‘Chariots of Fire’ Blu-ray Book Review
Smartly coinciding with the upcoming London Olympics, Warner Bros. released the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire on Blu-ray in the form of a Blu-ray book. Having previously only been available on DVD, fans of the movie were probably pretty stoked. Since it was released before my time, I am sad to admit that I hadn’t seen the movie quite yet. Luckily, that got to change!
As far as sports movies go, Chariots of Fire is generally considered one of the bests. Like any “good” sports movie, it transcends the playing field (in this case, an olympic track) and tells a moral story, too. There are a few other things going for the movie, including the true backdrop and the unique setting (team sports, particularly basketball and football, have saturated the screen).
What is the true story? Well, to give a quick overview (since you should be seeing the movie): Chariots of Fire follows two British runners – Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) as they progress from novice runners to Olympic athletes.
Both of them have a unique situation which pits them against their competitors in different ways. Abrahams is the target of anti-semitism (as he is of Jewish descent), while Liddell struggles to blend his passion with his religion causing a conflict which jeopardizes his chances of winning an Olympic medal.
The themes – from prejudice to morality to sportsmanship – make this a fan favorite. When it was released, it surprised just about everyone by taking home four Academy Awards, including the coveted Best Picture. Although it got very positive reviews, it wasn’t considered a front runner at the time. Besides Best Picture, it won Costume Design (Milena Canonero), Original Screenplay (Colin Welland), and Original Music Score (Vangelis).
After watching the movie, it’s no wonder. Especially in regards to the fantastic score, Chariots of Fire is the textbook example of an Academy Award pleaser. It’s a thought-provoking triumph story. While this may not be enough for people who love darker movies, this particular movie is a great example of a lasting story that can stay relevant from one generation to the next.
Looking back now, Chariots of Fire is considered a classic. However, at the time, it had an interesting road from the original idea to the big screen. With various setbacks (mostly money and distribution), the movie almost never made it to the screen. Yes, it may have taken 21 years for it to make a Blu-ray appearance, but that almost never happened!
The movie’s special features illustrate a great timeline of what happened, providing some interesting tidbits of insight. These features include:
Blu-ray Book – I am all for Blu-ray books. Here, we get a 36-page supplement full of pictures, trivia, biographies, and more.
Paris, 1924: Birth of the Modern Games Documentary – The 1924 Paris Olympics are considered the “birth of the modern games” because it was the first rejuvenated Games after many years of unsuccessful ones. In a change of pace from the story, this documentary isn’t about the movie, but instead focuses on the setting.
David Puttnam, A Cinematic Champion Documentary – Acclaimed producer David Puttnam has many films under his belt. For those unfamiliar with him, this documentary gives a good recap of his career.
Wings of Their Heels: The Making of Chariots of Fire Documentary – This 2005 documentary gives the most in-depth look at the Chariots of Fire project. Starting with the Producer (Puttnam) and covering things from casting, directing, realism, music, distribution, and more, this one is for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes parts.
Chariots of Fire: A Reunion Documentary – The last documentary has a little bit of overlap with the “Making of” one, but it focuses more on the main production and actors as they reunite.
Interview with Director Hugh Hudson – This is basically an autobiographical account of Hugh Hudson’s filmography. Interestingly, Chariots of Fire was his first feature narrative film (having worked previously in commercials and documentaries).
Commentary (with Hugh Hudson) – Although it would’ve been nice to have more people involved in the commentary, Hudson does a great job pointing out important things regarding the movie.
Deleted Scenes – 8 total (although some are “alternative scenes”), the deleted scenes portion shows some clips that didn’t quite make it (for one reason or another).
Screen Tests – Both Ben Cross and Ian Charleson had video screen tests testing their suitability in their respective roles.
Theatrical Trailer – A look at the theatrical trailer promoting the film before its release.
Chariots of Fire Soundtrack Sampler – A separate disc includes four songs from the Academy Award winning soundtrack. The songs are: “Titles,” Abraham’s Theme,” “Eric’s Theme,” and “Jerusalem.”
Whether you are a fan or a newbie (like me), the Chariots of Fire Blu-ray Book is a good item to have. Luckily for you, you can own it on Blu-ray today, as it was released this past Tuesday. Aesthetically, it looks like it was filmed today. Likewise, the story still has the triumphant punch it had over 20 years ago. With hours of extra features, this thing will keep you entertained for quite awhile.