I finally got around to watching this DVD last night (my wife couldn't really refuse, as it was my birthday, and having indulged in a curry from the local take-away, she kindly gave up an hour of Sims in order to watch with me).
It is made by Bigger Picture films, John Matthews' company, which also made the two films "In the Lap of the Gods" and "Chasing the Dream", featuring the inside story of Martin Short's exploits at Le Mans in 2006 and 2007.
Its documentary style sits well with the material Matthews has available, which is not quite as exclusive as the commentary suggests. However, interviews with spectators who were there capture the atmosphere and emotion of the event in general and the accident in particular. Even fifty years on, the sheer terror of being in that spectator enclosure comes over extremely vividly.
The first half of the film deals with the background to the event, and the lead up to the crash, rather than the disaster itself. This is probably a good thing, as there is only so much blood and gore that one needs. However, I felt that the analysis of the crash itself could have been better covered. The 3-D graphical representation of the pit area was good, but did not illustrate very much (other than the narrowness of the pit straight). The eye-witness accounts from the tribune area are powerful, but asking Fitch and Dewis their opinions of whose fault it was doesn't really help.
Although it would have been necessarily hypothetical, it would have been interesting to use the 3-D graphic to show the accident from the viewpoints of those involved, Hawthorn, Macklin, Levegh and Fangio. No mention was made at all of Fangio's avoidance, without which the death toll would unquestionaly have been higher. And that one line comment that Macklin was "out of control" wasn't really backed up by anything.
The thing I did want to hear from Fitch was his view of the Mercedes withdrawal, but either he didn't want to be quoted, or he wasn't asked. In either case, something of an omission, in my view.
Overall, though, an excellent documentary, thoroughly deserving of an airing on network TV (or maybe it was and I missed it - there was mention of collaboration with the BBC in the credits).
And I would commend anyone with an interest in this crash to look at www.mike-hawthorn.org.uk/lemans.php, or anywhere else that Paul Frere's excellent account (written in 1975, I think) can be found.
The problem with analysing anything like this too deeply is that folks have different memories and points of view. Most telling, is John Wyer's account in "The Certain Sound" - he saw the spinning Austin Healey of Lance Macklin and completely missed the Mercedes of Levegh crashing - although he was no more than 30 yards away. He is also honest enough to admit as much, rather than taking a position for other reasons.
Deadliest Crash and Go Like Hell - I'm becoming quite a reviewer, am I not?