good, that it has become a high watermark standard for home theaters over the years.  First as a DTS 12” LaserDisc, than a DTS DVD and now on Blu-ray, Stephen Low’s Super Speedway – The Mach II Special Edition: IMAX (1997) one again has a the chance to claim to be one of the best releases in an entire format.  Luckily, the legend continues.

 

Low (Titanica, Fighter Pilot) has a knack for directing these and though this runs only 50 minutes, it is thoroughly interesting and engrossing from start to finish.  We get an intimate look into state of the art technology behind car racing, a very rare look at the Andretti Family intimately behind the scenes, the most realistic view of racing on film since John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix (1966, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and actual racing footage and test footage that is some of the most remarkable ever captured on film.

 

The great Paul Newman narrates this and was the perfect choice.  His love of the sport, the world and the art of these labor-of-love car machines is prominent throughout.  Though he is used to it and loves it, he is still as fascinated as we (mostly novices in the audience) are and this becomes a special journey like few any documentary films have offered.  Add the high fidelity performance of the film in the superior IMAX 70mm large frame format and a highly advanced soundmaster that is still amazingly state-of-the-art and you have one of the best Blu-rays on the market.

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in a near-square (1.44 X 1) of 70mm film (the same as Grand Prix, but with much more top and bottom) and what is missing on the top and bottom from that frame does not negatively effect the playback here.  This may not be an 8K transfer like Baraka or South Pacific, but it is a fine HD master used here with very little to complain about in the ways of lack of detail.  Yes, it could be sharper, but depth, color and detail are impressive throughout and some of the footage is so amazing that it will sell Blu-ray players.

 

The DTS HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix is also amazing, bringing out fidelity even the best points of the previous format DTS editions missed.  Some aspects of the mix are dated, but not much and Newman’s voice might be a bit more in the enter channel than I would have liked, but that was the way it was in theaters.  The mixes for actual IMAX films (versus the likes of Dark Knight) tend to be like that; a legacy of the documentary approach.  Still, be warned.  When the sound kicks in, it kicks in and delivers an exceptional soundfield with character that impresses to this day.

 

Extras include a 47-minutes-long making of documentary, trivia quiz, text about the director, text links for more information and trailers for more Image IMAX Blu-rays.  No new extras were made, but this is all fine and gives the actual film more room to perform.  All serious film and home theater fans should have Super Speedway – The Mach II Special Edition in their collection.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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