The Grand Tour Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: March 14, 2023
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 98:50
Director: David Twohy
Ben (Jeff Daniels) is a widower haunted by the memory of his wife’s death in a car crash. He lives with his daughter Hillary (Ariana Richards) in the sleepy town of Auburn, where he is renovating an old inn, readying it for a summer opening. His plans are thrown awry when a group of mysterious tourists arrive and insist on staying at the unfinished inn, even though there is a perfectly adequate hotel right in the middle of town. It soon becomes clear to Ben that these are no ordinary tourists. A series of unusual events convince him that they are in fact voyeurs from the future on a historical disaster tour. But what have they come to witness? And what danger does it portend for Ben, his daughter, and the townsfolk of Auburn? (From Unearthed Films’ official synopsis)
Before he was the guy that makes a Riddick movie with Vin Diesel every ten years, before he made the Independence Day (1996) counter-programmer The Arrival (also 1996), David Twohy was a sci-fi/fantasy writer for hire working on medium budget fan favorites, like Mick Garris’ Critters 2 (1988) and Steve Miner’s Warlock (1989). His first chance to direct was in 1990 with the modest time travel drama The Grand Tour, known in many territories as Timescape or sometimes released under the entirely spoiler-heavy alternate title, Grand Tour: Disasters in Time. The Grand Tour sat on a shelf until 1992, when it was released more-or-less straight to video and television, where it was slowly rediscovered by bored viewers thumbing through titles at the rental store or surfing channels on cable (personally, I first watched it on a tiny Montana hotel TV with my dad during a road trip).
Twohy’s script is a loose adaptation of Catherine L. Moore & Henry Kuttner’s novella Vintage Season, published under the joint pseudonym ‘Lawrence O'Donnell’ in a 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine. The concept behind Moore & Kuttner’s story – time travel tourism – is so good that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been adapted or stolen enough times to constitute an episode of the Genre Grinder podcast, but here’s a brief history of derivative works anyway. Moore & Kuttner may have inspired Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder (pub. 1952), which was the basis of Peter Hyams’ 2005 mega-flop of the same name. In that story, big game hunters (a form of tourist) use time travel to poach dinosaurs. Robert Silverberg wrote a semi-sequel to Vintage Season, In Another Country, for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in 1989 and there is also a collection of books by Nick James known as the Time Traveling Tourist series. The closest thing I could find in terms of filmmaking was a 1999 made-for-TV movie by Mario Azzopardi called Thrill Seekers (aka: Time Shifters, 1999), which sounds so similar to The Grand Tour that I’m surprised it isn’t listed as being also based on a ‘Lawrence O’Donnell’ story.
The Grand Tour is ultimately a B-movie and Twohy lacks the money and experience behind the camera to do Vintage Season justice and convey the scale of the danger. The lower budget might have served a shorter version of the story, such as a chapter in an anthology or episode of a television series (I can imagine it as a particularly strong episode of the 1985 reboot of Twilight Zone or 1995 reboot of The Outer Limits). On the other hand, I can also imagine a major studio version losing the character drama in the noisy action scenes and a cacophony of special effects. Or, worse, inert action scenes and bad special effects, like Sound of Thunder. Ultimately, the made-for-TV veneer and Twohy’s utilitarian direction (I’m being a little unfair – the horse accident flashbacks are slickly made and there’s a good foot chase at the beginning of the third act) creates an effectively intimate tone that serves the performances, especially leads Jeff Daniels and a young, pre-Jurassic Park Ariana Richards. Daniels was still about a decade away from being best-known for no-nonsense dramatic roles at the time, so it is notable to see him bringing so much pathos to a non-comedic role.
Like I said, The Grand Tour was practically a STV film and readily available on VHS following its 1992 release. Stateside, it made its DVD debut on a barebones anamorphic disc from Anchor Bay, while most foreign discs were cropped to 1.33:1. There is an HD widescreen edition available to rent or own on Amazon Prime, but I assume this was taken from the same Anchor Bay scan. According to specs, Unearthed Films’ new Blu-ray (released under their Unearthed Classics line to differentiate it from the shock gore that makes up the bulk of their output) was created using a 4K scan of the original camera negative. The results are an earthy, naturalistic transfer that isn’t going to knock the eyes out of your head, but it does justice to the film’s modest, moody, sometimes foggy look. Cinematographer Harry Mathias’ photography captures a lot of texture, so the 4K boost makes the difference, even when compressed down to 1080p. Shadows are strong without overloading detail and colors are desaturated, but not muted. Grain texture has an occasional CRT-y quality and a few of the darkest, wide-angle shots feature slightly mushy textures. Print damage is limited to some white and black flecks.
The Grand Tour is presented in its original 2.0 stereo and uncompressed LPCM sound. It’s not a flashy mix, but it has a warm natural sound and dialogue is clear and consistent. save some ADR bits from Ariana Richards (I guess something went wrong with her performance at some point). The minimal effects work is mostly environmental ambience, not bombast or stylized science fiction noises. The stereo channels are engaged during the disaster scenes, but it's all pretty low key. Most of the right/left movement is utilized by Gerald Gouriet’s mixed synth-based/symphonic score, which swells to amplify emotionality, and the church bells that save the day at the end of the movie.
Timescape title sequence (4:50, HD)
Lost to Time: The Cannes Promo (18:23, HD) – A new interview with Ed McNichol, who discusses his limited work as video editor for a Cannes Film Festival promo/trailer.
Production stills gallery
Poster mockup & artwork gallery
Unearthed Films trailers (The Dark Side of the Moon, Nightwish, The Unnamable)
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be seen by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.