In 1966 director John Frankenheimer, a race car enthusiast, was able to realize a long-cherished dream: to make a film about the Grand Prix racing circuit focusing on several drivers and their personal lives off the track. The result, Grand Prix, is still considered the ultimate racing film, due to its spectacular cinematography that puts the viewer in the driver’s seat with its Cinerama format, split-screen technique and immersive audio. According to the director, it cost about $10.5 million to make, was a box office hit and garnered three Oscars for Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Effects. What many people failed to notice was that director Roger Corman had already made a film about the Grand Prix racing circuit three years earlier entitled The Young Racers (1963), which was made on location in Europe like Frankenheimer’s epic with exciting racing footage from Monte Carlo, Monaco, Rome, Rouen (France) and Spa (Belgium) and it cost less than half a million to make. Sure, it was a B-movie from American International Pictures (AIP) but it had a glossy, big budget look to it unlike the typical AIP product and it added some invocative twists to a formulaic genre film that often seemed influenced by the aesthetics of the French New Wave (Corman has always been a fan of European art cinema).Continue reading
Tag Archives: John Frankenheimer
The Feather Gatherers
There have been hardly any films about gypsies and their culture depicted in Hollywood’s golden age unless they were background figures (The Wolf Man, 1941) or treated in a broad, theatrical manner in comedies (The Bohemian Girl, 1936) or costume dramas (Hot Blood, 1956). King of the Gypsies (1978), based on the Peter Maas novel and featuring Eric Roberts in his film debut, was an attempt to offer an insider look at this often demonized group but seemed more like an unintentional parody than a serious drama. It wasn’t until filmmakers outside the U.S. began to focus on gypsy culture that a number of influential movies on the subject began to appear later in the 20th century such as Aleksandar Petrovic’s Skupljaci Perja (1967), which was released in the U.S. as I Even Met Happy Gypsies.
John Frankenheimer’s Service Comedy
I’m a big admirer of John Frankenheimer’s early work from such live TV dramas as The Comedian (1956) and Days of Wine and Roses (1957) to his peak achievements of the sixties: All Fall Down (1962), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seconds (1966). I’ve also enjoyed several of the more commercial projects he helmed throughout his career such as Seven Days in May (1964), Black Sunday (1977) and Ronin (1998). Unfortunately, his reputation has suffered over the years due to several box office bombs and critically maligned movies – The Horsemen (1971), Story of a Love Story aka Impossible Object (1973), 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), Prophecy (1979), Dead Bang (1989), and especially The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), which had a highly publicized and chaotic production history. Yet the most notoriously panned film of his career is easily The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) and in Frankenheimer’s own words, “It was the only movie I’ve made which I would say was a total disaster.” So, I finally decided to see for myself if the movie lives up to its notoriety.Continue reading