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DVD Pick: The World's Fastest Indian


The World's Fastest Indian DVD Cover Art

The World's Fastest Indian DVD Cover Art

© Magnolia Pictures

Never Give Up on Your Dream!

Anthony Hopkins stars in The World's Fastest Indian (2005), a feel-good biopic about a New Zealand senior citizen who customized a 1920 Indian motorcycle and rode it in speed competitions in the 1960s. Hopkins creates one of the most lovable old coots I can recall seeing in any film, and I enjoyed the movie's New Zealand and Utah locations. Also, the film presents a positive view of Americans, who encourage and support the eccentric New Zealander as he doggedly pursues his lifelong dream.

A Kiwi Goes to the Bonneville Salt Flats

The World's Fastest Indian opens in 1962 in Invercargill, New Zealand, where Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) resides in a shed. Now about 63 and slightly hard-of-hearing, Burt suffers from angina and an enlarged prostate. But he is a mechanical genius who incessantly tinkers with his 42-year-old Indian Scout motorcycle. He lives for the moments when he can ride his bike at very high speeds, which eventually exceeded 200 miles an hour.

About 35 minutes into the film, Burt takes his Indian and travels from Invercargill to Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, where many world speed records have been set. On his journey, he encounters some colorful characters and has a series of interesting experiences. But the high point of the oldster's life comes when he finally reaches the Flats and ends up participating in the famous annual competition there known as Speed Week. I'll admit the movie is a bit corny, and yet I found myself rooting for Burt every step of the way.

Documentary About the Real-Life Burt Munro

My favorite bonus material on the DVD is the 27-minute documentary titled "Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed." This was made around 1971 and shows us the real-life Munro as he was about nine years after the events dramatized in The World's Fastest Indian. I was impressed that although Anthony Hopkins doesn't look much like Munro, the actor nonetheless captured the essence of the man he was portraying, partly by mimicking speech and mannerisms.

An Excellent Audio Commentary

The writer and director of The World's Fastest Indian was Roger Donaldson. Over the last two decades, Donaldson has become known as a director of Hollywood movies, including The Bounty, No Way Out, Cocktail, Dante's Peak and Thirteen Days. However, he formerly lived in New Zealand for several years, and during that time he made the 1971 documentary about Burt Munro described above.

The World's Fastest Indian DVD provides a feature film audio commentary by Donaldson, and if you like the movie at all, I highly recommend listening to it. He's one of those directors who is able to bring out details that catch my interest. (Examples: the rattlesnake in the Boot Hill sequence was real, the Los Angeles scenes were shot in Salt Lake City, the actor playing the transvestite is Vanessa Williams' brother.) Also, as the screenwriter, he tells where his story ideas came from. Some were drawn from his knowledge of Burt Munro, but Donaldson integrated some incidents from his own life into the movie. He claims that when he first arrived in L.A. from New Zealand, he got so confused he left a one-hundred-dollar tip at a diner. However, they chased him down Hollywood Boulevard and returned his money to him!

A So-So Making-Of

The DVD contains a 45-minute making-of documentary that consists of interviews with cast and crew interspersed with clips from the movie. This does give us a chance to see what writer-director Roger Donaldson looks like, and we also get to hear from supporting actors like Diane Ladd, Paul Rodriguez, Chris Lawford, Bruce Greenwood and Annie Whittle. Anthony Hopkins tells us he's grateful to be playing a likable character instead of yet another psychopath.

Deleted Scenes and a Tourism Promo

The DVD provides four deleted scenes, each roughly a minute in length. One of these, titled "Be Happy the Way You Are," made me laugh out loud. In it, a transvestite (played by Chris Williams) seeks advice from new friend Burt Munro about getting a sex change operation.

There's also a three-minute montage promoting tourism in the New Zealand region known as Southland. The region's commercial hub and tourist service center is Burt's hometown of Invercargill.

DVD Details

Below I have given the details for the DVD containing The World's Fastest Indian.

Release Date: June 13, 2006
Feature Film Run Time: 2 Hours 7 Minutes
Widescreen (1.78:1), Color
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Brief Language, Drug Use and a Sexual Reference
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
English 2.0 Dolby Digital
Spanish Subtitles
Audio Commentary by Writer-Director Roger Donaldson
Making of The World's Fastest Indian (45 min.)
Deleted Scenes (4 Scenes Totaling 4 min. 11 sec.)
Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed (27 min.)
Southland: Burt's Hometown of Invercargill (3 min.)

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