on May 29, 2003
The Battle of Britain is one of my favorite films. Great cast, classic flying scenes and a fascinating perspective on historical events.
However, I was disappointed with the DVD version. The image quality is great, but the DVD differs from the VHS version in some important ways.
First, the DVD version has different subtitles. Some are modified and some are added. If you read all of the newly added (and mostly unnecessary) subtitles, you can't keep up with the video in some scenes. I don't speak German, so I can't say whether the modified subtitles are more accurate, but I feel that some of the translations lost their dramatic edge in this release. The DVD producers also chose to overlap subtitles with the picture, when, at 2.35:1, there's plenty of room below the video for the subtitles.
Secondly, on VHS, the movie's final scene is boosted by Ron Goodwin's beautiful soundtrack. The DVD version drops the Ron Goodwin track and replaces it with a lifeless piece that saps the life out of the final scene. This was a major disappointment.
Lastly, just before the end credits, Winston Churchill's famous quote is replaced with a less notable one.
Overall, it's still a great movie, but the VHS version was nearly perfect. After waiting years for the DVD version, I'm now left hoping there will be a Special Edition version with the VHS subtitles and soundtrack restored.
on November 14, 2005
At long last fans of this great production have a DVD that won't disappoint. Those of us who saw the film when it was released in Theaters to this day, I believe, at every viewing of this movie recall and relive the significant impact it had.
O.k...so we have Heinkels and Me 109's with Merlin engines. Come on guys! I certainly prefer that to CGI planes that don't even exist. Remember...there's about as little chance that you'll ever see a gathering of warbirds like this on film again as there is of the Battle of Britain repeating itself. And the model Stukas? Well, think about it. Even if there were a few around, which there wasn't (flyable that is), they wouldn't be crashing them now would they. No, we'd still see models. Not one real airplane was destroyed making this film. All were mock-ups or models.
While the love story addicts are generally happier watching the likes of Pearl Harbor for obvious reasons, it must be remembered that films like Battle of Britain and Tora Tora Tora (easily the better Pearl Harbor depiction)are simply intended to tell a story. A little bit of documentary? You bet. A story of which we already know the begining, the middle and the outcome. There are no twists or suprises to be expected. No heroes walking out of the smoke in slow motion. The film is about the battle, not the individuals. It's about the RAF, not the one pilot that flies better than anyone else and has the prettiest girl waiting for him. It's about the country that against overwhelming odds came through. No. No individual heroes or loves...if that's what you're looking for quite simply you are watching the wrong movie. What? Did we see a review or two that complained of no plot? Geeez Loueeez...don't tell the Germans. You can teach monkeys to review better than that. Anyway, similarly we have a production that brings us real Heinkels and 109's and Spitfires and Hurricanes once again dueling it out over London and Dover...impossible by todays standards for monetary, permitability and aircraft availability reasons, in an almost equally overwhelming effort as stopping the Luftwaffe. I for one think the guys responsible for this masterful movie deserve all the credit for laboring and acheiving as good a look back at those times as we're ever likely to get.
It's interresting to note that it was twenty-nine years seperating the real event from the movie. It's been thirty-six years since the movie premiered. In that thirty-six year period not another film of this genre can come close. And if we go farther back into Hollywood history, well there's loads of AT-6's and occasional P-43 Lancers painted as Zeros, F-84's masquerading as Migs...and of course, more recently F-5's as Migs, and so on. I am grateful for the attention to authenticity that was given to every aspect of this production. Watch the special features disc about how even actual dock areas of London real estate and airbase hangers were once again destroyed to add even more realism.
And speaking of grateful, THANK YOU MGM for the great job on this DVD set. Whatever the reason for the lousy version released a couple of years ago, this effort is superb. To those of you who have not seen it yet, rest assured it is back in it's original form...and then some. Subtitles have all been restored, the video is mastered in high definition and the audio greatly displays the benefit of a re-do in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Thankfully, the soundtrack is also returned to the glorious Ron Goodwin version, with the Sir William Walton score available as an option. It's interesting to run the movie with the other score, but I promise you after about 15 minutes you'll be switching back to Ron Goodwin. However, Sir William Walton is a talented composer in his own right, and while his approach was entirely diferent it is that contrast that makes his "Battle in the Air" interlude such a striking part of the movie. Pilot and aircraft attrition are displayed at the end as in the original. The subtitles are located in the lower letterbox bar which is great, although it may be a little frustrating for some depending on your television. Since it is in 16x9 aspect ratio, the "stretch mode" most appropriate on some screens may crop the lower line of subtitle. Watching it on a Sony 50 inch widescreen LCD set had this problem, but the SharpVision projector set at 9 feet diagonally has a setting
that accomodates perfectly.
So put that old laser disc and the blurry vhs tape away for good...sit back and enjoy...the real Battle of Britain is about to begin...
on October 22, 2009
There are a plethora of reviews of the movie, but my review is mostly a comparison of the BD vs DVD version. I won't discuss its merits as a war film.
The BD version is fantastic, and is equal or superior to the theatrical release I vaguely remember as a child and beyond superior to the DVD version.
The audio is crisp and clear and makes good use of its uncompressed audio track. For a movie released in 1969, the sound is 21st century quality: the effects roar into your living room, the engines thunder and drone as if you were there, bombs thud with deep bass, gun fire are not only clear they are period accurate to the type of guns used. The vocal track is balanced and not drowned out by effects and background noise. There are several English alternative tracks, one gives more attention to Sir Walton's musical score used in the original theatrical release.
The BD transfer is up to the highest quality BD disks. The actors faces are all so well defined, and luckily show almost no trace of makeup. Texture in uniforms are so clear one could discern cotton from wool in the material, make out details in engines, rivets on planes, brush strokes of paint and even blades of grass on the fields. Most strikingly, the details reveal when stunts were done with real planes, or when props were substituted and animation were used, such as when planes exploded in mid-flight. There is a very striking difference in movements and maneuvers by real planes that is qualitatively different from the CGI, such as used for planes in the 2001 film, Pearl Harbor.
I do recall as child, the film did not receive high praise, due to a shallow script and editing, characters were not developed. Its not immediately clear when many of the key characters are either killed or taken off duty, or how desperate Britain's situation had become. But I leave criticism of the full movie to the reader. When BoB excels without peer 40 years since its release, is its simulated WWII air combat using many original planes. IMHO, only Howard Hughes "Hell's Angels," matched in near realism for dogfights, in Hughes case relative to WW1. Even in 1969, great praise was made for BoB's aerial photography and portrayal of combat.
on May 26, 2003
I was eagerly looking forward do the DVD version of this movie. I have had the old RCA disk version that dates back to the early 80's, the VHS, and laserdisc version. The laser disc version is in widescreen. When I received the DVD, my enthusiasm decreased when I started watching the film. I could not believe what had been done to this version of the film. The following items are what I have found to be faults with the DVD version:
1) This version does not include any references to the location or the time frame that the scenes are occuring (e.g. the opening shot takes place May 1940 in France, the scene with Sir Ralph Richardson and Curt Jurgens is at the British Embassy in Switzerland, the first scene with Goering is at Pas de Calis).
2) The opening credits are completely changed especially "The Battle of Britain" instead of "Battle of Britain".
3) No credit is given to Maurice Binder for Main Titles and Ron Goodwin for music. It is Ron Goodwin's music that is used for most of the movie.
4) The English subtitles were inaccurate at least on one occasion. The scene near the beginning that talks about Churchill refering to the battle of France is over. Churchill's quote says "[w]hat General Weygand called the battle of France...", but the subtitle says de Gaulle instead of Weygand.
5) Battle of Britain March by Sir William Walton was substituted at the end. This music was not appropriate because the end of the film paid tribute to those involved in the campaign.
6) The film used a quote that did not capture the essence of the battle. I think that his "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" sentiments are much more appropriate.
7) I also believe that the DVD left out the number of German planes, casualties, and missing.
I was looking forward to seeing this film finally on DVD. I can only rate it 3 stars based on the deficiencies that I have listed. If you have a VHS copy, hang on to it and compare it with the DVD version. I am fortunate that I still have the laserdisc version.
on July 17, 1999
I was there, a kid who lived through the Blitz and my father volunteered for the RAF and served in the Far East - I guess that makes me biased. Much attention is given by Hollywood to D-Day. What people like Leonard Maltin forget, in his snide comment ("another 'spot the star' WW2 epic") in his Movie & Video Guide, is that if the June 6 invasion had failed another one could have been launched within months; but if the Battle of Britain had been lost ("on the outcome of this battle depends the future of ... civilization" - W. Churchill) there would have been no D-Day because there would have been nowhere to launch it from. Maltin's problem, like so many American critics of foreign films, is probably that there were no American stars performing mythical heroics - no James Garner or Steve McQueen with spurious roles as in "The Great Escape." The film faithfully portrayed the events and characters: Robert Shaw's "Skipper" character is a great representation of Squadron Leader "Sailor" Malan; Laurence Olivier spent countless hours studying archival films of Air Chief Marshall Dowding so as to portray him accurately, to the extent that people who knew "Stuffy" Dowding said it was like turning the clock back 30 years. The importance of radar was detailed, as was the hopeless leadership of Goering (wonderfully played by vaudeville artist Hein Riess). No mock heroics, just scared young men doing their best against impossible odds. Did you spot the realistic touch made by including an actual horribly burned airman? Once more, consider the consequences of Britain losing this battle: with no Western front to guard and the British laying down their arms in North Africa, Hitler would have been able to use his entire army, probably led by Rommel, and an undiminished air force, to quickly overpower Russia. After joining Japan, and with all of Europe and Asia under their control, with all the resources, raw materials, armament factories and the British Fleet, the last act would have been a 2-coast attack on, and defeat of, the USA. "The whole world, including the United States, cast into a new Dark Age" (Churchill). In summary: an exciting, technically-correct episodic docudrama of how less than 1,000 young men saved the world.
on October 26, 2005
This recent release of the Battle of Britain is finally what is is intended to be. A wonderful, immense story (and movie) of Great Britains Finest Hour. The movie is restored to its original (VHS) release, music and sub-titles. The letterbox is very good. The 2 disc set has many added features. Several documentary type programs, added commentary and even restored original musical score. I recommend this to everyone who may be interested in this historic event. (and especially to those who may already own either the VHS or earlier DVD) BUY this right away!
This review is for the november 2005 double disc set.
I have already enjoyed this for hours....disc one...the movie looks magnificent and sounds spectacular. we are also benefiting from not only an optional commentary with the director and some others...but another option for the discarded William Walton score. Unlike most other reviewers who only remember this film with the Ron Goodwin score and don't regard Walton's....I find it completely superior and it is fun to hear how different they are.
regardless of your preference...isn't it great to have them both?
Disc 2....again...several fun and educational and dare I say...inspiring featurettes? Making ofs from the time of the original filming ....hosted by Michael Caine to current day and visits with the true life heroes portrayed in the film...a real history lesson on many levels...
bottom line....this is a great DVD set of an excellent to great movie...the likes of which we won't see again for many reasons (CG planes would certainly be used instead of the real planes used in this film for one thing)....and did I mention a cast of British greats ....from Robert Shaw to Laurence Olivier...stunning on all counts.
If every studio treated their movies like this on DVD perhaps sales would be greater....the value of this set compared to catching it on tv ....is far greater than its price. If you are interested in WWII or Aircraft battle ..you'll enjoy the movie and LOVE the extras...
Sit back and relax, for you are about to enter the stirring, deep blue, and rarified air above the skies of England, where the battle for supremacy of the skies is about to commence. In one of the finest war movies ever made, the familiar saga of how the few available aviators with their Spitfires and Hurricanes simply out-flew, out-fought, and out-lasted the waves of Luftwaffe airplanes while the future of Britain and the free world hung precariously in the balance. The cinematography is magnificent, as are the dog fighting sequences of so many carefully restored vintage Spitfires and Hurricanes, and a number of German aircraft as well. In what became known as the biggest and longest running air battle in history, the British flyers overcame the stunning numerical superiority of the Nazi air services with luck, courage, and the assistance of the newly developed land-based radar systems.
The cast is splendid, with Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Christopher Plummer, Edward Fox and many others. The German players are excellent, as well and the oft-told tale of how the Germans at first devastated the British air force by overwhelming it through sheer numbers and often catching them on the ground in their most vulnerable positions. In the initial few weeks the losses of both planes and pilots was catastrophic, and it appeared that they would soon be overwhelmed and defeated. Yet, after the Brits decided to pursue a desperate bombing campaign over Berlin to inflict some punishment of their own, Hitler made a fateful vengeful error by angrily deciding to redirect the focus of attacks to urban areas such as London, thus making his unescorted bombers much more vulnerable to anti-aircraft batteries and much more open to attack by the British fighters. This is a wonderful and quite historically accurate depiction of the fabled `finest hour' of the Brits in staving off the hordes of invading `Huns', and carving a place in history for themselves in the process. It is quite long, but there is a terrific set of action sequences, and one can't help but be impressed by the magnitude of the events as they are portrayed here. So, turn down the lights and fire up that VCR, the battle is about to begin! Enjoy!
This movie came out when those who fought World War II were middle aged to older men and women. It was nostalgic for them and informative for their children and now for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For my purposes, I do not care about the technical lapses or the different versions of the score or subtitles. Pick the version you prefer, and the restored collector's edition is certainly the best, but I urge you to see the movie and learn the broad outlines of a very important turning point in WWII.
Air battles are difficult for several reasons beyond all the historically accurate ones (which are fearsome in themselves). First, if you really show the air battle things get awfully impersonal. Who is doing what to whom in those specks in the sky? If you only show close-ups, you lose the majesty of the flying and the massed planes in battle. So, a very delicate balance has to be struck. This film succeeds wonderfully well at finding the right way to depict the personal and the impersonal in this kind of fighting.
You also have the difficulty of scale. The sky is a big place and planes, not matter how big or how many, can disappear up there. Yes, clouds are a necessary backdrop, but planes have to be shown close together when in fact they fly rather far apart. If you try to shoot them going across the screen, well, they move awfully fast unless you are far away, and then you have the scale problem again. Again, the battles here are exciting and at times breathtaking even in our age of fake CGI graphics that can do anything but often actually destroy the drama.
The other problem is differentiating the battles. You have the same planes that look pretty much the same from fight to fight, so how do you keep dramatic intensity? This film does a fine job by increasing the tension of certain events, while showing the wear and tear on the pilots whether veteran or newbie.
In my view, the film's greatest achievement is controlling the depiction of the general officers dealing with strategy and the real probability of defeat on the British side, the field officers, and the pilots. We get to see the great struggle in decision making and how it all translates to the life and often the death of young men struggling to fly too few aircraft against too many Germans. It is also stunning to see the way ordinary people down below are affected with the battle raging overhead. The scenes of the farmers watching planes and parachutes come down in their fields are wonderful. And the contrast of the pilots sitting in quiet with birds chirping so shortly after the noise, fire, and fury of air battle is quite intense and realistic. Their fatigue is also shown correctly. So many were simply flown until they died because their nation needed them. And they did what was needed of them. Heroes all.
I think the way the people are depicted is also very seriously done. No one is perfect. People make selfish and superficial decisions and they also deal with real personal horrors. Up in the air, the pilots on both sides are depicted as real people doing the job they were asked to do and struggling to stay alive. It doesn't matter which side you are on when you are trying to crawl or jump out of a burning plane that is trying to make you share in its death.
This is a part of history that must not be forgotten. That it doesn't focus one bit on Americans (who were not really in the war yet) should not free us from the obligation of remembering this. We need to do so for our own sakes.
on November 22, 2005
This is an excellent DVD for all fans of the movie.Both musical scores are available and the original title sequences are back so the " Never in the field of Human Conflict..." quote is now at the end of the movie - unlike the first DVD release.
The commentaries are very informative and interesting. Having Mr Hamilton and Mr Williams along with Ms York talking was illuminating. The other interviews with actual Battle participants were a nice addition. The Michael Caine hosted " Battle For the Battle of Britain" is great with all the flavor of late 60's Britain along with great video and behind the scenes views. I found hearing the voices of such people as fighter pilot Peter Townsend for the first time fascinating.
The only negative was the often pitiful aircraft recognition to be heard in the commentaries. It could be to some degree due to the commentary not matching the actual scene in view. The historian Mr Annett was obviously confusing the Junker 87 Stuka with the Junkers 52 transport on at least two occasions.To the purist it does "almost make you weep".
I really enjoyed all the features of the DVD. Excellent.