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Obscure motorsport films

The Richard Heseltine Column - The Agony and the …. Agony!

It is perhaps a sad reflection on me, but I am drawn to obscure films for reasons I have never been able to explain. Moths show greater resistance to flame. I would rather sit through a ‘Euro-Spy’ espionage flick from the 1960s from the comfort of my sofa than watch a comic-book adaptation at the local cineplex. I’ve always been this way. It used to be that I would spend ages tracking down copies of long-forgotten movies from yesterweek, often acquiring them in poor quality DVD format on eBay at vast expense. Now, most of these celluloid ‘classics’ can be found on YouTube.

And the point of this? Well, I recently wrote an article about car-racing films for one of the more niche motoring titles.  Since then, a particularly gnomish friend hasn’t stopped moaning that I didn’t mention Italo-German production, Formula Uno: Nell'Inferno Del Grand Prix. I suppose the obvious reason was that it was too obscure to warrant even a footnote. The truth is, however, I hadn’t seen it. Now I have, and I wished I hadn’t. The tagline that translates to Daredevils straight out of hell who ride flat out on the rim of death!  was my first clue that this might not be Oscar-bait.

The 1960s saw the release of countless motor sport-rooted films, this one being discharged in 1970, just as the fad had all but run its course. The plot, for want of a more appropriate word, centres on ruthless driver (played by bodybuilder turned thespian Brad Harris) who will stop at nothing to beat arch-rival Frank Donovan (Franco Ressel) to win the Formula One World Championship. Throw in a love triangle and lots of stock footage from the F1 1968-69 season, not to mention appalling production values and clunky dialogue, and most hardcore racing junkies would turn on their heels and run away screaming.

Graham Hill appears in the film as himself, too, although his ‘part’ is essentially the same sort of cameo appearance he made in Grand Prix. Not only that, one of the principal stars of the film was motorcycling legend Giacomo Agostini. The irritatingly handsome 15-time World Champion had a supporting role as ace driver, Giacomo Valli. As an aside, ‘Ago’ appeared in quite a few movies that same year, filling in time during the off-season by strutting his stuff in front of the camera. In this press pic, he is seen at the wheel of his mount from the film, the ex-John Miles Lotus 41X F3 car which is clearly wearing some unconvincing F1-style wings and suchlike. Not only that, the role of his team-manager in the film was filled by real-life former Grand Prix winner, Giancarlo Baghetti (in the middle, alongside TV reporter, Poltro Nieri).

Tellingly, the racers deliver their lines better than most of the, cough, ‘actors’. Not only that, they have the most prominent positions on the film poster. So there you have it: if you have a high tolerance for suffering, by all means watch it. If you have a life, I suggest you sit this one out…


Books by Richard Heseltine


Other blog posts by Richard:

Celebrating Tony Crook

What's In A Name?

Road Trips: the Fun and Frustration

The Joys of being a Motoring Writer 


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