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Marking the 150th-anniversary commemoration of the Civil War, Ronald F. Maxwell’s acclaimed film now arrives in a Director’s Cut featuring 17 minutes of compelling additional footage. Filmed at actual battle locations and full of authentic details, this rousing and soulful movie plunges you into the heat of the bloodiest battle fought on American soil. History comes alive with intense and spirited battles as well as the dilemmas, motivations and fears of the leaders. Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen and Stephen Lang star in this magnificent epic based on Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels.
With just 17 minutes of additional footage, the Gettysburg rerelease has to be one of the more modest director's cuts in recent memory (by contrast, the director's cut of Gods and Generals, the Gettysburg prequel that was also reissued to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, contains a full hour of previously unseen material). The bulk of this new footage consists of additions to previously existing scenes, such as a conversation in the Confederate camp between Tom Berenger's Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and Stephen Lang's Maj. Gen. George Pickett.
Like the Gods and Generals rerelease, this two-disc edition comes in handsome Blu-ray "book packaging," which includes bios of cast members and their characters, photos, time lines, and more. Audio commentary by director Maxwell, cinematographer Kees Van Oostrum, author James M. McPherson, and military historian Craig Symonds, expanded from the original video release, can be found on the first disc, while various other special features, almost all of which have been previously issued, appear on disc two (in standard DVD format, not Blu-ray). Principal among these is a nearly hour-long making-of featurette, narrated by Martin Sheen; the piece is informative but slick, playing out like a promo for the movie while providing both Civil War background and details about central characters… and, of course, their beards. Elsewhere, The Battle of Gettysburg, a 30-minute film that was a 1956 Oscar nominee, offers a detailed history of the battle--not with interviews or reenactments, but entirely by way of photos, music, statues of the main characters, footage of the battlefield landscape as it is today, and Leslie Nielsen's narration. Remaining features include maps of the battlefield and the one new addition, a piece encouraging viewers to make The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a tour of Civil War battlefields and landmarks from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Monticello in Virginia. --Sam Graham
Top Customer Reviews
"Gettysburg" is one of my all-time favorite war films! It re-creates the Civil War's battle of Gettysburg with superb acting, an excellent screenplay, a hauntingly beautiful musical score, and some of the most authentic and stirring battle scenes I've ever seen in a movie.
Based upon Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Killer Angels," this film follows the principal characters, and chronicles the main events, which occurred at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania from July 1-3, 1863. The events depicted in the film are notable for their historical accuracy. Some of the most exciting battle scenes in the film are General John Buford's engagement with the Confederates on the high ground north of Gettysburg on July 1; the defense of Little Round Top by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain's 20th Maine on the following day; and, of course, Pickett's Charge on the final day of the battle. The battle scenes contain plenty of smoke and fire, but are done without copious displays of blood and gore.
The acting in "Gettysburg" is excellent throughout. Jeff Daniels , who portrays Chamberlain, probably gives the best overall performance, but Martin Sheen (Robert E. Lee), Tom Berenger (Gen. James Longstreet), Sam Eliot (Buford,) Stephen Lang (Gen. George Pickett), and Kevin Conway (Sergeant Kilrain) also give performances which are outstanding for their realism, grittiness, and historical accuracy. Special mention must also go to the late Richard Jordan, whose portrayal of Confederate General Louis Armistead was consistently eloquent and moving.
I originally purchased "Gettysburg" in 1999, when it was available only in VHS format. Over the past fifteen years, it has also been released in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. The Blu-ray version is the first to contain the entire film, uninterrupted, on one disc. It corrects most of the technical flaws found in previous releases, making it, of course, technically superior to versions found on VHS and DVD. The high definition video and audio found on the Blu-ray version of "Gettysburg" are not what I would call reference quality, but are nevertheless excellent.
"Gettysburg" is a long movie; it runs to just over four hours. Still, it held me spellbound from start to finish, mainly due to its dramatic intensity and realistic battle scenes. I highly recommend this outstanding film not only to Civil War enthusiasts, but for anyone who loves a sumptuously produced and well acted war film.
I have an extensive DVD collection, and if you have experienced what I have, among them are the great quality transfers and some real dogs. Gettysburg might well be THE finest transfer I've seen. The video (I play it on a widescreen HDTV) and audio are outstanding. I must emphasize that the video delivers unbelievable clarity, perhaps the best I've seen. Clearly, the careful attention to detail and loving recreations that were the foundation for the original movie have been carried to the DVD with that same committment. It is refreshing to see a studio that REALLY cares about its product.
As an aside, I should also mention I am an amateur Civil War historian focused on the battle of Gettysburg and of course find the film an outstanding, albeit limited, short history of the battle. This DVD will expand other people's knowledge if they avail themselves of the feature length commentary, especially the portions by James McPherson from Princeton U. His narrative not only amplifies details of what the movie shows, but also puts a broader perspective on it, such as other important engagements at Gettysburg such as Culp's Hill, the Wheatfield, and others.
Bottom line: GET THIS DVD.
Gettysburg is a battle of superlatives. It was the largest and bloodiest encounter battle of the Civil War, adding up the three days between July 1 and July 3, 1863, and it tore the heart out of the Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.. It is also the most controversial battle, generating more than its share of debates over decisions and tactics. Was Lee off his game at Gettysburg, as Shaara suggests? Or, as other historians argue, was the battle lost by "Old Pete" Longstreet's case of the "slows" on July 2 (the attack on Devil's Den and Little Round Top) and July 3 (Pickett's Charge)? Longstreet's postwar memoirs lay the blame for Pickett`s Charge squarely at Lee's feet, but since Longstreet joined the Republican party after the war, many Southerners are quick to blame him for Lee's defeat.
Shaara's book, and therefore the film, makes choices in this debate. Shaara sides with Longstreet (aptly played by Tom Beringer), who is depicted as a thoughtful, reluctant warrior who vocally opposes the sanguinary frontal assaults launched by Lee on July 2nd and July 3rd . (For a different perspective, I highly recommend Noah Trudeau's latest book, "Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage.")
It is a delight to see the musty daguerreotypes of Civil War leaders come to life as living, breathing characters. For the Confederates, Tom Berringer's Longstreet is tops, followed by Confederate generals "Lo" Armistead (Richard Jordan) and Stephen Lang `s amazing George Pickett, a stunning contrast to Lang's later alabaster imitation of Christ as Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in "Gods and Generals." These are interesting, complex people, and "Gettysburg" even manages a sense of humor. The debate on Darwin between Pickett and Armistead is funny, concluding with Pickett defying any Southern gentleman to openly claim that "Robert E. Lee is descended from an ape." On the Union side, there is Jeff Daniels as the bookish hero Joshua Chamberlain, Sam Elliott as the hard-bitten cavalry general Buford, and Brian Mallon's pugnacious General Winfield Scott Hancock.
Some die-hard grognards have complained that "Gettysburg" glosses over details of the battle. But Shaara, and the film, were right to concentrate on the highlights: the initial skirmish and ultimate Union rout on July 1, the confused battle for Devil's Den, the Peach Orchard, and the against-all-odds defense of Little Round Top on July 2 by Joshua Chamberlain's (Jeff Daniels) 20th Maine; and, of course, Pickett's Charge. Massive volumes have been written about just one day of the three day battle, and any film which tried to cover it all would be a ponderous bore.
The few speeches in the movie are necessary, I suppose, to explain the larger motives for the war. Jeff Daniels' Chamberlain has to give the obligatory Abolitionist speech, and Armistead trys to explain the Southern "Cause" to the English camp follower Freemantle just before Pickett's Charge. The few speeches in `Gettysburg" hint at the malignancy that emerges full flower in "Gods and Generals" (written by a different Shaara) in which the camera's pause on any character become the excuse for a five to ten minutes of pious blather.
The flaws of the film are few. One major flaw is Martin Sheen's portrayal of Robert E. Lee as an unblinking somnambulist, whose approach to strategy is by mumbling "it is God's will" as officers rush up with dispatches. Robert Duvall's more animated Lee is the only (and I mean only improvement) that "Gods and Generals" has on "Gettysburg." Sheen's wide-eyed robot Lee is hard to square with the historical brilliance of Lee at Second Bull Run and Chancellorsville, and contemporary accounts of Lee as a witty conversationalist, a battlefield gambler, and with an eye for the ladies.
Ted Turner's use of thousands of amateur reenactors to stage the battle is both a blessing and a curse, but mostly a blessing. Let's face it - the authentically-decked out and equipped amateur soldiers look far more like the real thing than the standard Spanish rent-an-army employed in similar epics such as "Waterloo." However, I suspect that the troops in the movie, particularly on the Southern side, are cleaner, neater, better fed and older (lots of retired folks are reenactors) than the actual participants in the battles. (A common observation of the time was that you could smell Lee's troops approaching before you would see them). The other problem with reenactors is they object to having their limbs and heads blown off, or torsos reduced to bloody pulp by cannon balls. This is not "Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers" - these soldiers, even when blasted by cannon, die clean deaths, and do not convey the historical eyewitness accounts of the horror, not to mention thousands of corpses set out in the hot July sun. But these are very minor quibbles. This is as good a re-enactment using real people as you can expect.
I recommend "Gettysburg" for historical movie fans, and do not forget the wonderful Ken Burns' documentary, "The Civil War."
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