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A routine racing car melodrama but impersonally efficient...
Henry Hathaway's "The Racers" bears a certain comparison with Mark Robson's "The Champion" as both films deal with a man determined to raise himself from the lower level of society (no matter the cost) to win an ambitious position of wealth and respect with being a sport celebrity...
Kirk Douglas is an Italian bus driver obsessed with the desire to win the Grand Prix de Napoli with his home-built car, competing against some of the best drivers, best engines and best engineers...
It is a race of genius over machinery... Douglas has thought out each turn of the wheel, each acceleration of the pedal, each pass to perfection... From there his ambition takes no limit and his perseverance to win by ways of antagonism from fellow drivers and estrangement from the woman who loves him...
Lively directed by Hathaway and beautifully photographed in Technicolor, "The Racers" is a revival of all five senses... The atmosphere of the circuits is electric... The energy and sheer excitement from the roar of the engines and the screams of the crowds are feelings that only the CinemaScope can produce... Whether or not your favorite hero takes the checkered flag, you stand up and cheer the winner across the finish line...
But like many another films dealing with sport, "The Racers" suffers from a banal story and questionable characterizations... It tries to increase its appeal to women audience by having its attractive heroine, a ballet dancer (Bella Darvi) one interested in high fashion... In this way female viewers glimpse the flashes of color of fashion salons in addition to scenic shots of the French Riviera, Paris, Rome, and the authentic locations of the acclaimed auto racing sites...
Not only do you get the insight of a lifetime of champions (two of whom are played by Gilbert Roland and Cesar Romero) but you share many racing experiences with Lee J. Cobb who shows great aptitude as the racing manager... But again, it is the story - a routine melodrama totally unmemorable but impersonally efficient - that hangs heavy...
For those interested in sports car, speedways' drivers, and the celebrated runways of Europe, "The Racers" remains a film worth watching...
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