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Hell on Wheels

43 customer reviews

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(Nov 22, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

LOVE LANCE? You'll love HELL ON WHEELS, the first film about professional bike racing that anyone can appreciate, featuring the world's best bike racers -- Lance Armstrong, Eric Zabel, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Alexandre Vinokurov, Andreas Klöden-- and directed by Academy Award-winner Pepe Danquart!

Le Tour de France, one of the toughest and most prestigious sporting events in the world. Year after year hundreds of thousands of fans line the route, cheering on their heroes and willing them to victory, while millions of viewers worldwide tune in on their televisions. Academy Award-winning director Pepe Danquart, fascinated by the spectacle of the three week race, chose to focus on the courage, the pain and the fear of the riders of the Tour.

Training his lens on German superstar sprinter Eric Zabel and his loyal domestique Rolf Aldag, Danquart captures the thrill of the race and the teamwork behind the stars of the peleton. He also shines light on the Tour's supporting cast - the director sportifs, masseurs, and, of course, the wildly enthusiastic fans. Reveling in the stunning landscape - from the Alps to the Pyrenees to the Massif Central to Paris - and with a nice dollop of Le Tour's history, HELL ON WHEELS transcends the sport it celebrates to reveal an astonishing human endeavor.

There may never be a better documentary about the Tour de France bicycle race than Hell on Wheels. Directed by German filmmaker Pepe Danquart (who won an Oscar® for best live action short film in 1994), this breathtaking documentary covers all aspects of the 2003 edition of the Tour de France, and it's likely to remain the definitive record of the event from an immediate you-are-there perspective. Outstanding cinematography, award-winning editing, and the extreme challenge of the Tour make this a truly unforgettable film, full of real-life drama and fascinating competitors who bring a deeply human dimension to cycling's annual extravaganza. This was the year that American cycling legend Lance Armstrong won his fifth consecutive Tour de France victory, but Danquart's film wisely avoids overemphasis on Armstrong's dominance, focusing instead on German teammates Eric Zabel and Rolf Aldag, whose 11-year history as Tour de France roommates lends the film a more personal quality that gets you right inside the Tour's physical and psychological endurance test. The July 2003 event marked the Tour's centenary celebration, and French scholar Serge Laget provides valuable perspective on the race's cultural importance in France, with vintage film clips to illustrate how the grueling 2,500-kilometer Tour has evolved--and stayed the same--throughout its 100-year history. Highlights are abundant (including Armstrong's nearly devastating crash late in the race), but Hell on Wheels goes beyond basic sports reportage to achieve the dramatic impact of a feature film. Danquart strikes a satisfying balance between beautiful travelogue footage of the French countryside (including the Tour's scenic stages in the Pyrenees mountains) and the veteran's perspective of Zabel, whose honest assessment of his own cycling abilities makes you realize that even great cyclists view the Tour with awe, fear, and inspiring courage. In capturing the beauty, pain, and glory of cycling's most daunting competition, Hell on Wheels caters to a specific audience while retaining its universal appeal as a colorful and exhilarating film that anyone can enjoy. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Deleted scenes
  • Photo gallery & more

Product Details

  • Actors: Rolf Aldag, Lance Armstrong, Santiago Botero, Hagen Boßdorf, Baden Cooke
  • Directors: Pepe Danquart
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • DVD Release Date: November 22, 2005
  • Run Time: 123 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000B5XSTE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,106 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hell on Wheels" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Triesch on January 11, 2007
Format: DVD
First, what this film is NOT: it is NOT a documentary of the 2003 Tour-de-France, even though that is where all the action takes place. When the film is over, you won't even know - unless you already knew - that the race was won by Lance Armstrong, nor will you know who finished second and third, or who won most of the stages. The film does not follow the normal storyline of a race documentary.

What, then, DOES it do? It gives an inside look at what it feels like to be a professional cyclist racing in the Tour-de-France, as seen through the eyes of the German Telekom team (now renamed T-Mobile.) Focusing largely on veteran riders Eric Zabel, Rolf Aldag (since retired), and Andreas Kloden, we get behind the scenes to see what life is really like in big-time cycling. And what we see is a world simultaneously more beautiful, graceful, painful, and smelly than what we see on regular television coverage of the Tour.

"Hell on wheels," indeed, for we see the sweat rolling from the riders' faces, the stress, the injuries, the almost military regimen of a virtually all-male world.

We see the rubdowns, the shaving of legs, the plastering of buttocks with anti-rash gel, the injection of (legal) vitamins and supplements, the urination by the side of the road. We see the dirty side of the sport.

But we also see the grace, and we feel the danger. We see the cyclists at speed, and we feel it. Most television coverage of the Tour is taken from vehicles moving at the same speed as the cyclists, so the sense of speed and danger is often lost. This film captures those elements.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Randall Crist on February 1, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This documentary, covering the T-Mobile team during the 2003 Tour de France, is a superb portrait of the life of a professional athlete. Erik Zabel is seen at the beginning of the downside of his outstanding career as a sprinter, unable to beat the younger lions of the sport. The massage sessions after the race and the discussions during them are outstanding for their insight into the pysche of a cyclist competing at a world-class level. Rolf Aldag and other domestiques illustrate the motivational challenges faced by those that make a living racing bicycles out of the limelight of the Zabels, Armstrongs and Ullrichs, and physical toll it takes to compete in the most famous race in the world. Television coverage never really gives us the pictures that this film does-all of the nitty gritty details that go into racing, and surviving, in the Tour. Highly recommended.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jim Joyce, on February 10, 2007
Format: DVD
Lance Armstrong's unforgettable speech to the world press gathered on the eve of the 2003 Tour de France sets this mystical, magical masterpiece in motion.

"I show up prepared," says Armstrong, dead serious. "I show up motivated and I show up because I love it and respect it and I want to do well. Nothing means more to me than to win this event."

What follows is a sports documentary that is gorgeous and grandiose while at the same time gritty and down to earth.

This is cycling film that should be seen by anyone who considers himself a sports fan. It should be shown in phys. ed. and geography classes across America. This is the cycling film that would win the hearts and respect of a people who have never watched - nor cared to watch - a professional cycling race. And this is the cycling film that allows the cycling fan to forget the drug-accusation cloud hanging over professional cycling, and reminds us just how much there is to love about "The Tour."

Rather than interviewing the racers and filming every stage of their performance, director Danquart turns on the camera, places it in the team bus and motels, and the riders themselves tell their incredible story with class and wit. We see close up the pain and humanity of the great German sprinter, Eric Zabel. While he, and to a lesser degree, teammate Rolf Aldag and Team Telekom, are the key players, equally important are the cast of thousands and the wonderful countryside and small towns that make up the Tour.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dieter S. on March 6, 2006
Format: DVD
I had just started cycling with some friends on one of those recreational tours when I got this DVD on a whim. It is such an awesome experience to view what is going on behind the scenes that it really turned me on to cycling. Even if you are not into cycling you will enjoy the humor and sacrifices of these riders.

And should you ever experience 'road rash' you will find instructions on how the pro's address these injuries. (But are you gutsy enough to do it???!!!! ;o) )

Well worth watching if you have ANY interest into the Tour or cycling in general.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T Newman on January 11, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Its not often nowadays that we get a chance to see the Tour de France without complete focus on the exploits of Lance Armstrong, rider extraordinaire, triathlete, marathoner, etc. etc. While I respect and admire Armstrong's accomplishments as much as the next fan, this movie isn't about Lance.

Likewise, its not about Phil and Paul and their increasingly tiresome OLN coverage.

So what is Hell on Wheels all about? Its a German film (yes, in German but with clearly visible English subtitles) that follows the Telekom boys during the 2003 Tour de France, an epic battle between the fore-mentioned Lance and Jan Ullrich (who incidentally rode for Bianchi that year). Lance and Jan appear frequently but not as principal characters. Tyler Hamilton (who rode the entire race with a broken collarbone) and Andreas Kloden (who rode a few stages with a broken coxyx also figure as side characters. The primary characters are Rolf Aldag, Erik Zabel (roomates) and their masseuse/assistant Eule, a grizzled old guy who looks like he's seen his share of riders come and go. In between race footage, we hear from an older gentleman who appears to have spent a little too much time in the Tour archives as he narrates great black and white footage from the very first years. Although he's a little out there, he lends a French flair to the film.

In between exhilarating takes on the TdF stages, from beginning to end, we see the riders recovering, musing the day's performance, and suffering the fallout of daily crashes, mountain stages, etc. We often hear Erik and Rolf talking over the race as Eule works out the kinks on the massage table. Zabel in particular is in for some soul searching as he just can't seem to come up with that sprint win.
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