Grand Prix appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. From start to finish, this transfer looked great.
Virtually no issues with sharpness occurred. I saw no signs of edge enhancement, and the image consistently appeared concise and detailed. The movie lacked any softness even in its wider shots. Jagged edges and shimmering were absent, and print flaws very rarely appeared. I noticed a thin vertical line early in the film, and a couple of tiny specks appeared as it progressed. All of these were quite minor and created no distractions.
In regard to its palette, Prix went with natural tones. The DVD brought these out quite well. The colors always looked lively and vibrant. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows showed good clarity and definition. I felt really pleased by this strong image.
Though not quite as good, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Grand Prix also pleased. Particularly during the racing scenes, the mix opened up the spectrum well. Cars zipped from side to side well, and they also popped up in the surrounds to a lesser degree. I mostly noticed the back speakers in regard to road noise, though. For instance, when a vehicle went through a tunnel, the track showed the echoed roar in an effective manner. All of this made the driving scenes reasonably involving.
Other aspects of the track spread out matters as well. A moderate amount of directional dialogue occurred, and music showed nice stereo presence. The mix also added decent environmental material, though those elements tended to be more centered than the driving sequences.
Audio quality was generally good. Some edginess occasionally came along with speech, but lines usually were acceptably natural and concise. Music showed nice definition and breadth, while effects packed a decent punch. I thought bass response could have been a bit stronger, but the track offered decent depth most of the time. No real problems with distortion popped up, and the effects were usually quite solid. When I factored in the age of the material, this ended up as a very satisfying track.
Most of the set’s extras show up on DVD Two. The first platter only includes the film’s trailer.
Over on Disc Two, we begin with a documentary called Pushing the Limit: The Making of Grand Prix. In this 29-minute and five-second piece, we get movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from motor racing historian Simon Taylor, F1 analyst Peter Windsor, Bullitt director Peter Yates, director John Frankenheimer (from 1998 and 1966), racing advisor/F1 driver Bob Bondurant, camera car operator/F1 driver Phil Hill, Grand Prix/F1 drivers Dan Gurney and Sir Jack Brabham, actress/director’s wife Evans Frankenheimer, camera operator John M. Stephens, Nascar – The IMAX Experience director Simon Wincer, and actors James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Jessica Walter, and Antonio Sabato.
The show covers the film’s attempts at verisimilitude and reality, the general disapproval of those involved in racing before the movie’s creation, and director Frankenheimer’s lifelong love of motor sports. We learn about casting and why Steve McQueen didn’t play the lead role, the flick’s cars and technical issues, the actors’ driving training and what they performed in the film, the photography of the cars, and Frankenheimer’s personality and style. In addition, “Limit” goes over complications related to shooting in Europe, how Frankenheimer won over Ferrari, dangers during the filming and doing the car wrecks, the movie’s use of real drivers and the sport’s risks.
“Limit” packs a ton of great info into its half an hour or so. It proves surprisingly up-front and it doesn’t sugarcoat problems that occurred during the shoot. Indeed, it nearly revels in these issues as it lets us know about all the complications.
This even spreads to the archival footage. Frankenheimer’s 1966 interviews show him as surly, and we also see a clip in which Garner threatens a greedy shopkeeper. All of these elements combine to make a very informative and entertaining program.
Next we find Flat Out: Formula One in the Sixties. This 17-minute and 14-second documentary includes info from Taylor, Brabham, Hill, Windsor, Bondurant, Gurney, motor racing historian Thomas O’Keefe, Grand Prix Classics’ Marc Leonard, The Complete Book of Formula One co-authors Simon Arron and Mark Hughes, motor racing photojournalist David Friedman, F1 driver Sir Stirling Moss, F1 Racing editor-in-chief Matt Bishop, and British Motorsport Marshalls Club president Barrie “Whizzo” Williams.
“Flat Out” views specifics of the sport at the time of the film’s creation. We learn about changes made to the cars and their designs, the nature of the era’s drivers and their personalities, the challenges of driving those vehicles and related dangers, and the impact of a few particular drivers. It offers a nice synopsis of the F1 scene in the Sixties and shows its development. This show captures the period well and provides a solid little glimpse of the appropriate topics.
The 11-minute and 34-second The Style and Sound of Speed includes comments from Yates, Windsor, Wincer, Frankenheimer (in 1998), Taylor, Evans Frankenheimer, Saul Bass & Associates chief designer Art Goodman, Saul Bass author Pat Kirkham, Cinerama Adventure director/producer David Strohmaier, Frankenheimer biographer Charles Champlin, 2nd unit camera operator John M. Stephens, composer/Frankenheimer colleague Gary Chang, and assistant director/Frankenheimer colleague James Sbardellati. “Speed” examines the film’s visual and audio design. We learn about the opening credits, various techniques like split-screen, score and sound concerns, and exhibiting the movie on the giant Cinerama screen. The show breaks down the various elements well. It provides nice insight and offers a good take on its subjects.
For the final documentary, we find Brands Hatch: Chasing the Checkered Flag. This 10-minute and 32-second show includes remarks from Bishop, Brabham, Motorsport Vision CEO/former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, and Motorsport Vision chairman John Britten. The program gives us a look at Britain’s Brands Hatch racecourse. We get the ins and outs of the track in this informative appreciation. It’s a little fluffy at times but it comes through with some neat notes.
In addition to an anti-aggressive driving PSA from the Speed Channel, DVD Two ends with a “vintage featurette” entitled Grand Prix: Challenge of the Champions. The 12-minute and 39-second piece takes us to Monaco for aspects of the movie’s production. It features some decent behind the scenes footage, but its absurdly breathless narration heaps hyperbole on us. We don’t actually learn much about the flick’s creation.
Grand Prix deserves kudos for its exciting, innovative race sequences. Too bad that it totally squanders that goodwill with all the limp character drama that surrounds those scenes. The DVD features very positive picture and audio as well as a smattering of interesting programs. Race fans will want to check out Grand Prix to see its depiction of its era’s motorsports, but they’ll take advantage of chapter search to avoid the uncompelling dramatic storyline.