Home » Patrick Stewart’s Terrible Motorcycle Racing Film Has Been Rescued From Oblivion For Your Viewing Pleasure

Patrick Stewart’s Terrible Motorcycle Racing Film Has Been Rescued From Oblivion For Your Viewing Pleasure

Patrick Stewart Racing Motorcycle Movie Japan Ts
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Creating a good film is no easy task. You need an excellent script, a good cast, and a quality director. Sometimes, you can fluke a success with only one out of three. With none of them, you’re almost guaranteed to fail. That’s kind of what happened with Races, a 1984 film featuring the mightiest modern Shakespearan, Patrick Stewart himself.

Today, Stewart is a celebrated actor across theatre, film, and television. His credits are rich and varied,  many of which are absolute standouts in their respective genres. Thus, you can imagine that you’ve never heard of this earlier work for good reason. The film was brought to our attention by the efforts of That’s On YouTube, a channel which specializes in spotlighting obscure pieces of lost media.

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Races, alternatively known as Windy, Windy Story, or Uindii in Japanese, was not exactly a major hit on release, with the production more of a comedy of errors that was setup to fail. Of course, viewed through a different lens, it’s a right laugh when watched today. So bad that it’s actually good? Well, you can be the judge—watch the whole thing here, or read on as you desire.

The film followed the tale of one Kei Sugimoto, played by Hiroyuki Watanabe (the Japanese actor also had pop-star aspirations, see below). From the outside, Sugimoto is living a great life. He plays drums for a successful jazz band by night, while competing as a motorcycle racer by day. Ultimately, though, he’s left dissatisfied with his mid-pack finishes in the racing world, and his knowledge that jazz is on the way out. In the movie, he learns to become a better father – supposedly – to find the meaning that is lacking in his life. At least, that’s what the movie’s blurb says. Watching the film, I’m not so convinced that actually happens.

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Vhs And Album Cover
Races/Windy Story VHS art and an album cover from star Hiroyuki Watanabe (Air Records, Japan).

As for Stewart, he plays the a supporting role as the hilariously-named Charles Duffner. As a wealthy winery owner and a photographer who follows the motorcycling circus, he rides a vintage motorcycle and tells stories to the children of the racers. From the perspective of the plot, he’s there to provide a sort of mythical allegory for Kei’s racing journey throughout the film. He’s a source of counsel for the characters, able to provide insight from his position of emotional distance. His classical theatre training serves him well in this role, even if it’s not exactly a major one. He has his own tragic story, too. His son, a former World Champion, died in a racing accident. He makes his way to races across Europe out of a desire to get closer to his child, lost so many years before.

Races (1984) Patrick Stewart's Forgotten Film 14 32 Screenshot Result8
It’s a young-old Patrick Stewart, seen here in his early 40s. Amazing skin but greying hair. Stewart would get a major break while Races was filming, when David Lynch cast him for a major role in Dune (1984). He would spend weeks commuting between the respective sets in Europe and Mexico.

 

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Storytime with Patrick! What a treat.

The overall plot of the film is fairly straightforward. Kei struggles to perform on track while contending with his own personal issues. Much of these centers around a fractured relationship with his daughter Anna, who he fathered with a musician he met on the road during his many travels. Our troubled hero casts off those who try to help him, only to realize that it’s the support of friends and loved ones that is key to his success.

The film is clearly not a AAA effort from a major studio; the dialogue and acting alone makes this obvious. With that said, Stewart is a standout professional, delivering his lines with his trademark even-handed gravitas. Where many of his scene partners are very obviously acting, he comes across with the authenticity that would carry him to stardom not long after this film was released.

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Kei’s brooding nature is only further boosted by the lack of emotion in anything he says.

The racing scenes are well worth some credit, too. The first-person shots on the bikes have a great sense of speed, and the wide shots show the action well for a budget film. We get to see bikes dueling on track with quality more than enough to drive the film on, particularly given the era. The film is really let down by the dramatic scenes, where everything falls apart. The film deals in cliches like pushing too hard and not being honest with one’s self, and hackneyed questions about what motivates a racer to race at the risk of life and limb.  The hammy delivery from most of the cast doesn’t help things.

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Stewart has a relatively low opinion of the film, shot in 1983 just before his appearance in Dune. At the time, he was still yet to find his major break in the film world, as he alludes to in his recent memoir. “I found myself accepting a supporting role in a Japanese film, the star of which was a pop idol who had never acted before; it was a paycheck, nothing more,” says Stewart. “But on the plus side, I didn’t have to work much and the film took me to several pleasant European locations where in the movie, the singer’s character was performing.” He also referred to it as “a schlocky production of a film” that he “didn’t much care about.”

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The racing scenes are okay, there just aren’t very many of them.

Races was a Japanese production through and through, except for the fact that it was set in Europe and all the dialog was in English. Indeed, this is perhaps the film’s biggest and most amusing flaw. Stewart’s retelling isn’t perfect; leading actor Hiroyuki Watanabe was known as an actor, not a pop idol. He’d also acted before, though he’d never before shot a film entirely in English. Indeed, Watanabe was capable of speaking intelligible English, but it was not his first language. His delivery of lines is cold and robotic, very much coming from wrote phonetic learning of the lines rather than a proper understanding of the emotional content.

Indeed, Watanabe wasn’t the only fish out of water. Director Masato Harada could barely speak English at all. If he had realized how stilted and off-putting the dialog really was, the production might have been shut down. Tasked with shooting a film in a foreign language for his second directorial effort, it’s perhaps impressive he finished the project at all. Nevertheless, he got it done, and the film was screened in theatres in Japan and Europe, before later being released on VHS and LaserDisc.

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The movie does have plenty of strange inconsistencies that are typical to most racing films when viewed by even the most casual motorsports fan. It stands out more here because of the amateur sheen on the film as a whole. For example, in the final race, our hero has to chase down his sole mechanic at a Holiday Inn to convince her to help run his bike. And yet, after the race, he’s shown celebrating with a whole team who had not appeared in the prior scene at all. Most confusing.

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Slide throttles! So 80s. Can you ID the engine? Do so in the comments. 

 

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Yes, let’s distract our rider in the last laps of the race by telling him his daughter has arrived at the track. Also, if that was so important, why not just lie and show him the board early on for the same motivational boost? Either way, deeply unprofessional. And to everyone else, it just looks like she’s using the pitboard to introduce herself. Come on now.

The film is online for your viewing pleasure thanks to That’s On YouTube, who went to great effort to recover and remaster the little-known title. Hunting down the film and watching it wasn’t exactly easy. Wanting to see it in the best possible quality, our reviewer chased down a LaserDisc copy.

Finding it was a challenge as searching for “Windy Story 1984” generally just turns up copies of Windy City, released the same year. Eventually, he came across a copy on LaserDisc, only to find that Side A of the disc was nearly unwatchable due to a phenomenon he calls “bitrot.” This is incorrect, as bitrot refers to the loss of data—indeed, individual bits—in digital media. For LaserDiscs, which are analog, the phenomenon is called “laser rot.” It has nothing to do with lasers, though; it’s just where the adhesive used to assemble the LaserDisc goes bad over time and causes the oxidation of the reflective aluminum layer inside, spoiling the disc and adding noise to the video and audio.

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If P-Stew invites you to his bomb-ass winery, you go.

Thus, at great expense, a second copy was sourced, and the best parts of both discs were spliced together to create a watchable digital version of the film. The whole thing is available on YouTube for your watching pleasure so you can close out this blind spot in your Patrick Stewart history.

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It’s the kind of film that’s perfect for this weird week in between Christmas and the New Year. Time has less meaning here, so you can commit two hours to watching a strange piece of Japanese ephemera without feeling unduly perturbed if you don’t enjoy it very much. As a bonus, it ought to provide you plenty of anecdotes to share at weddings and baby showers in 2024 as you regale people with the tale of Patrick Stewart’s worst film. That’s gotta be worth something, right?

Image credits: Races (1984) via YouTube Screenshots

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Steve Lee
Steve Lee
3 months ago

at around the 28:37 mark
“Dinner, it’s what’s for sukiyaki”
Some writer thought they were so clever with this line.

lastwraith
lastwraith
3 months ago

If we’re rocking terrible Trek-related movies for this fake workweek, have a look at the recent Hallmark cheese-fest that is “A Biltmore Christmas”.
No cars, but you get Jonathan Frakes (Number 1/Riker) and Robert Picardo (the Voyager EMH doctor) together in the same movie. Though Picardo doesn’t have many scenes.

Arthur Flax
Arthur Flax
3 months ago

This review of a confusing, forgettable motorcycle racing movie reminds me of a forgettable motorcycle racing movie that doesn’t stink.

I recommend Race For Glory, starring Peter Berg, Lane Smith (character actor who you will recognize but won’t remember from what movie) and some other actors.

It’s about a guy building a road racing motorcycle in a shed in America. (But not John Britten who actually did build a road racing motorcycle in a shed or shop, but in New Zealand.)

Anyway, it’s not a terrible movie, if you ever run across it.

Warning: There are about 10 other movies named Race For Glory, but this is the only one with Peter Berg, as far as I know.

Fred Fedurch
Fred Fedurch
3 months ago

“Slide throttles! So 80s. Can you ID the engine?”

TZ500

https://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/classic_tests/Yamaha-TZ500-80-03.jpg

Bobfish
Bobfish
3 months ago

“Then all of the fairings fall off, and they try to get them back on – but I’ve seen everything.”

….apologies but it’s the first thing that comes to mind with non-Trek Stewart.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

I’m not sure of the carbs but the on bike image shows an excellent view of a Krober electric tachometer which was hot stuff in the 70s and 80s.

Goblin
Goblin
3 months ago

Well, this one movie is not nearly as scary as “I, Claudius“, where Patrick Stewart has HAIR !!!

Which is even spookier than him singing as Gurney Halleck in the original Dune.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago
Reply to  Goblin

I’d never noticed Patrick Stewart in I Claudius but Derek Jacobi was the big shot, and I saw it in 1977

Goblin
Goblin
3 months ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

The one we never got was the unfinished I Claudius with Charles Laughton and Merle Oberon, from the mid 30’s. Most cuts are available on youtube. Both of them were splendid performers.

I first learned about Charles Laughton in a one-liner in Dan Simmons’ Hyperion books, and watching these cuts helped me perfectly imagine what Sad King Billy looked like.

Mike F.
Mike F.
3 months ago

Damn, another horrible movie I need to try and see. It’s on the list, just after “Anaconda III: Offspring”.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
3 months ago

Ah, but what if it also featured Jimmy Stewart and Jackie Stewart?

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
3 months ago

As well as Kristen Stewart and Martha Stewart?

David Smith
David Smith
3 months ago

it was a paycheck, nothing more

This made me chuckle. Probably won’t watch it or remember it exists in a week or so.

Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
3 months ago
Reply to  David Smith

I got Sir Patrick Stewarts memoir as an audiobook, narrated by himself, and you’ll plenty of such commentary. I recommend it!

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
3 months ago

If you’re reviewing terrible motorcycle films check out George A Romero’s film Knightriders. There are no zombies but it stars Ed Harris and Tom Savini (in an acting, not makeup role)

DriveSheSaid
DriveSheSaid
3 months ago

Duffnernitely one he’d like to forget, if we could only make it so!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

This film is not at all engaging.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Sir Patrick would rather you not dig up his yesteryear’s enterprise(s.)

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
3 months ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

But he’s in a commercial that keeps interrupting YouTube videos.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
3 months ago

Sir Patrick is a god damn national treasure. In several nations. I never realized until recently how young he was in Star Trek until Picard come out. And dammit if I’m not older now than he was then!

Can’t ID the engine, but those sure look like Keihin carburetors.
I had Mikuni slide carbs on my GT6 for a little while. They worked and made the car demonstrably quicker, but they had some strange behaviors that I could never tune out, so they went away.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
3 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

The carbs or the strange behaviors? Maybe you’re a better tuner than you thought.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sexton

Sadly, I’m a lousy tuner and the strange behaviors that remained. Maybe a psychologist would have helped.

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