It took a few months, but after establishing my Top Five list for the best Blu-Rays out there, I finally saw a movie that was good enough to bump one of the previous ones off the list. I have set up a few resources on this blog for those who want to purchase Blu-Rays, because unlike in other mediums, sometimes the quality after a transfer is just a waste of money if you already own the movie. On the flip-side, sometimes that quality is so amazing that it will just blow you away. I had that feeling a few days ago, when I finished watching a WWII movie that gave Saving Private Ryan a run for its money, and might have even eclipsed it, in my humble opinion. It is for that reason that we unfortunately say goodbye to A Night to Remember from the Top Five, and welcome in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, which comes thundering in to the number two spot.
This afternoon I was very upset to learn of the passing of actor and TV show host Richard Dawson. I was actually a big fan of his growing up, as I used to be really into game shows and got hooked on GSN re-runs of Family Feud and Match Game at a very young age (he also had a small role in one of my favorites The Longest Day). I was so into those shows, that I wrote Richard a letter when I was about 12 years old, telling him how much I enjoyed watching him, and asking for an autograph. A few months later, an envelope arrived from California, and inside of it was a signed 8 x 10 picture, with the inscription, “To Greg, Love and Peace, Richard Dawson.” Though I have not seen an episode of either show in a long time, I never forgot that gesture and displayed that picture proudly on the wall in my room for many years. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Dawson and his family. The world has lost a great actor, and an even better person today.
R.I.P Richard Dawson (1932-2012)
Let’s just say that I’ve been on a World War II kick of late, which gives me occasion to post my first movie review in quite some time. Heck, I might even go out and get a pack of Luckies since I’m in such a good mood. So, anyway, it seems that one cannot be considered a war movie buff unless they have watched the 1977 WWII epic A Bridge Too Far. Now that I have finally watched it, my journey is complete, and I must say, it was well worth the lengthy wait. Despite its obvious flaws, many with casting, it is still an outstanding film and one of the best war movies ever made. I consider this to be a companion to an earlier made film, The Longest Day, though the two are not officially connected in any way in regards to the production. However, both are based on novels written by the same author, Cornelius Ryan, and both took the same approach to actually making the film: have a sense of scope that is unmatched for the time, strive for the utmost historical accuracy, and of course, acquire every big name actor you can, pay them whatever they want, and find a role for them. While both films suffered nominally because of the last part, that really is the redeeming quality they have that gets people to say, “Gee, they don’t make movies like that anymore.”
Film enthusiasts and historians, the next few months will prove to be very exciting! For the first time ever, two of the best, most classic movies ever made will be heading to Blu-Ray. The first, All Quiet on the Western Front, hits shelves on February 14th (and will be in DigiBook Packaging). This film, best known as one of the first accurate depictions of what warfare is really all about, premiered in 1930, and shocked audiences with the graphic brutality of war, which was a far cry from the Hollywoodesque romanticism of war that had become a mainstay of theater at that point in time. It was so shocking that it was actually banned in Germany, though mainly for political reasons, and its unflattering portrayal of a losing German Army, the nation blamed for starting World War I, which was punished severely by the Treaty of Versailles in 1918. The second of these films is one that deals with the luxury of the most famous ship in history, the Titanic, and the subsequent disaster of its sinking, in one of the most accurate tellings of the story, based on the book by legendary author Walter Lord, titled, A Night to Remember. This film will be released a month later, on March 27.
The Longest Day may very well be one of the most expansive film projects in history. With four directors, five writers, and forty-two billed international stars, this is an unforgettable movie, and one that used its many stars to their full advantage.
The 1960′s were loaded with epics where directors took every big name star on the market and thrust them into a role. It may seem like that’s what was done here, but in fact, the casting was excellent, and no one looked out of place, especially the lead actors John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and Henry Fonda.
There is also an amazing supporting cast, with actors from America, Britain, France, and Germany, which represented the four countries involved in the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. It takes a whole paragraph just listing their names: Eddie Albert, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery, Jeffrey Hunter, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Sal Mineo, Kenneth More, Robert Ryan, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Robert Wagner, and Stuart Whitman. Singers Paul Anka and Fabian also made appearances as American soldiers. The cast of Germans and French include Hans Christian Blech, Richard Munch, Bourvil, Werner Heinz, and Wolfgang Preiss.
Ken Annakin shot the British scenes, Andrew Marton shot the American scenes, and Bernhard Wicki shot the German ones. Darryl F. Zanuck produced the film and is often credited as a fourth director.
What was really special about this film was the fact that the characters from their respective countries spoke their native language, and subtitles were used on-screen. This was very rarely done by Hollywood back then, and films involving foreign characters were still shot in English, with the vernacular to be assumed by the audience.
The special effects are also top notch, and the battles scenes and cinematography were worth the Oscars they won. There are may distance shots of the battles scenes, with so much going on and this added to the realism of the movie.
Even with so many stars, this film really does not belong to anyone in particular. Wayne and Mitchum’s scenes were brief and spread out evenly throughout the course of the movie. Meanwhile, Henry Fonda recieved less time on screen than any of the top-billed stars.
It’s truly amazing to finish this movie and see the end credits role and see so many names whose faces you did not recognize. There are so many small scenes and cameos all around, that it could almost be made into a game with whoever you are watching this film with, to try and name who is on screen.
This film would work really well as a compliment to Saving Private Ryan, which is considered the definitive D-Day movie, despite it being only one scene at the beginning. Watching The Longest Day before watching that will help you to understand what went behind the largest invasion in modern warfare history. That’s why this movie is so great, because it is not just one big battle, but lots of dialogue explaining every mission involved, no matter how menial.
I will make my final rating a 9 out of 10, because I am still impressed at the special effects and star power every time I sit down to watch it.