Imagine if you took a four-time Best Actor Oscar nominee, an Oscar nominated director, and a writer who would later go on to win two Oscars, and give them a story about an acerbic but conflicted Formula One driver based on a novel by the writer of All Quiet on the Western Front; you’d have a winner, right? Well, no, you’d have 1977’s Bobby Deerfield.
The film is based on the novel Heaven Has No Favorites by the German writer Erich Maria Remarque and is about a winning-obsessed race driver who has a change of heart after visiting a recuperating teammate in the hospital following a crash. There he falls for a woman who is involved with her own race against time – she is suffering from leukemia.
The thing was, while the central character – played by Al Pacino – was established as an F1 driver, there’s very little racing in the movie. It’s more of a hankie-soddening melodrama about living life to its fullest and not letting others tie you down. That’s handled with uncharacteristically leaden direction from the usually crackerjack Sydney Pollack. The racing that is in the film is pretty raw and authentic as the film makers were given free rein by the Brabham team and other drivers – Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Mario Andretti. Jochen Mass and others – are all featured background players. There’s also a cool scene on a winding mountain road in an Alfetta GT that’s worth a look.
The rest of the film is less worthwhile, and is claimed to have damaged the careers of all involved for a while after its release and supposedly to have turned Hollywood off racing movies for years. Wow, such power in one little film. Check it out, right after the jump. … Continue Reading