Professional daredevil and white-suited hero, The Great Leslie, convinces turn-of-the-century auto makers that a race from New York to Paris (westward across America, the Bering Straight and Russia) will help to promote automobile sales. Leslie's arch-rival, the mustached and black-attired Professor Fate vows to beat Leslie to the finish line in a car of Fate's own invention. The Blake Edwards style of slapstick and song originated with this movie. A dedication to Laurel and Hardy appears at the beginning of the film. Edwards' tribute to Stan and Ollie can be seen most clearly in the interaction between Professor Fate and his cohort Max, as well as in the operatic Pottsdorf pie fight. Written by
Jeanne Baker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Great Race is a marvelously entertaining cartoon of a movie. Everyone is a broad character and slapstick abounds. The actors are great and the comedy is lively. If it has a fault, it's that it is a bit longer than necessary. However, it never slows down too much to make you lose interest.
Jack Lemmon steals the show as the deliciously despicable Professor Fate. Lemmon brings melodramtic greatness to what would normally be the Terry Thomas role (and I love Terry Thomas). His partner in crime is Peter Falk, as the harried, but loyal Max. Together, they make this film great.
Tony Curtis is the perfect true-blue hero, even if that becomes a bit obnoxious. He's so great that you just can't wait for Prof. Fate to get one up on him.
Natalie Wood gets a bit annoying, too, as Maggie Dubois. Her strident proclamations about equality start to get on your nerves fairly rapidly. She's not quite intrepid enough for Nellie Bly, and not quite smart enough for Gloria Steinum. She has some good comedic moments, though.
The film is episodic in nature and a bit uneven, but there a great moments throughout. Scenes to look for: The early daredevil rivalry between the Great Leslie and Prof. Fate, the saloon brawl in Borracho, the Prisoner of Zenda send-up, and the pie fight.
Hollywood doesn't make great slapstick farces like this anymore. Humor now revolves around groin injuries and stupid one-liners and catch phrases. We don't see great character pieces anymore. It's a shame as these kinds of movies hold up well; especially as family fare.
The DVD is pretty bare-bones. It would have been nice to have some commentary from Blake Edwards and Tony Curtis. Warner Brothers has but out some pretty substandard DVD packages, this one included. Still, it's worth the price just to watch the movie.
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