Blu Ray technology has done some amazing things over the course of the last few years, both for the visual and audio experience of seeing a movie as it was meant to be seen, save of course for actually seeing a screening in a movie theater. Though in my last article about Blu Rays, I knocked them a little bit for sometimes not living up to standard (it still amazes me that some films from the 1940′s have better clarity than those made within the last 20 years), ultimately, they have been a pleasant surprise, at least to me, a person that has always been skeptical of new technology and the controlled obsolescent world we live in today. That said, some of my favorite films, as you may very well gather, are war movies, and the HD spectacle that Blu Ray brings is the ultimate treat, because you can see the dripping of blood and grains of dirt on the soldiers’ uniforms, as well as hearing bullets zipping through the air, or the roar of a helicopter engine. All of these items play into the realism, and it is because of this that I make the humble suggestions below, for three war movies that have not experienced a transformation through re-release, to finally have their day. These are three movies that many of us would kill to see in high-definition, and I only hope the interest is out there to make it happen.
3. The Alamo (2004)
Like many of us did for Gods and Generals, in waiting eight years for a director’s cut, there are many of us waiting for one for this film as well. While when the film first came out, there was a lot of promise and hope (including director John Lee Hancock saying he would have the release of a cut put into his contract if he ever directed another film for Disney), it all seems completely dead now, especially with the 175th anniversary of the siege and battle coming without even so much as cough from a studio executive. So, if this is the case, could we at least be gifted with a Blu Ray release of the theatrical version? Despite all its flaws (the more historically accurate one claims a movie to be, the more people find things wrong with it), and the demystification of our heroes, it is still a very good film. Billy Bob Thornton plays one of the best roles in his career, and while I cannot get myself to utter that Hancock is a good director, the cinematography of this movie is superb. There are swooping camera shots, fantastic sets, and a wonderful battle scene (night-time battles look great on Blu Ray, just throwing that out there), and those three should be reason enough to give this film another go. I do not think it is too much to ask for, considering the enormous market in Texas alone, with the rest of general history buffs coming at a close second.
2. The Alamo (1960)
Slowly but surely, it seems that all of John Wayne’s more popular movies are getting the Blu Ray treatment, which actually gives this fifty year old flick a better chance of a release than the one that came within the last decade. Though this film is anything but accurate, it is a classic and war movie of epic proportions. The film erred when it depicted the final battle as taking place during the day, but the visual spectacle that ensued is a part of cinematic history. There are thousands of extras, great pull-away shots, and of course, the many different colors of the Mexican army uniforms. The film on DVD itself was pretty well-preserved, so this seems like a no-brainer. There is a director’s cut of this film too, however, but has only been released to VHS, because the poor quality of the deleted scenes would stick out like a sore thumb if transferred to a clearer medium. Nevertheless, I would buy this the first day it came out. The performances are top-notch, and the story is definitely something to remember.
1. Waterloo (1970)
Are you an aspiring director who needs inspiration on how to film a battle scene? Well, look no farther than Sergei Bondarchuk’s masterful adaptation of the climactic Napoleonic struggle at Waterloo, between Wellington (the outstanding Christopher Plummer) and Napoleon (an overly dramatic Rod Steiger). Though the first hour of this film is brutally slow, boring, and melodramatic, with some of the worst acting performances I have ever seen, the latter portion of the film with the battle is one of the most memorable, and it will stick with you a long time after. The use of nearly 20,000 extras and helicopter-view overhead shots make you want to get out of your chair and stand up, out of sheer disbelief that something like that could even be captured on film, in a day and age where there were no computer generated effects. What you see is what Bondarchuk saw, and Ney’s cavalry charge against the British infantry squares late in the battle is so stunning, it almost makes you want to enlist in His Majesty’s army. No film I have ever seen starts out so dull and listless, making you want to shut it off, before ripping the remote out of your hand and gluing you to your chair. If you can get past the poor overdubbing, mainly of Jack Hawkins’ character (he lipped the words because his voice box had been removed due to throat cancer) and about a dozen other actors, then this is a film you have to see. It is a sin in itself that this movie only has one or two DVD releases, both being of terrible quality, and containing Chinese lettering on the actual case. The widescreen format is so scrunched together that the viewer does not get the sense of scope and grandeur that the director intended. Restoring this film and putting it on Blu Ray, though, would fix that. This is a piece of cinema that needs to be worked on.
I was going to include Schindler’s List on here at number one, but sources say that the film is getting worked on, and will hopefully be released next year. As of right now, there is no release date set.