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Overlord (The Criterion Collection) (1975)

Brian Stirner , Davyd Harries , Stuart Cooper  |  NR |  DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Brian Stirner, Davyd Harries, Nicholas Ball, Julie Neesam, Sam Sewell
  • Directors: Stuart Cooper
  • Writers: Stuart Cooper, Christopher Hudson
  • Producers: James Quinn
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 17, 2007
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000MTEFPA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,515 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Overlord (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

To borrow a phrase from Film Comment editor-at-large Kent Jones, "unjustly forgotten and now happily resurrected" is the best way to describe Criterion's superb DVD release of Stuart Cooper's Overlord. Relatively unseen since its European theatrical release in 1975, this moody, well-crafted meditation on one soldier's preparation for battle employs a remarkably seamless combination of fictional narrative and amazing World War II footage from the archives of England's Imperial War Museum. While this "reel + real" technique is relatively common, director Stuart Cooper (an American filmmaker working in England) applied meticulous archival research to ensure that the documentary footage was logically and authentically integrated with his fictional narrative (cowritten with Christopher Hudson) to lend convincing verisimilitude to his simple, straightforward story of a young British soldier's anxious days prior to joining the front line in the D-Day Invasion of Nazi-occupied France (a.k.a. "Operation Overlord"--June 6, 1944). Haunted by a premonition of his own death, Tom (Brian Stirner) goes about his pre-battle business as any soldier would (including a touchingly sweet romance with an equally shy British girl, played by Julie Neesam), and as Overlord progresses, we see how the individual soldier is gradually absorbed into the massive machinery of warfare. Brilliantly filmed in black and white by Stanley Kubrick's frequent cinematographer John Alcott, Overlord succeeds as a thought-provoking study of war from intimate to epic scales, in addition to being an impressive technical achievement that's stylistically connected to the experimental narratives of the 1970s, yet still firmly rooted in the nobility of British war films from the 1940s. --Jeff Shannon

On the DVD
As always, the Criterion Collection did extensive research to provide Overlord with a wealth of informative supplements. Director Stuart Cooper and actor Brian Stirner share the DVD's feature-length commentary, and Overlord's historical context is thoroughly explored, beginning with "Mining the Archive," in which the Imperial War Museum archivists provide background history on the archival footage that director Stuart Cooper so carefully integrated into his narrative. "Capa Influences Cooper" is a photo essay in which Cooper explores the influence of legendary war photographer Rober Capa on the visual and emotional content of Overlord, and this emphasis is further supported by "Cameramen at War," a newsreel tribute to wartime photographers and newsreel cameramen, featuring some of the Imperial War Museum's most spectacular footage from World War II. "Germany Calling" is an amusing example of archival propaganda (produced in 1941 by the British Ministry of Information and briefly excerpted in Overlord) which ridicules Hitler's Nazi regime by synchronizing Nazi rally footage so a silly British melody. "A Test of Violence" is Stuart Cooper's 1969 short tribute to the bleak, war-themed paintings of Spanish artist Juan Genovés; it was this film that led Cooper to create Overlord. Also included is Stirner's dramatic reading of journals by two Scottish D-Day soldiers whose experiences parallel those of Stirner's character in Overlord; the film's original theatrical trailer; and a 30-page booklet with an Overlord essay by Kent Jones, a short history of the Imperial War Museum, and excerpts from the Overlord novelization by Cooper and cowriter Christopher Hudson. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

Seamlessly interweaving archival war footage and a fictional narrative, Stuart Cooper’s immersive account of one 20-year-old’s journey from basic training to the battle front lines at D-day brings all the terrors and isolation of war to its viewers with jolting authenticity. Overlord, impressionistically shot by Stanley Kubrick’s longtime cinematographer John Alcott, is both a document of WWII and a dreamlike meditation on man’s smallness in a large, incomprehensible machine.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Special features practically outdo the film June 26, 2007
Format:DVD
"Overlord" is a curious film that blends archival footage into a fictional account of a typical British soldier preparing for the D-Day invasion. While I found "Overlord" lacking as a narrative, it was a worthy cinematic experiment and should be of particular interest to anyone interested in World War II.

Made in England in 1975 with the help of the Imperial War Museum, "Overlord" was not released in the United States until 2006. This long overdue DVD release helps atone somewhat for the film's long absence from North American markets.

"Overlord" is a short sometimes choppy story that manages as well as might be expected to integrate actual footage of Nazis and Allied troops in action including bombing raids and their devastating results. While the focus of the story is on one soldier's enlistment in the British Army and training for D-Day, it is an at times powerful meditation on war's effect on individuals. "Overlord" specifically examines the mindset of soldiers preparing for battle especially as they face the reality of their own mortality.

The real triumph of the DVD is the bonus features. On one such feature two representatives of the Imperial War Museum speak about the making of the film, specifically the archival footage. Another is a tribute to war photographers that was made in 1943. "Germany Calling" produced by the British government's propaganda arm during the war, is a very funny spoof of the Nazis.

As is always the case with Criterion films, the DVD is pricey (they don't do anything on the cheap) but as is also always the case with Criterion, the movie and all features are presented in pristine condition.

"Overlord" is an important edition to the many outstanding films on World War II, bold in its ambition and significant for its use of actual footage. And in this DVD release, the bonus features are not just add ons.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
One young British soldier, who celebrates his 20th birthday while training for the impending D-Day invasion, writes a letter to his parents and tells them that as time passes, he feels like a smaller and smaller part of a bigger and bigger machine.

Being a small component of a massive device is the central idea behind Stuart Cooper's "Overlord," an odd, hazy, child's-fever-dream of a movie that uses staged black-and-white scenes interspersed with actual archival footage from World War II.

We follow Tom (Brian Stirner) through a drab, dispiriting round of basic training; his experiences are interspersed with separate scenes of battle, of invasion and aftermath to illustrate events going on "meanwhile" all around him, events leading up to Normandy.

The movie is a truly unique visual experience. John Alcott shot the storyline scenes (just before he began work on "Barry Lyndon") and the movie has a look not unlike "The Elephant Man," or its thematic brother, "Johnny Got His Gun."

Though the incorporation of actual footage is very smooth, I never had any trouble distinguishing what came from the 40s and what was shot in the 70s. That didn't ruin the experience for me: Look at the hauntingly beautiful scenes involving bombers flying above the cloudline at night, or a harrowing training sequence in which a rowboat ditches its passengers onto rocks (Cooper reveals in his commentary that one or two men actually died during the exercise).

With its short, spare narrative and its stark conclusion, "Overlord" almost feels like a short story of a movie, but that doesn't downplay its impact or importance. This is a little-known movie worth reviving and it gets a fine Criterion presentation here. The commentary with Copper and Sterner is particularly good; it's worth listening to to hear how they did it even if you don't particularly connect with the film.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXTRAORDINARY January 31, 2007
Format:DVD
This incredible film is a dreamlike recreation that mixes real vintage footage with original film as it follows an ordinary young British bloke from his military induction to D Day.

Wonderfully evocative on every level. The photography is extraordinary. Powerful images shimmer next to the sublime. The very human dilemma of how to make sense of life and war has never been told better. A great film.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OVERLORD CRITERION A MUST SEE!!!!.. May 11, 2007
Format:DVD
WOW!...Another amazing hidden gem from the folks at criterion..if you are a an avid fan of Criterion, and the amazing films they bring to viewer's attention, you owe it to yourself to buy and watch Overlord. An amazing film, the story line is shot in an amazing way, mixed with real world war 2 stock footage...the film plays like a dream. A war film directed by David Lynch!....The composition of each shot, angle is carfefuly thought out by the filmakers...It is a haunting film, and stayed with me for days!....check it out!, one of the best dvd's of the year!.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
As with any film that Criterion chooses to put out, "Overlord" is well worth watching. If you're coming to this film as I did, however, not knowing anything about it, you may be surprised to find that this is NOT a retelling of D-Day in the style of "The Longest Day" or "Saving Private Ryan." Other than a few shots of air raids from the archives, there is no combat whatsoever depicted in this film, and it ends just as the Allies are first hitting the beaches on that day. I think it was a bit misleading to entitle the film "Overlord" and then have "D-Day, June 6, 1944" emblazoned across the cover, since nearly all of the film takes place BEFORE D-Day. Overlord (the Allies' code-name for the invasion) here seems to be used in a more metaphorical sense, since the only overlord in this film would seem to be war itself, an overarching unseen presence which first deprives men of their individuality and freedom, and then destroys them physically. As others have written, this film consists of two elements: archive footage from the Imperial War Museum, and the story of a young British Everyman who is called up and undergoes training in preparation for D-Day. The archive film is quite impressive; I've spent many hours watching WWII film and a lot of this material, which is quite interesting, was new to me. Other than some air raid film, however, most of it depicts the massive preparations that had to be carried out in order to prepare for the invasion. As for the new parts of the film, they are visually quite interesting, particularly since it was filmed by John Alcott, a veteran of four of Kubrick's greatest films. It looks distinctive and yet meshes well with the archive footage...in a few instances, it's hard to tell which is which. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Results
Visually, I was able to suspend my disbelief that segments of film were genuine 1940's footage and others were hired actors in costumes 30 years later. Read more
Published 1 month ago by mr. critic
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most underrated movies ever!
I echo the words of one reviewer who said this movie has a dreamlike quality---the images resonate long after the film is over! Read more
Published on June 4, 2011 by Scott Benkel
4.0 out of 5 stars The unknown and forgotten war classic that definitely deserves...
"Operation Overlord", the code-name used for the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, commanded by General Dwight Eisenhower. Read more
Published on August 17, 2010 by Dennis A. Amith (kndy)
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and different war film
The Bottom Line:

This combination of narrative film and archive footage (some of which is spectacular) won't enter any list of the best war films of all time but it's... Read more
Published on December 31, 2009 by One-Line Film Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Am I missing something here!?
I really do not get this at all. I was sucked in by all the great user reviews and the fact it was in the Criterion Collection. I watched it wanting to like it. Read more
Published on December 15, 2009 by Eric Sanberg
4.0 out of 5 stars HOW WOULD YOU FEEL PREPARING FOR D-DAY??
The film, shot deliberately in black & white, opens with a young man in England leaving home for boot camp. Read more
Published on November 7, 2009 by Loves To Read
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrible beauty
If you are not sated by a million documentaries about WWII, 'Overlord' gives you amazing and strangely often beautiful archival footage from the British Imperial War Museum,... Read more
Published on August 3, 2009 by Michael Brindley
3.0 out of 5 stars "I don't think I shall live to see the end of this war."
"It sounds silly, but this war has killed so many people already. I'm just going to be another one, of that I'm sure. Read more
Published on January 21, 2009 by Trevor Willsmer
2.0 out of 5 stars Did we see the same film?
The Overlord film that I saw consisted of two streams intermingled. The first stream is the Imperial War Museum highlight reel. Read more
Published on August 10, 2007 by Noirist
3.0 out of 5 stars D-Day as an Arthouse Flick
Frankly, I was disappointed by this film. I knew that it would not be a spectacular like "Saving Private Ryan" (which I also did not like that much except for the opening). Read more
Published on June 11, 2007 by maskirovka
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