Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Great Race - Movie Review

It is unlikely I will ever see a movie like this ever. A most unusual plot, setting and mix of characters combined with some of the most outlandish scenes makes 'The Great Race' an unforgettable movie. Made on a budget of 12 million in 1965, it was the most expensive comedy of its time.

The two main characters, Leslie the Great (Tony Curtis) and his opponent and losing contender Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) are daredevils. Leslie wins hands down each time, is handsome, courteous, articulate and the perfect man. Fate is the opposite of all that and is jealous of Leslie. He constantly challenges Leslie to some feat or another and loses all of them, mostly by his own stupidity (or that of his man Friday, Max). Anyway he challenges Leslie to a race from New York to Paris. Leslie has a new car and Fate builds a Bondesque one for himself, complete with a built in cannon and a smoke screen. To add to the fun is a beautiful, feisty suffragette Ms. Maggie Dubois who is driving her newspaper's car. Incidents include getting caught in an elaborate bar fight, sleeping in a snow storm with a polar bear taking over one car, floating around the Arctic seas on an ice floe with their two cars parked precariously on it, ending up in a country that has an idiotic crown prince who looks exactly like Fate, thereby triggering a conspiracy and finally love between Leslie and Dubois. Leslie stops his car inches from the finish line to prove his love for her and lets Fate win. Fate feels cheated that he has not won on his terms and challenges Leslie to a return race on the way back. At the very beginning he tries to blow Leslie's car off and blows up the Eiffel tower instead.

Absolutely nutty. Jack Lemmon is incredibly versatile and never ceases to amaze. He is unforgettable as the instable and insecure Professor Fate. Natalie Wood is brilliant as Maggie Dubois and reminded me of the heroine in Come September. Tony Curtis is a revelation. But how did they ever conceive so many scenes and stunts and idiotic capers I cannot imagine. Fantastic stuff. You can never forget it. And oh, the pie fight, its the greatest ever. Watch it.

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