(aka 'Legion of the Damned')

Directed by Anatole Litvak
USA 1951

 

  Within the inflexible framework of a straight undercover spy film, which in this case goes by the title of "Decision Before Dawn," Twentieth Century-Fox and Anatole Litvak have packed not only lots of thrills but a clear and cold look at Western Germany in the last year of World War II. They have also worked into this thriller, which opened at the Rivoli yesterday, a persuasive amount of compassion for a German soldier who turns traitor on his own.

Lest this sequential information should lead anyone to suppose that the producers are up to something such as the recent "Desert Fox," let this be acceptable assurance that there's no fraud in "Decision Before Dawn." Neither is there endeavor to whitewash the guilty or corrupt.

The humble hero of the adventure that is tensely unfolded in this film is a young German medical corpsman who has been, captured just west of the Rhine. On giving reliable indication that he is willing to serve as a spy, he is trained by American Intelligence and then dropped behind the German lines to locate and report the position of a panzer division that supposedly wants to quit. The major part of the story is of his adventures behind the lines.

And it is in this phase of the story that Peter Viertel, who wrote the script, and Mr. Litvak, who directed (as well as co-produced), have packed as stirring a drama as any you'll want to see, as well as a fair approximation of a nation's moral collapse. For in the soldier's narrow encounters while posing as a loyal Luftwaffer on leave, in his fortuitous meetings with German civilians in the depths of despair and in his fearful observations of the brutality of the Nazis' death-grip are caught not only twanging tension but a sobering sense of profound fatality. That which we see is the consequent degradation of a conqueror's shattered dreams, and the fact that the soldier is finally swallowed up in it completes the sense of doom. There is plainly no sentimentalizing, no passing the buck in this film.

Excerpt from Bosley Crowther's review from the NY Times located HERE.

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Theatrical Release: December 21st, 1951

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DVD Review: 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC

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Also part of the Heroes of War Collection - Frontline Combat which includes Halls of Montezuma, Decision Before Dawn, D-Day the Sixth of June and Guadalcanal Diary
Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:59:28 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.75 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Mono), DUB: Spanish (Mono)   
Subtitles English, Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• "Fox Movietone News" clips
• Trailer

DVD Release Date: May 23rd, 2006

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Chapters: 20

 

 

Comments:

A tremendous film, but the DVD image is quite dirty. There are segments of visible damage, usually in the form of light scratches and blemishes. Of all the recent Fox releases I'd say this is the weakest that I have seen, but I feel the film could certainly warrant some form of restoration or extensive cleaning. There are optional subtitles (a ghastly bright yellow) and no important extras. Strangely enough this is a dual layered DVD (where most of the recent crop are single layered) so perhaps Fox have gone as far as they intend with improving this appearance. It is progressive and still quite watchable, just don't expect the detail of the current standard. In Fox's favor at least we don't see any digital manipulations to improve the image quality (unless black have been slightly boosted), which I prefer to enhancements that artificially boost with a blanket approach. I highly recommend on the basis of the film and don't expect a digital improvement anytime soon!   

Gary W. Tooze

 





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DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Also part of the Heroes of War Collection - Frontline Combat which includes Halls of Montezuma, Decision Before Dawn, D-Day the Sixth of June and Guadalcanal Diary
Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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