I had never heard of Seabiscuit until I saw a trailer for the movie starring Tobey Maguire. I had no desire to watch a movie about a racehorse and doubted the voice over as it tried to engage the audience by stating that the story of Seabiscuit were the things that legends were made of. Well that feeling of skepticism changed after I watched this documentary. This documentary follows the amazing story of Seabiscuit, possibly the most famous racehorse in American history. One of the opening lines states that in 1938, …uring the days of the Great Depression, Seabiscuit had more headlines in the newspapers than Adolf Hitler and F.D.R. I actually rewound that part and listened to it twice to make sure that I wasn’t hearing things, but it was true! Either America was a very boring place during those years or there was something quite extraordinary about this horse…
This was the time if the Great Depression. 1 in 4 Americans were unemployed and the country was looking for a hero. This was in the days before televised events and horseracing was considered the pinnacle of sporting events. Celebrities would flock to see the races akin to them being sighted at a Lakers game these days. Millions of Americans would be glued to their radios to listen to the drama that the races would provide. And their favorite, Seabiscuit, would rarely disappoint.
The documentary follows the rise of Seabiscuit from relative obscurity as he was thought initially to be hopeless as a prize winner, but after being purchased by C.S. Howard, a leader in the automotive industry, and trained by Tom Smith. When combined with rider Red Pollard they formed a formidable foe for any opposing riders that eventually won almost every major race of the day. However, tragedy struck in the form of injuries to both Seabiscuit and Pollard which resulted in them leaving racing for one year. Despite great odds both returned, with an outpouring of support from the country, to win the largest prize in horse racing – the $100,000 Santa Anita handicap in 1940.
The documentary contains interviews with people who were there during this time as well as interviews with the author of the Seabiscuit novel on which this year’s movie was based. There are classic clips included of race footage as well as audio of the live radio broadcasts.
There is a lot of vintage footage that was restored of original races, which looked quite amazing given that these images are from over 60 years ago! The 1.33:1 picture is quite crisp and the more recent clips of those being interviewed looked very clear with vivid color. There is some minor artifacting that occurs during transitions between classic footage and the current interviews but unless you are looking for it you will not notice it.
There is no noticeable audio dropout during switches from the digital recordings from the interviews to the vintage broadcasts. There is also a 30’s Jazz soundtrack in the background, which complements the documentary well and makes good use of the Dolby 2.0 stereo sound.
The extras include original radio broadcasts of the San Antonio race and the Santa Anita handicap. Very nice special feature in keeping with the spirit of the disc. There is also a trivia game to test your Seabiscuit knowledge. You can answer most of the questions by watching the documentary. The screens are nicely designed and navigation is easy. The last extra is a slide show of various black and white and color photos, vintage posters and artwork.
This is a very well done documentary. It is quite engaging and really does make the viewer believe that a racehorse could be a hero in a time when heroes were few and far between. After watching this I actually now want to see the movie when it is released on DVD.
Special Features List
- Original radio broadcasts of the San Antonio race and the Santa Anita handicap
- Trivia game