When you watch in 2010 these TV series from 1967,you realize how low the budget was!Most of the motor races were filmed "live" during real events such as "LES 24 HEURES DU MANS" involving minimal expense.For that matter,people interested in the documentary side of the series should,if they can read French ,have a look at the "Mémoires Des Stands Hautefort" a site where Gian Paolo,a specialist of racing cars ,wrote very absorbing comments on each episode and with a good sense of humor at that!A lot of famous drivers appear in the flesh in the episodes and are credited .
I'm not a racing car fan,by a long shot.But as many male people of my generation I've read the comic strips by Jean Graton.
Let's write it: the TV Movies and Graton's stories are worlds apart;except for the three final episodes ,the screenplay (all that does not concern the races) is very very poor .They hired a true pilot (Henri Grandsire) who really drives but cannot act;the rest of the cast is incredible: Le Père Vaillant is grumpy and he never cracks a smile ;the journalist ,probably inspired by the character of Françoise Latour who finally marries the hero on the paper ,is played by a stage actress (Claudine Coaster) -she was a great Célimène in "LE MIsanthrope" by Molière- and is a pain in the neck;Jean-Pierre,big brother,is no engineer but a simple mechanic!what a fall!Only Mony Dalmès as Madame Vaillant is credible and recalls the comic strip character.
By the 11th episode ,things begin to improve a bit (not much) .Steve Warson -the audience was certainly eagerly waiting for him ,for he is a more colorful person than the too perfect too good to be true Michel Vaillant appears as Bob (?) Warson probably because he was portrayed by famous American driver Bob Bondurant ;the problem is that this brown-haired and a bit thin on top man does not resemble the blond fictional champion (the same can be said of Grandsire and Vaillant).Some elements of the three final episodes are taken from the first album "Le Grand Défi"( but the lack of means is still showing ,maybe more than ever): Warson refuses to shake hands with his rival,Agnès Chanzy appears as his fiancé ,but she falls for Vaillant (Michel ,not Jean-Pierre like in Graton's stories),and Le Père Vaillant makes a manful attempt to crack the commercial coconut (the American market that is)by trying to sell his Vaillantes (racing cars) to the Yankees,but (you would not believe it),a villain in trench coat puts a spoke in his wheel (no pun intended).
While it becomes obvious that Michel prefers Agnes to his former reporter ,the abandoned woman has this sublime line "They haven't heard the last of me" as they are playing "La Marseillaise " to celebrate Vaillant's final triumph ...Which might make you think they had more episodes in mind ...But there was only one season and Vaillant had to wait till 2003 to become the hero of a motion picture which was not a real success.Good luck,Michel and Steve,you do deserve better!Maybe some day...
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