Film Reviews, January 1958

B.R.S.C.C. Midnight Film Show

A popular winter motor-racing entertainment is the B.R.S.C.C. Festival of Speed and Sport, which took place last year on November 22nd. It is astonishing, even startling, proof of the popularity of motor racing that two large London cinemas were filled to capacity for this non-stop two-hour midnight film show, while other cinemas in other parts of the country drew similar crowds. Only in Dublin did enthusiasm lag behind.

The evening chosen by Ken Gregory for the B.R.S.C.C. Show was that on which the British Racing Mechanics’ Dinner/Dance took place at the Criterion. This had the support of almost every racing mechanic in the land, their ladies, the motor Press and such drivers as Roy Salvadori, Duncan Hamilton, Jack Fairman, John Cooper and others. Many went on to the Film Show, which explained the presence in London’s West End of a large number of fast and exciting motor cars!

The show opened with the Club films of racing at Brands Hatch, the Crystal Palace and Mallory Park. These were followed by a long colour film advertising the various Shell and B.P. oil refineries, and a good Shell film by Random Film Productions, of Moss’ Vanwall winning the G.P. d’Europe at Aintree, most of the incidents of this dramatic race being captured, although the cameras were absent as Lewis-Evans made his effective jury-rig of the Vanwall’s throttle-linkage. This film concluded With a brief résumé of Stirling’s racing career, beginning with his Cooper 500 races, Incidentally, the drivers were seen getting into the Austin-Healeys for the publicity parade prior to the Aintree race and it was interesting to see Fangio kick forward the seat back to attain his “perch,” the World Champion bored with the whole affair, whereas Musso was puzzled as to what was to take place, while Moss and Hawthorn were quite happy and Schell loved every minute of it!

The big film of the morning (the show did not conclude until 2 a.m.) was the Shell colour presentation of the 1957 Le Mans race won by Esso-consuming Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars and Lotus. This was taken by a French film unit and was stunt filming, with the cars doing 400 m.p.h. most of the time and far too much time spent on scenes outside the race and far too little devoted to the victorious Jaguar and Lotus cars. It wasn’t a patch on that excellent Shell Film Unit presentation of the 1952 Le Mans race, which effectively but without over-dramatisation depicts the sad retirement of Levegh. Another film dealt, in brilliant technicolour, with the 245 m.p.h. record runs at Utah by the M.G. record car. We noticed that Moss was wearing an M.G. rosette on his overalls and felt sorry for Phil Hill, who went nearly as quickly as Stirling in testing the car and who could undoubtedly have taken these records.

The programme included two cartoons, one of them dealing with the remarkable transformation of Mr. Walker when he becomes Mr. Wheeler the motorist and concluded with serious,large, gentleman named Richard Dimbleby occupying most of the screen to preach road safety to us, illustrating his points with childish cartoons and verses and two horrid accident-“stills.” Perhaps we can be spared this, and the advertising, at next year’s show.

The originators of these happy nocturnal film shows, the B.A.R.C., stage their programme at the Curzon Cinema and in the provinces next month. Perhaps they will include the well-spoken-of Castrol film of the Monaco G.P. in their showings. — W. B.

The Epping Forest Motorsport Association Film Evening

The Epping Forest M.A. filled Kensington Town Hall on the evening of December 9th, when they put on a programme of nine motor-racing films, including the World Premiere of the Clarke Film Unit’s ” Grand Prix du Reims (1957).” Many celebrities, including Hawthorn and Lewis-Evans, watched the show, which was notable for presenting only G.P. films—no sports-car racing.

After an advertising film incorporating some instructive servicing data about Girling disc brakes, we saw an excellent colour film of hero Donald Campbell raising the Water Speed Record at Nevada in his jet-propelled Bluebird. This was followed by Castrol’s film of the 1957 Monaco G.P., which caught the atmosphere of Monte Carlo with “shots” of the scenery, the bathing beauties and H.S.H. Prince Rainier arriving for the start of the race. Although some of this film makes the cars travel at impossible speeds, this is counterbalanced by some very effective cornering scenes taken from above the course.

Two cartoons led to the Shell film of last year’s G.P. d’Europe, described elsewhere, and then D. A. Clarke, ex-Frazer-Nash driver, introduced his colour film of the Reims G. P., which, he said, was shot on a shoe-string. We have seen better motor-racing films but this one is outstanding for excellent long-distance “panned” views of the cars, with correct sound effects and some interesting but too-brief slow-motion cornering sequences.

There followed a particularly fine black-and-white Shell film of the Golden Jubilee I.O.M. motor-cycle T.T. and a high-quality Standard Motor Co. film of TR3s collecting the Team Prize in the 1956 Alpine Rally. The latter was notable because other makes besides those of the sponsors were seen and described very fairly—although we don’t think the commentator is particularly partial to Rapiers!

Now you know what to look for at forthcoming winter club socials. — W. B.