Marked by some spectacular car-racing footage, Le Mans is a successful attempt to escape the pot-boiler of prior films on same subject. The solution was to establish a documentary mood. Steve McQueen stars (and races).
Filmed abroad on actual French locales, the project began under director John Sturges. Creative incompatibilities brought McQueen, his Solar Prods indie, and Cinema Center Films to the mat, and as the dust settled Sturges was out and Lee H. Katzin finished the film and gets solo screen credit.
The spare script finds McQueen returning to compete in the famed car race a year after he has been injured. Elga Andersen, wife of a driver killed in the same accident, also returns, somewhat the worse for emotional wear. Siegfried Rauch is McQueen’s continuing rival in racing competition.
The film establishes its mood through some outstanding use of slow motion, multiple-frame printing, freezes, and a most artistic use of sound – including at times no sound. The outstanding racing footage not only enhances the effects, but stands proudly on its own feet in straight continuity.