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“Battle of the Bulge” - {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Warner Bros.
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
5/15/2007
Special Features:

The Filming of Battle of the Bulge, History Recreated, Actor/Director Commentary Original Trailer

Review:

Battle of the Bulge, originally released in 1965, is directed by Ken Annakin. The film stars Henry Fonda (12 Angry Men), Robert Shaw (Jaws), Telly Savalas (The Dirty Dozen), and Charles Bronson (Death Wish.) ***

Battle of the Bulge tells the story of the eponymous battle, one of the lengthiest and bloodiest battles in World War II's Pacific theatre. Allied troops, including an intelligence officer who often clashes with his superiors (Fonda), a hard-edged merchant (Savalas), and a man in charge of a less-than-disciplined unit (Bronson) set out to do battle with an increasingly desperate (and as a result, increasingly unpredictable) Nazi Germany. Amongst the threats to the Allies are deadly new weapons, a platoon of Germans expertly disguised as Americans who have crossed the border, and a Panzer division lead by a man who lives for war and battles (Shaw.) ***

This is one of those movies that comes under fire for its historical inaccuracies, pacing issues, and a plethora of other issues oh-so-many people point out in their reviews. Okay, the movie isn't completely off the hook for all that stuff. But it is a well-made, solid war flick that remains entertaining all these years later. ***

An ensemble cast of actors is perhaps the best thing this classic film has going for it. We've got a pre-Death Wish Charles Bronson and a pre-Kojak Telly Savalas, both of whom give solid performance is a platoon leader and a merchant out to make a few quick bucks on the battlefield, respectively. The always-entertaining Henry Fonda gives a memorable performance as an intelligence officer who isn't afraid to go against his superiors when it comes to making decisions on and off the battlefield. ***

Of course, the true standout here is from a pre-Jaws Robert Shaw. His performance here brings back memories of the assassin he portrayed in From Russia With Love, and that is an enormous compliment. I simply could not have imagined anyone else in this role. From start to finish, I truly believed this was a man obsessed with war who saw no future elsewhere. ***

From start to finish, it is made very clear the production crew was out to make a BIG movie. And every aspect of it feels epic. Filmed in an ultra-wide aspect ratio that is no longer used in filmmaking, with massive-scale sets and literally hundreds of men on both sides of the battlefield, not one moment of the movie fails to feel epic. The battles, the scenes of officers socializing and gathering their troops, there isn't a dull moment here despite a lengthy run time. ***

As entertaining as the film is, though, there are some issues here and there. Obvious rear-projection scenes and models, anachronisms galore, sunny skies during the final battle which is supposed to be amidst a blizzard, a sometimes questionable script, you get the idea. The film also, despite never having any dull moments, does feel a bit bloated at times. Some scenes definitely feel like they could have landed on the cutting room floor (and several actually have in some earlier releases of the film on home video.) Still, I'm glad to have it restored to the proper length in its original format. Ultimately the film is solid - a war movie that stands the test of time and overcomes its few flaws. ---

Image And Sound:

Warner Bros. does THE BEST restorations when it comes to classic films, and their work on Battle of the Bulge proves to be no exception to this. First and foremost, the film is finally presented on home video in its proper “super-wide” aspect ratio. For years, we've had to deal with cropped atrocities - but the recent releases of the film finally put that toa n end. On top of that, the level of detail is absolutely incredible, and the colors pop right off the screen. It's a very clean picture, with almost no print damage, dirt, or other anomalies to speak of. There is a surprisingly-limited amount of grain in the picture, but the sheer level of detail implies to this viewer that there were no annoying enhancements applied. This is in all ways an improvement over DVD versions of the movie. This 1080p transfer of Battle of the Bulge definitely earns a medal of honor. ***

Sound quality doesn't fare as good as the medal-winning picture quality, but it is still a competent stereo track. Disappointingly, we don't get a lossless option, but this stereo track (crafted from the original mono elements) doesn't necessarily disappoint. Audio is loud and clear throughout, be it dialogue, explosions, or the classic musical score. My only real complaint is it isn't much of a “surround” mix and mostly remains front-heavy. I wish the rear channels had gotten a workout. It doesn't win the medal of honor the picture quality did, but it's sound quality at least worthy of an honorable discharge.

Special Features:

Disappointingly, the supplements on the disc are relatively minimal and are (as far as I can tell) ported over from earlier DVD versions of the movie. An informative audio commentary track with director Ken Annakin and actor James MacArthur is probably the most appealing piece of bonus material on here. They go greatly in depth into everything it took to bring this classic film to life. If you've got 3 hours to spare, do yourself a favor and listen to this track - it is one of the most interesting commentaries for a vintage film out there.

***

Also included are a pair of featurettes on the making of the film, though these run less than 10 minutes each. What little they cover is extremely interesting and will appeal to any fan of the movie, but at the same time they will leave you wanting more. Additionally, the original theatrical trailer is included.

Final Words:

Battle of the Bulge is a classic war film, and Warner Bros. does the movie justice with one of its best remastering jobs of a catalogue title to date. Yes, some of the complaints pointed at the film are valid. But it's still essential viewing for any fan of classic war films. With a great cast and a solid 1080p transfer, this disc comes highly recommended!

 

 
 
 
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