Super Speedway – The Mach II Special Edition: IMAX (1997/Image Blu-ray)
B+ Sound: B+ Extras: C+ Film: B
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.
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.
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.
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.
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