Movies car people should watch: Grand Prix (1966)

Written by Dan Heyman on .

Grand Prix

Yes, it’s long (comes on two DVDs; the opening static “overture” shot lasts 4:36), yes the acting from the likes of James Garner and WWII vet Toshirô Mifune may not be top notch, but the racing—on circuits like the Nürburgring and old Monza, with its massive banking—is spectacular and extremely well edited by director John Frankenheimer and his team (Frankenheimer himself seems a car guy through and through—he also directed 1998’s Ronin).

From the opening sequence that has some oh-so-‘60s multi-frame shots featuring ratchets being tightened, throttles being opened and closed and people with pointy-framed sunglasses (wait—I guess you could say that last thing is as oh-so-now as it is oh-so-‘60s), to the impressive camera work that was the first of its kind (they fashioned a rolling camera rig out of a Ford GT40), Grand Prix will have you hooked.

The cars themselves may have been Formula 3 racers with special bodies made to look like the Ferraris, Climaxes, BRMs and Maseratis of the era, but they sounded great and only those with the sharpest eyes for classic F1 should be troubled by this. The film’s producer, Cherokee Productions, even brought in actual drivers because some of the actors simply couldn’t do it; Jack Brabham, Jim Cark and Jackie Stewart, to name a few.

Grand Prix

So the acting may not be Oscar-worthy (but then, it puts 1970’s Le Mans to shame, Steve McQueen or no), but the special effects and editing earned it three Grammy nods in 1967—petty good for a movie that really was all about the cars.

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