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The Great Race
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Length:2h 40mins
Cast:Blake Edwards, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood

With S.O.B., Victor/Victoria and the Pink Panther series, director Blake Edwards perfected the craft of extracting the ridiculous from the sublime, while managing to throw in a healthy dose of slapstick in the process. The Great Race was no exception to this winning formula, as Edwards assembled an all-star cast and a fast-paced script to create a textbook model of the big-screen comedy adventure. As a story, the movie skewers a real bit of history -- the turn-of-the-century automobile contests that were as emblematic of the times as bowler hats and bustles. In the film, do-gooder Tony Curtis (his pearly whites reflecting the sun's rays like diamonds) faces off against nefarious Jack Lemmon in a 22,000-mile auto race from New York to Paris (you read that right). Add to the mix a third driver, Natalie Wood as a suffragette out to prove that women can press the pedal to the metal like any man, and you've got a two-and-a-half-hour joyride that can stand among the big-screen spectaculars of the era. (The film arrived in theaters in 1965, only two years after It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the same year as Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines.) In fact, just as you're thinking that Edwards has loaded up the film with everything but a free-for-all pie fight -- alas, one breaks out! And like everything else in this old-fashioned romp of a movie, it's joyfully over the top. Bruce Kluger

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