The Great Race (1965)

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The Great Race (1965)

Post  BoG on Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:56 pm

One of the very early Steampunk adventures, which usually had a comedic streak (the other famous one that year was Those Magnificent Young Men in Their Flying Machines).  The Great Race has minimal sci-fi elements, unlike - say - The First Men in the Moon (64), which was all-out sci-fi speculation. This race film takes place in the very early 20th century, just after automobiles had been introduced to the general populace. It concerns the competition between the heroic Leslie (Tony Curtis) and the diabolical Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon). Leslie proposes a race around the world, in automobiles. He's aided by the tough Hezekiah (Keenan Wynn), while Fate's assistant is the dopey Max (Peter Falk).  Also thrown into the mix is a gorgeous, emancipated journalist (Natalie Wood).

The film naturally becomes a travelogue of sorts - the contestants soon reach a town in the American Old West, then they're in the Arctic and drive through Asia before reaching a small kingdom in Europe, whereupon director Blake Edwards aims for a parody of The Prisoner of Zenda, with Lemmon in dual roles. The highlight here is the debonair villain played by Ross Martin and his climactic duel with Leslie (Curtis). But, Lemmon steals most of the movie - his Fate is straight out of some bizarre cartoon, the prototypical mustache-twirling villain, and Lemmon plays him perfectly. Most of his and Falk's stunts are straight-up fantasy & sci-fi, with the two neer-do-wells surviving numerous setbacks which would be fatal in real life.  Wood was at her prettiest - and that's saying a lot, but she also proved to be quite adept at frothy comedy. The whole thing ends in Paris, with one final spectacular sight gag. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10
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