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The battle of Midway sounded its furious thunder in June 1942, just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Midway interweaves the dramatic personal stories of the men who fought the courageous battle that was to be the Pacific turning point for the United States. The all-star cast and breakthrough war footage convey the Battle of Midway with powerful reality and epic sweep.
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The added sequences, of the Coral Sea campaign and Charlton Heston trying to woo his girlfriend in between helping his son Tom and his participating in the pursuit of the Japanese carriers, were in the TV version, the version that re-enlisted the talents of director Jack Smight and the actors, plus some additions, like Mitchell Ryan as one of the commanders at Coral Sea. This is the version that was released some years after Midway's theatrical release in 1976. Because TV, prior to HDTV, was a 4x3 aspect ratio, the scenes shot for TV were also shot in 4x3, and the 1976 theatrical release of Midway was shot in 2.35:1 widescreen Panavision. There would have to be some substantial visual re-formatting (top-to-bottom cropping) of the TV scenes to re-format them and insert them into the 2.35:1 theatrical version, resulting in serious picture quality degradation and majorly increased grain in the TV scenes. That, to my mind, is the reason a "definitive" long cut, in widescreen, hasn't been released. Maybe, with today's digital film restoration technology, there is some way to restore some clarity to the 4x3 scenes, once cropped, for insertion into the 2.35:1 theatrical version scenes, to restore a "super" long cut of Midway for a future blu-ray release.
To the "no surround???" question: Sensurround, the pre-Dolby Stereo process that made you feel, as closely as possible, "you are there" was a MONO process, that merely added a deep bass (.1) track to the monaural signal. The deep bass of Sensurround is in fact here, evidenced right away in the opening credits Tokyo bombing.
While Universal did create a pseudo-stereo/surround for the DVD release of their earlier produced-in-Sensurround spectacle, Earthquake, apparently, they skimped here. I for one would certainly pay for an expanded STEREO SURROUND Sensurround release of Midway!
That said, this is an excellent movie. I could've done without the subplot involving Charlton Heston's character's son Tom falling in love with a Japanese girl and her being accused of subversion by the FBI. It's obviously an attempt by producer Walter Mirisch and his writers to transform Midway into a "chick flick" as well as a "dude flick", entice all the ladies to come see it, to boost box office receipts and recoup his investment, which, considering the list of high-caliber male stars, was substantial. This subplot also makes things more personal when Tom is badly burned in his cockpit in aerial combat and crashes on the aircraft carrier with his dad Heston right there, which is good. But this subplot has the bad side-effect of slowing things down a bit in the first act, comes off a bit like a soap-opera, and I find myself hitting the fast-forward button to skip right over this material to get right to the battle strategies and combat scenes, to make Midway tighter and more of a straight-line adventure.
Highly recommended for history buffs and action afficionados alike. The "chess game", played by the commanders on both the Japanese and American sides, is fascinating. The film also accurately illuminates the role that chance and luck played. Who knows how the battle would have went if the Japanese plane's radio operator's radio had actually been working so he could send a message to the Japanese fleet and tell the commanders how many U.S. ships were actually there? Who knows how the battle would have gone if the Japanese had clearer weather on the way to Midway Island? And Hal Holbrook's character, Commander Roachford in Intelligence, confirming that Objective AF is Midway Island by having Midway's radio operator transmit a fake message that Midway's fresh water condensor has broken down, is a stroke of genius!
Although one of the main characters was a relative of mine, whose biography I have read and of whom I met and knew through my family, this film still brings out details in a coherent, interesting and engaging way so that something is learned with each viewing.
"Midway" is an excellent look at the Battle of Midway from the American as well as the Japanese side.
THE STORY: Recreation of the meticulously planned & amazing chance/coincidental events which affected perhaps THE most important battle of the entire Pacific Theater during World War II.
THOUGHTS: Incorporation of actual air & sea combat footage really gives the film a jolt. Charlton Heston portrays fictional character Capt. Matt Garth, inserted into the real goings-on during the battle of Midway to help give audiences a hook to hold their interest while events bring the US and Japanese forces into bloody combat to decide the fate of the Pacific region, (and also allowed American forces to eventually enter Europe to help defeat Hitler & the Axis powers). Henry Fonda is expectedly strong and bold portraying Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of Naval US forces. Other acting legends in the large cast include Robert Mitchum, Hal Holbrook, James Colburn and Glenn Ford. They are all equally great here, adding plenty of macho firepower in their various supporting roles. Tons of name and up & coming actors on-hand in this film too, (including a pre-"Magnum P.I." Tom Selleck), in varied parts both big & small. The non-vintage war F/X sequences created for MIDWAY are really good as well, blending smoothly to help tell a convincing war story. Be advised that like so many great war films, (Tora! Tora! Tora!, In Harm's Way, etc.), this one's kinda long - clocking in at well over two hours - so make sure you've cleared enough time to watch the whole thing.
THE BLU-RAY: Universal gives us a decent hi-def transfer for this release. The picture is sharp, clean and strong. Minimal artifacting & pixelation and no noticeable compression issues. The audio is clean & clear and the soundmix level is strong, which is to be expected of a film which prominently featured Universal's "Sensurround" audio gimmick. The bonus goodies include a "Making of" featurette, on-camera interview with score composer John Williams, a vintage featurette hosted by Chuck Heston, about 10 minutes of added footage specifically shot for the film's expanded TV airing, the original theatrical trailer and more.
This is presented in Widescreen format and runs for about 132mins (2hr 12mins). This movie also provides us with an all-star cast, which includes: Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Robert Wagner, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson Robert Webber and was directed by Jack Smight.
As for the bonus features there are quite a bit and here is the list of them: The making of Midway, The score of Midway, Sensurround: The sounds of Midway, They were there: Hosted by Charlton Heston, Scenes shot for TV version, Photograph montage and Theatrical trailer.
Overall this is a great Blu-ray and I would recommend this for anyone's Blu-ray collection.