Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 1966. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Douglas & Lewis Productions, Joel Productions, John Frankenheimer Productions Inc., Cherokee Productions. Screen story and Screenplay by Robert Alan Aurthur. Cinematography by Lionel Lindon. Produced by Edward Lewis. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by Richard Sylbert. Costume Design by Sydney Guilaroff. Film Editing by Henry Berman, Stu Linder, Frank Santillo. Academy Awards 1966. Golden Globe Awards 1966.
American James Garner causes an accident on the Monaco racetrack that seriously injures British Brian Bedford, getting the former kicked off his team while the latter recovers. After a stint as a lowly reporter, Garner is put back in the driver’s seat when the head of the Japanese team owned by Yamura Motors (Toshirô Mifune) hires him to drive, while Bedford’s recuperation is the last straw for his wife (Jessica Walter) who loves him but hates his career. French racing superstar Yves Montand is growing weary of the grind and is losing his thrill for driving, finding more happiness in a romance he strikes up with a beautiful journalist (Eva Marie Saint) who is covering this fictionalization of the Formula 1 racing season. There’s also a less prominent story involving Italian Antonio Sabato‘s romance with a hilariously distaff Francoise Hardy, but let’s face it, no one who comes to see this Cinerama extravaganza is here for anything other than to watch the rubber meet the road. Point of view cameras and a subtle (for its period) use of split-screen techniques are state of the 1966 art in this John Frankenheimer film, one whose near three hour running time seems to be demanding a kind of glorious status that the patchy screenplay never reaches. There’s lots of driving and it’s all marvelous, but the soap opera that fills the scenes in between never quite grabs you, the characters amiable but never compelling or deeply sympathetic. Saint and Walter give the best performance, along with Hardy’s hair, but the men at least convince you that they’re really doing all that dangerous work behind the wheel.