The Best Years of Our Lives
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Best Years of Our Lives, The (DVD)
At the end of World War II, Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), Al Stevenson (Fredric March) and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) return home to Boone City. Fred was a decorated captain in the Army Air Forces in Europe, Al a sergeant in the Army who saw action in the Pacific, and Homer a sailor who served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Homer's ship was sunk, killing many of his fellow sailors; his arms were burned off below the elbow and he now uses metal hook prostheses. The three men share first a plane trip then a cab ride and become friends. Fred eventually finds work when he convinces a foreman who is also a veteran that he can learn new skills just as he learned to be a bombardier. He also finds love in the form of Peggy Stephenson. Al and Milly are opposed at first, but when Fred's marriage finally ends, they become supportive.]]>
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Keeping in mind it's a film from 1946, it looks outstanding. Film grain is present, showing Warner Brothers thankfully did not DNR the film into oblivion, yet there are no obvious flecks or spots in the picture, indicating a meticulous restoration took place.
The (thankfully!!!) mono DTS-HD audio track is excellent as well; Hugo Friedhofer's beautiful soundtrack has never sounded better.
I've never seen this film look better except when I've seen a pristine 35mm print shown at an excellent film venue.
The new Blu-ray also includes the introductory and ending interviews with Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright shot for the Pioneer Special Edition Laserdisc release in 1995.
I only wish they would have included the Laserdisc's isolated score track, which is still the only source for the ORIGINAL score for the film as the original recording of the soundtrack as was used in the film was never released on an audio format (LP or CD) (any soundtrack recordings available are new recordings of the score being performed by other performers.)
If you love this film or even only like it, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy - a complete steal at the current price (that Pioneer Laserdisc release was itself $39.98 back in 1995!!)
Then there's Homer who lost both of his hands in the war. Homer is played by Harold Russell, a real life army veteran who lost both of his hands in an accident. No need for any Forrest Gump, CGI shenanigans here. (This non-professional actor went on to win an Academy Award for his performance.) Homer's girl Wilma still loves him despite his crushing feelings of inadequacy. The scene between Homer and Wilma, played by Cathy O'Donnell, later in the film is one of the most touching scenes in any film ever made. It simply has to be seen. Finally there's Al who struggles a bit with the bottle although this is not overplayed. In fact, and I think it's what makes it so good is that the entire film avoids turning into a sentimental cliche. It is stirring but not syrupy and it stays unpredictable and maintains subtlety throughout. It's a long film but it's so good, the time just flies by.