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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Battle Of The Bulge (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Apr 29, 2005.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]


    Battle Of The Bulge






    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1965
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 170 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.75:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.97
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase





    The Feature:
    To mark the 60th Anniversary of V-E Day, Warner is set to release The World War II Collection - Battlefront Europe. The Collection will debut on May 3rd and will consist of five titles. New to the format is the featured film, Battle Of The Bulge as well as the Two Disc Special Edition of Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One. Also included are repackaged versions (in Keepcases) of The Dirty Dozen, Battleground and Where Eagles Dare. All of the titles are available separately. The Big Red One lists for $26.99 and Battle Of The Bulge lists for $19.97 while the three repackaged titles list for $12.97. The Collection is available for $59.92.

    [​IMG]

    The setting is a Belgian forest during December of 1944 and intelligence specialist Lt. Col. Kiley (played by Henry Fonda) is an ex-police inspector with a gut feeling and a rather healthy dose of intuition, who believes the Nazi forces are about to mount a major offensive. While the US Allied high command believes the German forces are about to withdraw, Kiley's superior's scoff at his suggestion. Chief among those in disbelief and denial are General Grey (played by Robert Ryan) and the patronizing Col. Pritchard (played by Dana Andrews). Pritchard is so enraged by Kiley’s claims that he threatens to have him transferred to a desk job in Washington.

    [​IMG]

    During a reconnaissance flight, Col. Kiley cleverly snaps a number of photographs behind enemy lines which proves there is indeed, activity which suggests an offensive is mounting. A high ranking German officer is also photographed who is eventually identified as Colonel Hessler (played by Robert Shaw), a feared tank commander with an impressive reputation who is Germany's most capable officer remaining to lead the charge.

    With weather that is less than ideal for battle, the Germans seize the opportunity to make the assault. Their efforts are aided by the fact the Allied forces are unprepared for the offensive. The German tank unit, supported by an infantry, presses the Allied forces, at a number of locations in an attempt to ultimately divide them in the west. Hessler has been given a strict time line in which to complete the operation and much of the plan is reliant upon the unfavorable weather which has restricted Allied aircraft patrols. The objective is to obtain as much territory as possible before the weather front moves out and Allied forces can resume flight patrols.

    [​IMG]

    Much of the German army has been decimated and the majority of Hessler’s new tank commanders are virtually boys - young men who haven't seen action on the battlefield. While he commands absolute dedication of his men, his commander, General Kohler (played by Werner Peters) is less confident in Hessler's ability. Even worse, Hessler's aide and longtime loyal friend, Conrad (played by Hans Christian Blech), is war weary and dismayed with his leader, who now realizes that virtually all hope is lost. Cleverly, Kiley the old flatfoot, discovers the vulnerability of the German offensive; their lack of petroleum. Soon, the race is on for one of the largest fuel reserves in the area.

    [​IMG]

    The film was directed by Ken Annakin – Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (1965) and The Longest Day (1962), who came under significant fire himself. There's no doubt, anyone even remotely familiar with this movie is aware of the well documented historical inaccuracies that are rife throughout the film. I’m not going to dig too deeply here but if you’re looking for a history lesson, from all accounts, you should probably look elsewhere. If you’re looking for an interesting and entertaining action yarn – of almost epic-like proportions, then Battle Of The Bulge is definitely worth a look. Look for several noteworthy performances from the likes of Charles Bronson as a US Major, James MacArthur as the terrified and inexperienced lieutenant, George Montgomery as the rugged and fearless sergeant, and Telly Savalas as the scruffy entrepreneurial sergeant, specializing in blacklisted goods.

    [​IMG]

    The Feature: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    Well, here is something you don’t see too often. Battle Of The Bulge was an Ultra-Panavision Cinerama production and is presented in an extremely wide ratio of 2.75:1 which is enhanced for widescreen - in fact the Cinerama title logo appears in the opening credits. Some interesting and informative comments from RAH relating to the film and its production can be found here.

    The “unyielding clarity” that Robert mentions is indeed evident and quite impressive. Some of the facial close-ups are amazingly clear and well defined. Equally impressive are the many longer and wider shots (and there are plenty) that appear sharp as a tack. There is only a hint of fine film grain present but the end result is a gorgeous film-like presentation with plenty of texture and dimension. Very impressive.

    Colors were for the most part vibrant and lush, although greens seemed to be slightly “washed out”, while reds (particularly on General Kohler’s uniform collar) appeared to be hot and slightly bleeding. Skin tones however, looked impressively real and accurate. Black levels were extremely dark and well defined, while whites were always crisp, with at times, a slight hint of a blue hue present.

    The print appeared mostly clean with only infrequent signs of dust and dirt and only a few minor scratches were noticeable. Never did this become an issue. The image was rock solid and free of any shimmer or jitter although light speckle was visible occasionally. The levels of contrast and shadow detail were fine.

    Compression seems to have been handled quite nicely and there were no signs of artifacting. Edge enhancement was never a factor.

    Given its presented exceptionally wide aspect ratio, this epic-like looking film looked terrific projected on a 96” screen.

    Video: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    There may be some here who’ll take exception to the new and “improved” remastered DD 5.1 soundtrack, as the original track is noticeably absent. While the new track serves the material well – very well in fact, the inclusion of the original track would have been appreciated.

    The original Overture, Intermission and Exit Music has been included. The music included here (by Benjamin Frankel) as well as the ever present score, is in my opinion, one of the highlights of the film as it certainly sets the stage for the epic-like film that’s about to follow. The soundstage offers up a surprisingly wide arena for the music which comes across quite nicely.

    The track is absolutely clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. Dialogue was always exceptionally clear and bold and was never lost or found competing with the many action sequences or score. The tonality of the track overall is natural, one that never becomes edgy or compressed.

    There is an impressive level of range to be found here. Not on the same page as Saving Private Ryan range, mind you, but still impressive for a film of forty years. There is also a decent sense of directionality up front, though dialogue is pretty much anchored front and center.

    With the remastered track, we get some surround action with the film, as they have made good use of the rears with the use of music envelopment as well as various effects. This has been handled tactfully as the track never seems gimmicky or exaggerated. There is even a hefty amount of LFE info present as the tanks rumble from scene to scene.

    This is not going to supplant your Saving Private Ryan DTS demo disc (which, to this day, I still use for audio demos), but it is a good example of how a 40 year old track can be upgraded or “improved” (if you will) for modern audiences. Still, the original track should have been provided.

    Audio: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    While the disc isn’t loaded with special features, Warner has included a couple of interesting supplements starting with:
    [*] The filming of the Battle of the Bulge is an interesting featurette that was filmed just after the original shoot. Front and center here is ex-German General Meinrad von Lauchbert who was hired as a consultant by Warner as a military advisor. Here, he goes over the various Nazi uniforms and military decorations as well as weaponry. Even the sig heil is practiced to perfection by Robert Shaw. The documentary shows off a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of the production, much of which is narrated by Henry Fonda. The feature is in B&W and is in reasonably good shape. Duration: 9:36 minutes.
    [*] The next feature entitled History Recreated, contains interviews with two members of the film. Producer Milton Sperling (who served in WWII) talks about the logistical problems and the exhaustive search throughout Europe for the weapons used in the film (and from all accounts, seems to exaggerate their authenticity somewhat). Robert Shaw also appears who discusses the time constraints and the harsh weather conditions during the filming. Oddly, he describes his character (Col. Hessler) as the admirable hero of the film. In B&W and in great shape. Duration: 8:05 minutes.
    [*] And finally, the Theatrical Trailer has been included which is in reasonably good condition. Even the trailer is epic-like and clocks in at a whopping 5:08 minutes.

    Special Features: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Battle Of The Bulge, though not perfect, is an interesting and entertaining wartime fiction film with an excellent cast and mostly solid performances. To put this film in its proper perspective, this was, in essence, a prototypical "popcorn movie" of the period - a film that one should enjoy while watching – one where very little time should be spent reflecting and analyzing afterwards. I've seen the film several times and it never fails to entertain. Battle Of The Bulge is worth seeing just for the Ultra-Panavision presentation alone.

    Warner has once again, done an excellent job with this disc and on top of the impressive presentation, they have complemented it nicely with a couple of interesting special features. Fans of action films, step forward. Discerning history buffs, stay at home...

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Recommended…!





    Release Date: May 3rd, 2005




    The World War II Collection - Battlefront Europe
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I watched this film once and I think a second time in the movie theater back in early 1966, and after just viewing this dvd, I must say that Warner has done a terrific job with it. I saw a high definition presentation of this film about six weeks ago and this dvd almost measures up to that presentation. I think most fans of this film will be very happy with it.

    Great review as always which should help those interested in buying this dvd.






    Crawdaddy
     
  3. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Well-Known Member

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    Glad to see some counterpoint to Mr. Harris' earlier posting. I got a copy today and started watching it - I must say, I'm thoroughly engrossed by its first thirty minutes, and the quality is, as you guys have stated, pretty terrific. Somehow I missed this film back when it was released, which was unusual for me.
     
  4. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Well-Known Member

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    Really enjoy this WWII yarn, when I catch it on cable (letterboxed, of coarse). Love Telly's character, he's smart, stupid, scared, heroic, money hungry, revengeful, and loyal.
     
  5. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Thanks for the review Herb. BotB has always been one of my favorite WWII films, I got my copy today.[​IMG]
    I've waited years for a decent copy of this film. Now I can finally bin my old video copy.
     
  6. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Well-Known Member

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    I really like this film & I'm very glad to have the complete version finally.
     
  7. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Well it's not the mythical 4 hour version some have touted but with the overture, intermission and exit music included I'd say that's pretty much what audiences saw in 1965.

    Picture quality on this super wide ratio image was very nice, detail was crisp, good color, wasn't that impressed with the 5.1 surround though, could have been better.
     
  8. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Okay no need to shout Bruce, BBFC made a mistake thats all, they're not infallible.
    I have the original Variety review of BotB which lists it as 167m, which is close to the DVD running time of 169m 29s.
     
  9. RolandL

    RolandL Well-Known Member

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    There never was a 212 or 202 minute version of Battle of The Bulge. The review in the UK magazine Films and Filming from it's premiere in Cinerama in 1965 lists the running time as 163 minutes.
     
  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I agree, AFI lists the actual running time of the film as 162 minutes and if you add the overture, intermission and exit music you'll get about 169.5 total minutes.





    Crawdaddy
     
  11. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Well-Known Member

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    I watched this the other night. I'm quite impressed with the DVD. I can retire my LD now. [​IMG]
     
  12. Maggi Magg

    Maggi Magg Well-Known Member

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    This is one crappy movie.
    Having watched this years ago(on a VHS)my memories where good, but they let me down big time.
    The acting oh boy where to begin.
    Ok Telly Savalas character is so baaaaaad and the overacting is painful to watch.
    Robert Shaw as the hard german panzer commander is not a good performance [​IMG]
    And those Tiger tanks[​IMG]
    HOW ON EARTH DID ANYONE COME UP WITH THIS USING PERSHING TANKS REPLACING THE TIGERS (They did not even try to change the apperence)[​IMG]

    Well my ranting is over now [​IMG] the DVD is at least technically good, solid picture presented in OAR and the remixed soundtrack sounds nice (i would have liked to have the original mono sound as well)

    Cheers
    Maggi
     
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Then why would you buy a dvd that has a crappy movie? That makes as much sense as the filmmakers using the wrong tanks as Tigers in the film.[​IMG]







    Crawdaddy
     
  14. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps a documentary would be better for you. [​IMG]
     
  15. Maggi Magg

    Maggi Magg Well-Known Member

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    "Having watched this years ago(on a VHS)my memories where good"

    My memory wasn´t that good on this movie
    At least on a big budget movie you´ve would think that they could do better.
    Cheers
    Maggi
     
  16. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    eeeek! I thought Shaw was excellent.
     
  17. Maggi Magg

    Maggi Magg Well-Known Member

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    Ok Steve
    That´s your opinion and i respect that
     
  18. RolandL

    RolandL Well-Known Member

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  19. Maggi Magg

    Maggi Magg Well-Known Member

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    RolandL
    I stand corrected on that [​IMG]
    Indeed it was a stereo production

    Cheers
    Maggi
     

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