The Racers (1955) Poster


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A routine racing car melodrama but impersonally efficient...
Nazi_Fighter_David8 October 2000
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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Laughable script, excellent and rare '50s race footage
bbrown95-11 February 2011
Yes, the plot and the dialogue are ludicrous. No, Bella Darvi (née Bayla Wegier) couldn't act, but the poor girl had had a very difficult life and a short and brutal movie career. Ironically, she died by her own hand, after several failed attempts, in, of all places, Monaco -- where, in the Racers, she meets our hero, Gino Borgesa (Douglas) when her poodle runs out in front of his sports car at Monaco, and he swerves to avoid the dog and crashes into the steps of the Casino. Great crowd control in those days. Yes, I said "Sports Car," for this movie, though released in 1955, has much glorious color real racing footage culled from the previous 2 or 3 seasons, and, in 1952, for the first and last time post WWII, the Monaco GP was run for sports cars (won that year by Vittorio Marzotto, the lesser known of the famed Marzotto brothers, in a Ferrari 225S).

Forget the idiotic dialogue -- the dying "Dell'Oro" (Gilbert Roland), to Douglas: "Gino, my crankcase is leaking!" as he clutches at his crushed chest; Douglas explaining to the lovely- but-crosseyed Darvi how race drivers consider it bad luck to wish a race driver "good luck": "'Into the lion's mouth!' we say, or "I spit in your crankcase!'" Forget all that and watch Fangio, Villoresi, Farina, Moss, Peter Collins, Robert Manzon and his doomed compatriot Pierre Levegh driving in real races: Spa, Nürburgring, the Mille Miglia. Check out how Maserati redecorated their cars to look like the mythical "Aquila," or whatever the hell they were, under the stern team management of Lee J. Cobb, whose turn as Maglio makes Kirk Douglas sound like a native-born Milanese.

In a sly move (or simple accident of fate) director Hathaway created a quite believable pairing that resembled WAY more than a little Juan Fangio and his constant female companion whom the contemporary press always referred to, chastely, as his "wife" (Fangio never married, and it wasn't until 4 years after Fangio's death that author Karl Ludvigsen, in his 1999 biography "Juan Manuel Fangio: Motor Racing's Grand Master" revealed the real identity of his companion (AND his hitherto unknown son). The drivers of the time certainly knew she wasn't his wife, but that was a different, in many ways more honourable time; no driver, mechanic, or pit hanger-on would have even dreamed of going to the yellow press to spread the story for money. Those men were professionals: what Fangio did off the track was his own business. Off-soapbox. The stalwart Katy Jurado was perfectly cast as "Maria Chávez," the wife of aging race driver "Carlos Chavez," played by Cesar Romero -- better known as "The Cisco Kid," and then for his defining role as The Joker in the Adam West/Burt Ward Camp-Fest "Batman" series of the '60s -- miles better than Nicholson, not nearly as dark as Heath Ledger.

Original -- though not very -- musical score by Alex North, who had done such fantastic work scoring "Spartacus" and the Burton/Taylor "Cleopatra."

The great American drivers John Fitch and Phil Hill did the stunt driving for this -- scraping the arch at Ravenna during the Mille Miglia at speed was pretty hairy stuff (done with a longish piece of wire and some fresh plaster). The overall Tecnical Adviser was the veteran racing warhorse, the Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried, AND this movie was also an early example of the title work of the incomparable Saul Bass, who made movie titling an art form in its own right with movies like "The Man With Golden Arm," "Exodus," "West SideStory," Spartacus, and the ingenious and ground-breaking title-credit sequence at the beginning of John Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix," still the greatest fictional racing movie ever made. McQueen's "Le Mans" COULD have been, but for McQueen's unbelievable and thoroughly unlikable ego and overweening insistence on his personal version of perfectionism, which, in the end, cost David Piper his leg and cost McQueen Solar Productions. When the budget went nuts and Solar Productions couldn't finance, or even FINISH the movie, let alone distribute it, CBS/Cinema Center stepped in, prolonged the sappy, wholly superfluous, and, of course, inevitable background "love story" (people ain't going' to the movies to see a bunch of goddam cars runnin' around a track, ya know!), and I believe CBS/Cinema Center were responsible for the movie-ruining 1970s-style "Carmina Burana"-meets-French-Jazz-a-la-Michel-LeGrand soundtrack. The CARS are the soundtrack, you meatheads! Off soapbox again.

Hans Ruesch, who wrote the novel and collaborated on the screenplay, had been a race driver himself, never achieving much, but even HE must have winced at "I spit in your crankcase." Skip over the Douglas-Darvi scenes and go right to the footage -- magnificent!
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Melodramatic yet highly entertaining soaper on the race track...
moonspinner5515 October 2007
Kirk Douglas plays green upstart on the European racecar circuit, falling in love with pretty French ballerina while clawing his way to the heights of success and celebrity in Monte Carlo. Bella Darvi (a Leslie Caron lookalike) plays the love interest; Lee J. Cobb co-stars as Douglas' team manager, chomping on his stogie and bellowing orders like a drill sergeant. Despite the phony backdrops and back-projection, the noisy track action, the general overacting and all the bad French accents, this is a rousing, enjoyable drama with well-cast Douglas appropriately chewing things up as the arrogant ace. The location footage is good, the set-bound stuff a bit awkward, but director Henry Hathaway keeps a lively pace and, when it is audible, the score by Alex North is first-rate. **1/2 from ****
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Champion Put on Wheels
bkoganbing3 June 2006
For The Racers, Kirk Douglas dusts off his character from Champion and gives it a new home in the European Auto Racing Circuit. He also decides, wisely I believe, not to adopt any kind of phony Italian accent in his portrayal of Gino Borgesa, a race car driver who is ruthless in his drive to reach the top of his profession.

Henry Hathaway assembles a very good supporting cast with Lee J. Cobb as the Italian auto manufacturer and fellow drivers Cesar Romero and Gilbert Roland giving a good account of themselves.

This must have been a chore for Douglas to make however because Darryl Zanuck was using this film to showcase his latest mistress, Bella Darvi. The woman made three films this one, Hell and High Water, and The Egyptian before Zanuck gave up.

Poor Bella couldn't act worth anything, but supposedly her other talents were legendary. Her life story would make a fascinating film, much better than The Racers. Bella did look right at home in the various jet setting locales for The Racers. It's where she spent her time and tragically died too young there.

As for The Racers, Kirk simply reprises his role in Champion and goes through the motions. Champion was a far better film. And the ending was no cop out as I believe viewers of The Racers will find to be so.

Good action scenes here. But in the sixties Grand Prix with the advantage of Cinerama would make The Racers outdated on a technical level.
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For road-racing fans only.
jimpern17 January 2004
"The Racers" is a very routine movie in most respects, and Kirk Douglas' failure to make any attempt to sound like an Italian is lamentable.

What saves the movie, at least for me, is the rare look it provides into European Grand Prix and sports-car racing in the early '50s. For that alone, I find it worth having.
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Color, European locations, excellent cinematography
richard-76415 July 2013
This film is much better than the soapy, more recent "Grand Prix," though without the high production values of that film. The off-track drama is kept to a minimum, with Kirk Douglas playing an Italian race driver (without an accompanying accent), with co-racers Gilbert Roland (the devil-may-carefree driver and the retiring Cesar Romero) acquitting their roles in fine shape. The racing, both during real races and simulated, is quite well done. The Grand Prix cars of the late '50s are shown in their glory, with races at Monaco, Monza, Nurburgring and sports cars running the thousand-mile Mille Miglia. Certainly worth your time to watch--it comes up on TCM on occasion, or is available on Netflix.
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Good drama
kenandraf1 September 2001
Good drama film that delivers it's promise with good production and Cinemascope magic.The lead actors are great and the soapy drama style is done well enough.All in all an above average film and nothing more.To nitpick,a better story and script would have taken this movie to a much higher level.Not for people who do not like racing and soap style drama.Big Kirk Douglas fans will love seeing him in his prime.......
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Car racing at full throttle!
JohnHowardReid23 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 1955 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Roxy: 4 February 1955. U.S. release: February 1955. U.K. release: June 1955. Australian release: 12 May 1955. Sydney opening at the Plaza. U.S. running time: 112 minutes. In the U.K. the movie was released in a 91-minute version called SUCH MEN ARE DANGEROUS. Oddly, whilst the American title was retained for Australian release, the U.K. version was the one exhibited.

SYNOPSIS: Ambitious racing driver is determined to succeed at all costs.

NOTES: Fox CinemaScope release number 24.

COMMENT: Those who love the high whine of racing cars in full stereophonic sound and who thrill — despite such obvious studio fakery as process screen cut-ins - to the twists and spills of racing at full throttle, will find plenty to get excited about in "The Racers". Whilst on the domestic front, CinemaScope is very slackly employed with lots of waste space and loose framing, the process more or less comes into its own in the race sequences. I say more or less because CinemaScope's effectiveness depends upon your level of sophistication. I thought the process screen so way over- used, with so many studio inserts that the actuality footage was considerably undermined. True, there are some spectacular crashes, at least two especially staged for the film, but any residue of excitement is quickly dissipated by the oh-so-conventional back-of- the-pits yarn about the neurotically aggressive pro who just has to get-fame-quick no matter who he treads underfoot in the process.

Kirk Douglas turns in his usual account of Mr. Macho-Pushy. The support players likewise wear their roles like well-worn robes. Miss Peggy Lee's fans though will be disappointed that she doesn't actually appear on camera and that her song (later reprized by an off-camera chorus) is mostly drowned out by dialogue. Technical credits are reasonably proficient.
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The Racers Edge
sol121823 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
***SOME SPOILERS*** More or less "Champion" retread with Kirk Douglas, without a trace of an Italian accent, playing former Rome bus driver and now Italian hot shot speed car racer Gino Borgese.

Gino was at the top of his game, in the race car business, when he lost control of his car and totaled it! This all happened in Gino attempting to avoid, which he did, hitting pretty French ballerina Nicole's, Bella Darvi, pet poodle Bogy. Grateful for Gino saving her pooch's life Nicole had her former lover Count Salem, George Dolenz, get Gino a new sports car to do his driving in.

Despite his kamikaze like driving tactics Gino in no time at all gets to the top of the heap in the Italian & European racing circuit. The brash and handsome Gino also gets Nicole to fall in love with him. It's later that things start to turn sour for Gino when he injurers his leg in a car accident that lays him up in bed for a few a months. Lucky not to have his leg amputated Gino recovers enough to be a substitute driver for his friend and fellow race car driver Dell Oro, Gilbert Roland, who works for the tough talking ,and also like Kirk Douglas, non Italian accented Italian legendary race car manager Maglio; played by tough guy American actor Lee. J Cobb.

The movie following a "Champion" like storyline has an arrogant Gino turn his back on everyone who loves and admires him turning into the full of himself creep, like Midge Kelly in "Champion", that he eventually becomes. It take's Nicole walking out on him that brings Gino back down to earth in him realizing, finally, that her love for him is far more important then any race he could win. Hurt confused and almost suicidal Gino begs Nicole to come back to him even if it means that he quit his great love, next to her,for sports car racing forever.

With an unfeeling Nicole not falling for his "I'm so sorry and won't do it again" act Gino goes back into action on the racetrack only to come to his senses when he's confronted in either saving his friend Oro's, who's car crashed, life or win the very important, that would put him on top again, race that he's competing in.

***SPOILERS***With a teary Nicole, who's in the crowd, watching Gino finally does the right thing by turning his back on victory at the expense of saving Oro's life. It was that act, like when he avoided killing Nicole's dog Bogy, of self sacrifice for someone else that had Nicole come back to Gino in him proving that he's a real champ not just on the racetrack but in him being a human being as well.
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Poor Film
Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
Racers, The (1955)

* 1/2 (out of 4)

Extremely poor racing film about a hot shot driver (Kirk Douglas) who tries to woo a woman (Bella Darvi) while pissing everyone off. Think Champion and take away everything great and you end up with this movie, which is pretty bad from start to finish. I'm really not sure what the point of this thing was but I can say it's the worst Douglas picture that I've seen to date. A lot of the film has various racing scenes, which were boring but they were the best thing about the movie. There's some nice crashes and stunt work but all the dramatic stuff sandwiched between is just deadly dull, lifeless and pointless. Douglas really sleepwalks through his role and it's probably the worst I've ever seen him. I'm not sure what was up with Darvi but she is one of the worst actresses I've seen in a major picture. Her sexy routine was just dreadful. The supporting cast includes Cesar Romero and Lee J. Cobb but neither are given much to do. The film was shown with a 2.55:1 ratio but I had to see it in 2.35:1, which makes for some nice shots but there's no meat with those shots.
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A film that seems like "Champion" but on wheels---and not nearly as good.
MartinHafer12 September 2013
much more obvious that the actors aren't really driving the cars than in later films like "Le Mans" and "Grand Prix" Kirk Douglas, Bella Darvi, Lee J. Cobb, Gilbert Roland, Cesar Romero\\\ Had I never seen "Le Mans" and "Grand Prix", I am pretty sure I would have liked "The Racers" a bit more. This is because these two 1960s racing films have the most incredible cinematography you can imagine--and the stars (Steve McQueen and James Garner) did most of their own driving. Here in "The Racers", however, the scenes of Kirk Douglas and the others are OBVIOUSLY filmed in front of a screen where the race is projected--and this isn't even done terribly well. It looks fake because it is fake.

As far as the plot goes, it's very much like Kirk Douglas' earlier film "Champion". In both, he is so bent on winning that this is all there is to his life--and it obviously alienates those around him. He isn't quite as cut-throat in "The Racers", but he is pretty close. The rest of the movie is pretty much a soap opera-like affair--with Douglas and Bella Darvi in an on-again/off-again love due to his relentless pursuit of victory. It's all very adequate and nothing more. The only reason I saw it is because I try to watch all of Douglas' films I can find--even the supremely adequate ones.
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