Customer Reviews: Waterloo
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on June 1, 2007
Let's first clarify that the quality of the Russian DVD is impeccable.

This movie is an absolute historical jewel. I try to read up on history and everything I know about the battle fits this movie perfectly. I am not specfically a Napoleonic history buff, however, so I didn't quite catch the mistakes other reviewers claim, but I would regard those errors as unimportant. If I were to fault the movie for something it would be that it doesn't really give an idea about the significance of the engagements at Hougoumont and Haye Sainte.

But the real treat of this movie is the visual spectacle. This is the closest thing to actually having been at the battle that anyone can come up with. Computer-generated images may some day reproduce the view of thousands upon thousands of men marching through gunpowder smoke and kicked-up dust and distorted by rising hot air. But they still can't. The aerial view of the blue wave of French cavalry spilling around the red British squares is one of the most breathtaking scenes you will ever see on film. The development of the characters from Napoleon's hubris to Wellington's quirky stuffiness was absorbing. Finally, the movie's parting message that there is no joy in the battlefield, even in victory, was poignant and indelible.

I saw this movie as a kid with my father, and I now showed it to him and to my own son. My father was nearly in tears and my son (who has grown up exclusively with CGI's) was spellbound from start to finish. In other words, this is an enduring classic indeed.
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on September 23, 2006
I saw this movie when it first came out. I was in high school. I have always remembered it as one of the best historical films about a battle ever made. Years later I bought it on video, but when DVD came out I couldn't understand why it seemed unavailable. Don't be put off by the Russian title here. The film plays in English exactly as it appeared in theatres. There are no technical glitches to be afraid of. This is a magnificent film, visually stunning in wide screen, wonderful musical score and fine performances all around. Bondarchuk is a great director and Steiger should have gotten best actor award. He convinces you in this film that he is Napoleon. This is an epic production in every sense and shows you what movie-making can achieve when all the planets are in alignment.
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on April 9, 2007
This Russian DVD is the best Region 1 presentation of the 1970 epic WATERLOO. It previously was only available as a Region 2 import, which would not play on Region 1 players. This anamorphically enhanced version with Dolby Digital sound is the best I have seen the film look. And, yes, in spite of what some reviewers here say, it is a Russian DVD. The DVD was made in Russia, as was the film. The director, Sergei Bondarchuk had previously directed the acclaimed and equally spectacular Russian version of WAR AND PEACE a few years previous to this.

As far as historical epics go, I would say it is more accurate than most. I'm a Napoleonic nut, and can spot the innacuaracies in the film, but they are not that severe, and usually serve to move the story along. All the great moments of the story are here: Napoleon's farewell to the Old Guard; the 5th Regiment joining Napoleon upon his return from Elba; Wellington @ the Duchess of Richmond's ball; the assaults on Hougoumont & La Haye Sainte; the deperate French cavalry charges on the British squares; the final doomed assault of the Old Guard as the Prussians take the field.

The battle sceees are spectacular, with thousands of men and horses thundering across the screen. Many scenes replicate famous paintings, such as Lady Butler's "Scotland forever!". The main cast members are outstanding. Steiger is monumental as Napoleon; Plummer aloof and brilliant as Wellington, Dan O'Herlihy brusque and forceful as Marshall Ney, Virginia MacKenna elegant as the Duchess of Richmond. There are other fine cameos sprinkled thoughout (including Orson Welles as Louix XVIII). Some of the minor characters are obviously speaking Russian and are dubbed, but this is no great distraction.

The only caveat: the opening scene is quite poor. They tried to cram in a lot of exposition to explain how Napoleon had reached a point in which he must abdicate the throne. This scene has some terrible and archly written dialog that makes one think the movie to follow is a joke. But, hang in there. Once you are past that scene, the entire movie improves and is actually well-written.

The original Russian version of WATERLOO ran over three hours, and apparently included Ligny and Quatre Bras, which are only alluded to by a couple of shots in this DVD version. One hopes the missing hour or more will turn up, but in the meantime, the 2 hrs we have of the film are spectacular and literate enough to stand on their own. I rated it 4 out of 5, because thay could have mastered the film at a higher bitrate than they did, so some artifacting is present. Still quite worthwhile, though.
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on October 24, 2009
I saw this on the big screen when I was maybe 11 and was awed. I didn't see it again until I bought it on, but never forgot it, which says something. A rare Cold War collaboration between western moviemakers and the Red Army, this movie is a must have for any Napoleonic War era student or fan.

Christopher Plummer is the quintessential British aristocratic general the Duke of Wellington, and pulls off the role splendidly. My girlfriend, a huge fan of the Sound of Music, loved the costumes(especially his). Rod Steiger is superb as Napoleon, and the scene where he comes back from Elba and confronts his former troops commanded by Marshal Ney on behalf of the fat king Louis XVIII(wonderfully portrayed by a very large Orson Wells) shows the courage that Napoleon really did possess. He also sympathetically portrays a Napoleon feeling his mortality five years before his death.

The battle scenes at Waterloo are impressively recreated by the Red Army actors in accurate formations and uniforms, as are the decisions by Wellington and Napoleon that led up to the battle. Napoleon's later assertions of Marshal Grouchy's failure to march to the sound of the guns which doomed him to defeat is also well done, even if there is historical dispute on that score(after all, it was Napoleon who ordered his army to divide, not Grouchy). The charge of the Old Guard, Wellington's realization that he might have lost, and the Prussian rescue of the allied cause at the last possible minute is superbly done.

The little antiwar insertions may or may not have happened, except for Wellington's comment of a battle won being the next worst thing to a battle lost, but the film was shot in 1970.

The only thing missing from my childhood memory, as other reviewers have attested, is a little vignette about the Battle of Ligny. Still, don't let the Russian title fool you, the DVD is in the original English and is a worthwhile buy. I recommend the widescreen version to get the full scope.
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on November 25, 2013
First let me say that I love the movie. I watched it in the theater when it came out and was quite excited when I saw that it was in DVD. I am not particularly interested in war movies but Waterloo is so well done that it can be appreciated by anyone because of the storyline, the acting, the pure visual artistry of watching a spectacular, epic production.

Second, there are at least two different releases on Amazon and unfortunately these reviews are combined for both of them. If you are totally confused by the different opinions about the film quality, that would be the reason. I cannot speak to the quality of the Russian release because I mistakenly bought the Korean import (thinking the only difference was the much lower price) so this part of my review concerns that one. The film is horrid. The soundtrack is so badly off that several times, at first, I thought maybe the actors were speaking another language and it had been dubbed in English, it's like watching a dubbed Kung Fu movie. The film is grainy and is in an unusual aspect ratio of 2.20:1, letterboxed so the actual viewing area seemed very small on our 42" TV. Both versions have been shortened. The Korean one is 123 minutes and the Russian release is 128 minutes according to the description. The Korean version is half the price of the Russian. It sounds like many people were pleased with the Russian release and if I could do it over again I would buy that one.
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on April 2, 2007
I was very glad to have found this movie on DVD finally. I saw this movie in the theaters when it was first released, and have owned a VHS version for years. I discovered, however, significant changes in how this movie was edited when it airs on television and/or on various VHS tapes of the movie. This DVD version has scenes in it that I am not sure that the original theater version even had! I know this movie very, very well having watched it in it's various forms, and I can say with a certainty that this version has scenes that are not on any other version I have watched. The inclusion of these missing scenes are a welcome addition. If you already have a VHS or self-taped version from television, absolutely buy this DVD version as you will not regret it.
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on April 9, 2010
Like its big brother Bondarchuk's War and Peace, I've known this film for decades -- first a commercial-pitted VHS copy from broadcast television, them a used but clean factory VHS, and now, this pristine DVD. If you have merely the VHS and live in the U.S. or Canada, run - don't walk - to get this DVD. It is absolutely stunning. The widescreen format and image and sound clarity realize the full impact of Great Sergei's story vision and Ligachov's battlefield scene magic; and, despite my doting familiarity with the VHS package, the bits and pieces of extra footage here and there lend an even more gratifying fullness to the experience that made screening it a love-at-first-sight thrill. As for Rod Steiger's performance in the role of Napoleon, I think it's his masterpiece: I have long since forgotten that I'm even watching an actor. The same can be said for Christopher Plummer as the Duke of Wellington, and I say that as a committed American Anglophile who thoroughly enjoys his delivery of the wry, stoic, shrewd British nobleman. The supporting cast is equally outstanding, and there's tasty dialogue and gorgeous settings, costumes, period martial music, etc., throughout. GET THIS DVD!
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on May 31, 2014
Rarely, if ever have war movies included so many "extras" that the numbers approximate the actual scope of a huge battle. This movie not only has that "cast of tens of thousands" sweep, but very strong performances by some of the greatest actors of all time. The brooding, method acting of Rod Steiger presents a credible and convincing interpretation of the overweight, frustrated 45 year old Emperor Napoleon who shocked Europe with a last gasp attempt to restore his fortunes. The force of his personality and ability to inspire confidence and devotion is easy to see in Steiger's interpretation. Plummer, Welles, Hawkins and Wilding also do creditable work in depicting commanders. --- As a war movie, this one must stand among the very best masterpieces of all time. Only a totalitarian state from the old Soviet bloc could have assembled vast armies of extras, expensive costumes, immense battle scenes and elaborate cinematic artistry without the costs associated with actors unions and bankruptcy. Bondarchuk made excellent use of such advantages. ---- This movie also has significant anti-war messages conveyed directly by actors and also just by the gruesome slaughter scenes. Created during the height of the Viet Nam conflict, the anti-war message was powerful. I first saw the movie in 1972 and never forgot some of the devastating scenes and dialog. ---- Although the box has Waterloo in Russian (as shown above), the movie and dialog is totally in English.
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on March 3, 2010
I hadn't realized this earlier, but now having put it in the DVD, I've seen the results of this Russian import.

Russia does not use PAL encoding in their DVDs. They use NTSC just like North America. And yet the framerate is badly and blatantly off.

To clarify one bit, you notice the difference in how video looks when it's presented in movies and fiction TV shows compared to News broadcasts or reality shows? That's a difference in framerate---the News shows and reality shows and the like use a faster framerate. This movie was filmed to be in the framerate of a movie, and yet it looks as though it was sped up or somehow adjusted to move like a television show. As such, it looks less like a movie and more like a BBC television show or the like.

Maybe this contributes to this, but the biggest and most severe issue with this release that utterly ruins it is the audio and video is NOT SYNCHRONIZED!

Even a sneaking suspicion should be enough to confirm this, but it becomes hugely evident in scenes where the actors' mouth words clearly. This completely ruins von Blücher's grand introduction at the battle, where he shouts "Raise high the black flags, my children. No prisoners. No pity. I will shoot any man I see with pity in him." It's so unbelievably obvious, you'd think he was speaking another language and having it overdubbed in English. But no, he IS speaking English, and yet the audio is so badly out of sync with the video, it becomes a massive detriment to the movie as a whole, and rips one out of the immersion entirely.

The picture quality is nowhere near as clean and sharp as I expected, considering the version I first saw was not even in DVD quality. It's smooth, but very much with a sense of being intentionally blurred, with a very clear and noticeable amount of artifacting on screen.

If there was a 3 hour version that was released in Russia (because I know the film was originally 4 hours, but then cut down to 2 and such), then this certainly isn't it. This also has no bonus features at all.

If the Asian import has proper audio/video synchronization, I'd advise anyone seeking this work in DVD to get that one, because this release is broken.
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on April 21, 2008
This is a truly remarkable film. I can add little to the earlier reviews except to re=emphasize that the available versions are significantly different from the original.
Steiger and Plummer are to my mind spot on. Wellington was both dour and very charming - otherwise he would not have been so effective as a ladies' man!

I remember going to the original widescreen version at the Odeon in Leicester Square - a truly widescreen. My recollection of the movie is that it was significantly longer, with additional vignettes featuring the Battle of Ligny, QuatreBras and extended cameos of two of the "scum of the earth" plus a build up to the death of the young blond enlisted man. Moreover, I have a distinct feeling that the cavalry charge against the squares is far longer in the orginal version. My hope is that the next DVD version will fully restore this movie. Why not create a Director's Cut? Has anyone seen the original full length version since the 70s?
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