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War and Peace

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Product Details

  • Actors: Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, Vittorio Gassman, Herbert Lom
  • Directors: King Vidor
  • Writers: King Vidor, Bridget Boland, Ennio De Concini, Gian Gaspare Napolitano, Ivo Perilli
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: December 3, 2002
  • Run Time: 208 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JU7S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,651 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "War and Peace" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews


Despite its reputation as an oversimplified epic, King Vidor's War and Peace remains a stellar showcase of Hollywood prestige. While Cecil B. De Mille was reviving ancient Egypt for The Ten Commandments, Vidor was transforming Italian countryside into war-torn Russia, bringing massive resources to bear on this sumptuous, if ultimately misguided adaptation of Tolstoy's classic. Given the marquee casting of Audrey Hepburn as Natasha and then-husband Mel Ferrer as decorated battle hero Prince Andrei, this is a movie you watch for star value, not literary fidelity (for the latter, look to Sergei Bondarchuk's Russian version). Henry Fonda serves Tolstoy more effectively as Pierre, whose passive observation of Napoleon's invasion turns this grand moral tale into an intimate study of individual passions. The battle scenes (directed by Mario Soldati) remain impressive, as does the film's grand parade of pomp and circumstance. Slow, regal, and peppered with brilliance, this epic falls short of classic but it's still a visual feast. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 92 customer reviews
This is a movie worth owning, I promise!!
Jessica M. Landreth
The movie was very long, as should be expected by readers of the book.
E. Shipp
Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda both great actors in this fil.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ryder on November 19, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
With 10 years in the making, two years of filming and (as a previous reviewer noted) no less than six writers, Tolstoy's epic masterpiece à la Hollywood does get a bit muddled and lost at times, but who cares!?!? The film's cast is stellar. Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer and Henry Fonda were each born to play their respective roles in this monumental film. Fonda plays the quixotic Pierre almost as good as Sergei Bondarchuk does in the more accurate (though also more brutal and heart-wrenching) 1967 Russian version. Hepburn, as the dazzling and ingenuous Natasha is a perfect foil to Mel Ferrer's Prince Andre, who loses his melancholy and determined seriousness only in the presence of Natasha (the same could almost be said of the film!).
Where the Hollywood version is lacking in battle scenes, historic detail, commentary from ordinary Russians and several key character developments (Mary Oblonsky, Nicholas Rostov, the Tsar, Denisov et al), it more than makes up for it with personal performances (above mentioned actors), set and costume design and an overall mood and tone consistent with the book.
This film should not be seen by people who demand faithful and tireless book-to-screen adaptations (the Sergei Bondarchuk version might be a better choice), but by people who want to get a sublime essence of one of the greatest novels ever written.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A reviewer on November 9, 2004
Format: DVD
As a deeply-adoring Audrey Hepburn fan, I have mixed feelings about this movie, as do many Hepburn devotees. It's hard not to wonder what the then-new epic master, David Lean, might have done with it, had he been in charge instead of King Vidor, a giant of the silent era from decades before.

The story I gather from Hepburn biographies is that the producer of this movie shrewdly cast Hepburn's husband, Mel Ferrer, before offering a part to her. Immediately a rival pre-production group shut down their preparations for a "War and Peace" adaptation, knowing that the plum actress for the part would surely not sign with them. (To my knowledge, Lean never got anywhere near either production.)

Well, if that's the case, then "War and Peace" might have been flawed from the start. The domino effect of starting with Ferrer's casting, securing the directorial efforts of a somewhat-aging Vidor, and also having Hepburn to make love to her own husband onscreen, might have meant that something about this movie seems a bit too comfortable for all involved in making it. It's not as dramatic as it needs to be, as cruel in its cruel moments as it needs to be, and therefore not as inspiring and revelatory of what's great about the human spirit when it needs to be. It does -- to my mind -- feel a bit bloated, a bit slow, and never quite at that high-stakes level you might hope.

Indeed, another story about the movie and its "problematic-ness" was told by King Vidor himself in his autobiography. Apparently, at the time of the movie's production or maybe release, his wife had chid him for letting his own, rather fatherly affection for Audrey Hepburn prevent him from letting her play the fullness of Natasha's character -- which is not always a pleasant one in the book.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By "widescreenguy" on December 2, 2002
Format: DVD
I was 16 went I saw the original theatrical release of Paramount's 1956 version of War & Peace. I was enthralled... but then in those days I was enthralled with every wide-screen, stereo sound movie I saw. I even enjoyed Beneath The 12 Mile Reef !!! Since those heady days I have tried to watch this Hollywood version of Tolstoy's epic novel on TV and VHS, but was always panned-and-scaned into numbness. With the Dec. 3rd , 2002, release, after nearly a half-century of missing its left and right sides, this solid, and beautifully mounted film emerges once again in its wide screen glory.
Of course condensing a 1000 page novel into three hours eliminates many of Tolstoy's details, but the basic story remains very much in tact. What is stellar here is the cast. In 1956 Audrey Hepburn was peaking, both as an actress and a beauty. Henry Fonda played a sympathetic Pierre with considerable grace, and Mel Ferrer did admirably with the difficult role of the moody Andrei. Most impressive is Oscar (Mr. Eyebrows) Holmolka as General Katuzov, and Herbert Lom makes a believable brooding Napoleon. You even get Anita Ekberg! Then when you add John Mills, Vittorio Gassman and a number of other accomplished performers, this becomes a film well worth watching. It is also notable because it was the last major directing effort by silent film master, King Vidor.
But hang on! Also in December the eminently preferable, 1968 Sergi Bondarchuk Mosfilm six-hour version of War & Peace also comes out on DVD. Paramount put together a "cast of thousands," but Mosfilm appears to have assembled a "cast of millions" To portray the vast French and Russian forces, Bondarchuk did not need "digital clones" for he had the services of the entire Red Army.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Barry C. Chow on September 12, 2004
Format: DVD
This is a tough one. In this film adaptation of one of the greatest of the literary classics, one is left wondering whether the magic that one feels comes from the film or is carried over from the novel. For those of us who have read the novel, the artistic license that King Vidal takes is difficult to swallow. Even if we understand that something must inevitably be sacrificed in the distillation of such a massive tome, the abridgement of so much literary genius is troubling. Whole characters, episodes and entire subplots are missing, to say nothing of the larger drama of an ancient and honourable culture teetering on the brink of ruin. As hard as the film tries, it misses this sense of awful grandeur and fails to invoke the overwhelming sweep of history conveyed so well in the novel.

Where it succeeds is in the smaller stories: the lives of the key protagonists, their loves, passions, accomplishments and deaths. We see some admirable performances, especially by Audrey Hepburn as Natasha. She is stunning as a precocious innocent who journeys into womanhood through the brutality of war. Henry Fonda at first seems miscast as a gangly nebbish Peter, until you see him decisively defending Natasha's honour and then confessing his love to her, or clinging to life and hope as a grimly determined prisoner of war. And Mel Ferrer invests his Andrew with what I think is just the right mixture of aloofness, sensitivity, passion and angst. When he first asks Natasha to dance, standing there in his uniform of white and serge, you can understand how Audrey Hepburn fell in love with him in real life. Their scenes together show the tension and tenderness of a real couple, and bring a believable romantic chemistry to the screen.
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