The version of the DVD I will be reviewing is the Two-Disc, Director’s Special Edition. Starting with the promise on the cover that this is the most exciting film on motorcycling ever made It is at times a thrilling motorcycle film, with harrowing crashes and some race footage like nothing I have ever seen, but not until I went through the special features, and realized the impact that this film had on the sport of motocross, and motorcycling, in general, did the full impact of this claim make complete sense.
This film was a first, a window into the world of the actual people who rode bikes for a living and enjoyed them without being part of a dangerous gang, or daredevils with an apparent suicide wish. This made the sport instantly accessible to anyone, and I think that qualifies it as incredibly exciting.
Let’s move inside the film and special features. Bruce Brown as a filmmaker has a real way of making you feel what he feels about something, and he clearly loves the world of motorcycles and racing. Even for non-motorcycle fans this style lures you in and keeps you there until the end, as proven by my wife’s interest being held, not being a fan of the 70’s cinema.
The plot itself follows a few of the top pro-off-road motorcycle riders in America and many competitive amateur riders that are not always in contention, but race whenever they can, with complete commitment. Through the lens, we experience their thrill and frustration, and the joy and the glory associated with this lifestyle. With no fortune up for grabs or, at that time worldwide celebrity to aspire to, we appreciate what it meant for them, to be there for the love of it.
I watched the new DVD yesterday and while I had seen the film before I was blown away by the quality of the new digitally remastered print. You can see the contrast between this new version and what we had seen before, as the trailer and other footage on the special features disk are from the old print. The amazing camera work and seventies production value, including the colors, the clothing, hairstyles, music, film stock, and especially the bikes, are beautiful to watch and dare I say, might warm you up pretty nicely if your motorcycle season has just ended like mine with the onset of the long Canadian winter.
All this being said the jokes are corny, the music while very pleasing I found at times little soft against the brutality of the racing footage, but I think that was the point. The film wasn’t about alienating the racers and raising them to god-like stature. It was about opening them up and inviting us to look inside at how much fun they were having. I think a modern take would be too macho and hyped reminding us constantly how cool the guys are, so we would feel less cool and buy some more stuff.
Speaking of cool one of the coolest of all time is in here too. Steve McQueen financed and is featured heavily in the film, a competitive motorcycle racer in his own right; we see him with his tribe, a part of the sport and not singled out or pandered too because of his celebrity. He was there; open to the same mishaps and disappointments like everyone else.
Let’s talk again about the eye candy, the bikes mostly. If you are into endure motorcycles, this is a feast for the eyes and ears. We watch Malcolm Smith ride one of the most iconic bikes of all time the Husky 400-Cross.
On the special features disk, there is a half-hour doc called Sons of Sunday where modern motorcycle racers and filmmakers recall the film and its impact on them. There is a lot of good info on the effect of the film in general, but I found the stories of how the film changes all of their lives a little bit of a “love-feast”. If one guy had jokingly said it didn’t inspire him in any way, it could have taken the ‘from age’ down a bit.
There is a Bruce Brown bio, summarizing his life in a few short paragraphs, an original trailer that I mentioned, some of the worldwide artwork associated with the film, an interesting17 minute behind the scenes look, hosted by Bruce Brown, letting us in on his motivations for and experiences making the film.
This is a film about motorcycle competition and it is very well done. For any part of it that seems a little bit out of date, there are a dozen aspects that are perfectly timeless. If you collect motorcycle films, or you are looking to get a collection going, this is a great choice. Go for the release with the pre-mastered print and extra features and you won’t be disappointed.