The World's Fastest Indian Blu-ray Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 7.5
Video 9.0
Audio 8.5
Special Features 9.0
Total 8.0
Distributor: Icon
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Reviewer:
Simon Black
Classification: PG

8.0


The World's Fastest Indian

Beloved if somewhat eccentric Invercargill native Burt Munro attained world renown in 1967 when he broke the under-1000cc land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  A lifelong speed junkie, Munro’s effort was all the more remarkable given his own advanced age of 68, veritably ancient by daredevil standards, not to mention that of his motorcycle, a heavily modified 47-year-old Indian Scout.  Given a warm and approachable treatment by Anthony Hopkins, his Munro brims with enthusiasm and joie de vivre, testament to a man who spent his life doing what he loved, namely tinkering with motorcycle engines and attaining ridiculous speeds on a daily basis.

The World’s Fastest Indian was directed by Roger Donaldson, who in the 1970s almost singlehandedly revitalised the fledgling New Zealand film industry.  His 1977 feature Sleeping Dogs was the first New Zealand feature to be made in over a decade, and the first to be produced by an all-local crew.  In addition to introducing its star Sam Neill to an international audience, the film and Donaldson’s subsequent efforts led to the formation of the New Zealand Film Commission in 1978, the body that would later be responsible for funding such noteworthy efforts as Beautiful Creatures and Whale Rider, as well as helping launch the careers of Peter Jackson and other luminaries of the New Zealand cinema scene. 

The Burt Munro story has long been an obsession of Donaldson’s.  In 1970 he produced a 30-minute short about Munro entitled Offerings to the God of Speed, included in its entirety here as a bonus feature, and on the audio commentary to the film he reveals having spent many years developing the script.  In part financed from Donaldson’s own pocket, that the film is a labour of love is evident from the outset.  It moves at very much its own pace, unconcerned with drawing the viewer in with instantaneous bursts of action or other attention-grabbing gimmickry, preferring instead to let the subtle, affable character of Munro speak for itself.

As is the case with most biographical features, certain liberties have been taken with the truth.  Several of the depicted land speed attempts are amalgams, for instance, and Munro did not in fact have the curious habit of urinating on his lemon tree each morning.  Instead this idiosyncrasy belonged to Donaldson’s own father, and was included as an affectionate if backhanded tribute.  At any rate these minor alterations do not affect the plot of this understated yet picturesque film.  Hopkins seems quite at home in the role of lovable old rogue, and the end result is a moving tribute to a man who lived his life with a passion and spontaneity most can only dream about.

The transfer to blu-ray is impeccable, with sharp contrast and vibrant colours abounding.  The scenes shot at the salt flats in Utah are quite radiant, and make breathtaking use of this HD technology.  This film slipped under many people’s radars upon initial release, but is a firm favourite of critics and fans alike.  The strength of the material and a slew of valuable extras make this one definitely worth checking out on blu-ray, especially if you missed it first time around.

Special Features

Audio Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson

Short Film: Offerings to the God of Speed

On the set of The World’s Fastest Indian

Deleted Scenes

Interview with Roger Donaldson

Southland – Burt’s Town of Invercargill






 
 



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