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The Speed Merchants – A Movie Review

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I rarely post about movies and I’m not a movie expert by any chance but I wanted to post a short review about a movie I recently watched.  I’ve wanted to see “The Speed Merchants” for a long time.  It’s a movie about sports car racing from the year I was born and features Mario Andretti and Vic Elford among other drivers of the time.  For those interested, you can purchase it for download at Duke Video.

“The Speed Merchants” is set in the 1972 World Sportscar Championship season but it doesn’t tell the story of the championship.  It features the races at Daytona, Sebring, the Targa Florio, Nurburgring, Le Mans, and Watkins Glen.  There is fantastic in car footage from Vic Elford’s Alfa Romeo at the Targa Florio that isn’t to be missed as well as race footage from the above races.  It is more a story about the drivers, especially Andretti and Elford but also Brian Redman, Jacky Ickx, and Helmut Marko.  The are segments on the home lives of Redman, Ickx, and Marko and also illustrates how drivers of the time weren’t the specialists of today but raced in multiple series such as sports cars, Formula 5000, and F1 among others.  It is also a story of the ups and downs of racing, of triumph and tragedy.  The success of the Ferrari team with Andretti and Ickx is contrasted with the struggles of the Alfa Romeo team with Elford and Marko.  The success of the home team Matra at Le Mans is contrasted with the death of Jo Bonnier and Elford’s discovery and reaction to it.  The death of Bonnier and the serious injury to Marko illustrate how dangerous motor sport could be compared to (yet still can be) today.  The movie ends with Andretti continuing his legendary career and Elford making the decision to retire from driving, highlighting what makes racers race and what makes them decide when it is time to hang up the helmet.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing racing from my birth year and watching some of what I’d previously only read about.  I’d bought the movie expecting to see a narrative of a racing season but instead I got a compelling story that went beyond just the story of the season and into the stories of the racers and what makes them race.  “The Speed Merchants” is a great movie with a great story and I’d recommend it to any motor sports fan.


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