Review: Le Mans Blu-ray

Le MansSTUDIO: CBS/Paramount | DIRECTOR: Lee H. Katzin | CAST: Steve McQueen, Siegfried Rauch, Elga Andersen, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Fred Haltiner
RELEASE DATE: 5/24/2011 | PRICE: DVD $14.99, Blu-ray $24.99
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: G | 106 min. | Action drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 7.1/ DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 | English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Le Mans movie scene

Steve McQueen preps for the first leg of Le Mans.

Steve McQueen’s (Papillon) labor-of-love car racing film, 1971’s documentary-flavored Le Mans, made its Blu-ray debut on the same day the era’s other racing movie, 1966’s Grand Prix, starring James Garner (The Great Escape), premiered on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video. Like the drivers behind the wheels of the fastest cars on the planet, the studios are only happy when they’re trying to beat each other to the finish line…

Le Mans was a legendarily troubled movie, most of which was filmed at and during 1970’s actual “24 Hours of Le Mans” race. Among the problems were its temperamental superstar leading man, a non-existent script and a director (John Sturges) who walked off in the middle of the picture, leaving another (Lee Katzin) to finish what he started.

It’s all pretty well-documented in the 25-minute bonus featurette Filming at Speed: The Making of the Movie “Le Mans,” which is hosted by McQueen’s son Chad and was produced in 2001. Also included are interviews with producer Bob Relyea, director Katzin, studio exec Bob Rosen and stunt driver Derek Bell, as well as lots of behind-the-scenes footage. Most fascinating is the detailed look at the various methods and camera setups used to film a field of Porsches and Ferraris as they tear across the circuit at nearly 200 mph.

The highlight of Le Mans is the footage of the endurance racing, of course. (The real endurance test is sitting through the film’s vague story and dialog sequences.) The Panavision widescreen image looks grand in this remastered high-definition Blu-ray, while the 7.1 DTS-HD audio mix adds a substantial surround-sound vvvrrroooommmmm as the cars zip around railed curves, past each other and  across the screen.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.