Auto enthusiast and writer Brock Yates conceived the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, an unsanctioned cross country race. He tried to turn the idea into a movie, which he did with The Cannonball Run (1981) but a few films beat him to release, including The Gumball Rally, which has been given a Blu-ray release from the Warner Archive Collection.
Bored candy executive Steve Bannon (Michael Sarrazin) sets in motion The Gumball Rally, an illegal 2,900-mile race that starts in Manhattan, New York and ends in Long Beach, CA, which he won the previous year. There are 11 different vehicles driven by a variety of characters that include Bannon's chief rival Steve Smith (Tim McIntire) and an easily distracted Lothario named Franco (Raul Julia), well-to-do old guys, Pennsylvania housewives, off-duty CHiPs, a Hungarian motorcycle rider, and Jose, who gets a job transporting a Rolls Royce across country in order to enter the race.
LAPD Lieutenant Roscoe (Normann Burton) is after them. He appears to have a history with racers Bannon and Smith, but isn't much of a threat, more of a bumbling nuisance. It's not clear why other jurisdictions would pay attention to him. The rest of the cars deal with different, silly impediments along the way.
The film has some funny gags and others that are ho-hum, but Gumball Rally is predominantly an action movie filled with car stunts and lots of destruction and the stunt team is very good at those. There's not a lot of attention to continuity as the racing cop car gets clipped on the rear driver's side by Roscoe's vehicle, causing the trunk to pop open, but it's as good as new in the very next cut.
The video comes with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Colors across the spectrum pop in vibrant hues, from primaries to earth tones. Right from the start, this is evident when the first gumballs appear during the film's opening credits. Blacks are inky, though they crush on occasion, especially during night shots. Natural film grain is apparent. Focus is as sharp as the source allows, although quite a few scenes areas of soft focus, like the top of the frame at the end of Bannon's board meeting or the background of the shot when Roscoe pays for information in California.
The audio is available as DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Dominic Frontiere's score is robust and overpowers the dialogue and effects at times. The revving engines have great oomph in terms of loudness and bass. The track has a wide dynamic range. A hiss crops up when Angie and Jose are fighting in in Rolls.
The Gumball Rally is an amusing racing movie for action fans. The Warner Archive's Blu-ray delivers quality video and good audio, though the music could have been better balanced with the rest of the mix. A bonus point for having a sequence set in my current town of Orange, CA, even though it's set outside of CA.