Longest Day, The (clr) [Blu-ray]
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This special collector's commemorative edition has been issued in honor of the June 6, 1944 Allied invasion of France, which marked the beginning of the end of Nazi domination over Europe. The attack involved 3,000,000 men, 11,000 planes and 4,000 ships, comprising the largest armada the world has ever seen.
The Longest Day is a vivid, hour-by-hour recreation of this historic event. Featuring a stellar international cast, and told from the perspectives of both sides, it is a fascinating look at the massive preparations, mistakes, and random events that determined the outcome of one of the biggest battles in history. Winner of two 1962 OscarsÂ(r) (Special Effects and Cinematography), The Longest Day ranks as one of Hollywood's truly great war films.
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Disk 2 bonus features include - A Day To Remember; Longest Day: A Salute to Courage; Backstory - The Longest Day; D-Day Revisted; Richard Zannuck on The Longest Day and a Still Gallery, all well worth owning this release.
However, in 2000 when FOX released a new digital but non-anamorphic transfer, they wisely placed the German and French subtitles in the lower "black bar" area left vacant due to the letterbox format, making for a very pleasant viewing experience. In this release the subtitles are restored back onto the main body of the film. As the text is white and the film being B&W, this makes for a very fatiguing 3 hours of viewing. Sometimes the text just disappears in the white portions of the film.
***Mini update! As someone politely pointed out, with newer HI-DEF 16 x 9 widescreen TV's, the subtitle text would disappear with the non-anamorphic 2000 version. As HDTV has superb color and grayscale resolution, this is probably a moot point. As I and many are still waiting for HDTV prices to come down & the technology to go up, it may be advantageous to own both sets.
Otherwise a great movie portraying a fairly realistic look at that fateful day of June 6, 1944. Filmed appropriately in Black & White with complementing WWII stock footage. This is a film for the whole family as it truly does represent the carnage of war without the blood and gore that can disturb some viewers (like myself).
My most serious negative comment is about the amphibious landings on Omaha Beach. The scenes of carnage and death showed how badly mauled and disrupted the first couple of landing waves were, but the actual event was far worse than that depicted. For one thing, the seas were very rough on D-Day, not the almost placid water shown in the film. And the first wave of GIs was almost wiped out from the German artillery, machine guns, and snipers, not to mention the rough seas, with very few of the men making it off the beach.
The landing scenes shown in the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan were far more realistic. But in defense of the filmmakers, The Longest Day was released only 18 years after the fact, with many Americans having relatives or friends who were killed on D-Day, so it was too soon for the horrific realism of Saving Private Ryan.
So on balance, I have to say that The Longest Day is a well made film that utilized the talent of a fine ensemble cast. It's now one of those must-see films for fans of war movies.
Millions of people have seen this flick since 1962, so there probably isn't too much to add -- it makes excellent use of its vast array of stars, many of them still familiar today, to tie together the vast threads of the invasion into a reasonably coherent mass, tightly focusing on June 6, 1944. The star of the movie is not any one actor, even Mr. Wayne: it's the day itself, and the hordes of men and women who fight, endure, survive, or are killed during it.
There are weaknesses and annoyances...John Wayne at age 56 plays a man who was 26...the gore of the day is not re-created at all, because of the movie censorship of the times...except for a pair of paratroopers, the Canadians, who provided an entire division to the invasion, are invisible, while the French, who only provided a battalion and some Resistance fighters, have vast screen time...the British seem to provide mostly comic relief (most of the British actors were comedians, as it happens)...Jim Gavin, as played by Robert Ryan, is far too old for his role (he was 36)...and the map of Normandy behind him is one that was made AFTER the battle, and shows the various arrows that resulted after the briefing Gavin gives...the real Rangers who stormed Pointe de Hoe or Pointe du Hoc (I call it Point Ad Hoc) found the guns some distance away, as they were being brought up to be installed...the American paratroopers jumped from American C-47 Dakotas into Normandy, not British Stirlings.
But for the layman, who is learning about D-Day for the first time, this is a good place to start. It captures many of the realities of the battle, such as the famous glider assault on Pegasus Bridge, the struggle to clear Omaha Beach, the paratroopers in the swamps, and the stunning indecision with which the Germans faced the invasion. That alone should shock most casual students of World War II or movie fans, who are probably used to seeing hawk-faced German officers figure out brilliant moves that annihilate the incompetent (usually British) forces with great speed. In fact, the Germans faced the Normandy invasion with incredible levels of incompetence and indecision, with numerous key German officers (like Rommel) far away from their posts, and others reluctant to make a decision or even wake the Fuehrer.
The fact of the matter on D-Day was that ample bravery, determination, and courage was shown on both sides, but the Allies had more of it. Cornelius Ryan's closing lines in the book upon which this movie is based are absolutely borne out: "From this day, the Third Reich had less than one year to live."
The DVD pack also has commentary by a historian on the film and the war, who notes important points about how the film conveys the battle, the British director of the film, who reminisces about his work, and a second DVD with a History Channel documentary comparing the movie with the reality -- real Rangers and paratroopers compare their experiences with those of the film. Mr. Zanuck himself narrates a 1968 documentary about the Normandy battlefields as they appeared at that time -- the tourist industry for those sites was just building up.
Because of the weaknesses of the film on the reality of death and dying on D-Day (Spielberg does it better in "Saving Private Ryan") and the slighting to the British and Canadians, I can't give this film five stars. But it remains a classic World War II film, and a must-have for your movie library.
This was the largest fleet ever assembled and they had minimal ships so, i guess they did not use enough soldiers and sailors to truly depict the size and scope of this invasion. In the end, this is an enjoyable film but lacks the true hostility all the soldiers encountered on this most heroic day.
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