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Everything Else is Just Waiting...
LeMans (DVD)
Steve McQueen

The single line that's necessary to understand this film -- if you don't have an instinctive understanding from the moment you hear the engines beginning to rev -- is McQueen's response to "Why do you do it?".

He says (and i'm afraid i have to paraphrase a bit here) "That out there, that's living. Everything else is just waiting."

And that's the truth; for some people, living on the edge -- whatever it may be the edge of -- is the only time they feel truly alive.

The great British driver Stirling Moss's biography is entitled "Everything But my Life". Graham Hill, after retiring and taking a job as a commentator was asked if he missed racing. He replied along the lines of "Twenty-four hours out of most days, I don't miss it at all. But when those engines start up -- I miss it more than anything."

(Hill and Stirling both almost died in horrific crashes ... and returned to racing.)

McQueen's film catches this attitude well -- these are men with an obsession, a need to get out there and push themselves and their vehicles to the limits, and beyond.

(Limits? Another Graham Hill story -- he took a car out for practice at the Nurburgring. It was impossible for the car's suspension to allow its belly to touch the roadway. He came back with all the paint rubbed off the bottom of the car.

(A car magazine decided to see how different drivers approached their art; they fitted a gran prix car up with full instrumentation and sent three different drivers out to run hot laps on the same race course. As expected, the profiles of all three varied, some were faster on one corner, some on another -- but two of the three touched the car's theoretical absolute limits in acceleration or cornering force at several points on the lap. The third exceeded them several times...)

If you want a RACING MOVIE -- one that gives equal emphasis to the "Racing" and the "Movie" part, this isn't it -- try Winning (with Paul Newman), which i believe Amazon is/was offering as a two-fer with this film.

If you want a racing MOVIE -- one that's first a Movie and secondly a racing story (albeit with incredible racing sequences) try Gran Prix, with James Garner.   (Though the full impact of that sort-of-Cinerama, multiple split-screen film will to a great extent be lost on home video, no matter how good the system.  Unless you have a Cinerama theatre in your basement.)

But if you want a RACING movie -- one that understands what and why racing is and lays it all out there, this is it.

Some Other Random Comments: One review mentions McQueen driving a race with his ankle in a cast -- it wasn't in this film, it was either Sebring or Daytona, and he only barely lost to Mario Andretti who was determined not to lose to "an actor".   (I think the broken ankle resulted from a crash on this film, now that i come to think.)

Almost all of the cars in this film -- including the Porsche which meets such a horrific end on the Armco -- were actual factory cars from the previous season, which were pretty much obsolete in the new season, and which the factory donated/sold cheap to the production company.

Except for the Ferraris -- Enzo read the script, said "A Porsche wins? No Ferraris!"

The "Ferraris" which McQueen and crew took great pleasure in destroying are actually replica bodies on old Lola chassis.

Another review mentions that the tires on the Porsche can be seen spinning as it bounces off the Armco in slo-mo, and says that this is beacuse the accelerator had been jammed open to cause it to crash more spectacularly. From what i read at the time, the car was first smashed into the Armco under radio control at a speed approaching 200MPH; after it bounced off, a stunt driver got into it, strapped himself solidly in, and gunned it up to sixty or more MPH, hitting the barrier again at a sharp angle which resulted in several more bounces. The tires are burning because it was wide open to enable him to do more elaborate spins and crashes. (They cover up the cut between the RC crash and the controlled crash in the slo-mo sequence by one of the cutaways to McQueen's face as he relives the crash after everything comes to a halt...)

Feel the Need For Speed? This is the DVD for you.