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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




The Fox Blu-ray War Bash 2008

"The perfect gift for Dad this Father's Day" - so says Fox for their long-awaited series of five – count them – big budget war films from their vast catalog: Battle of Britain (1969), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Longest Day (1962), Patton (1970), and The Sand Pebbles (1966). Except for The Sand Pebbles, these are all WWII films. Three of them show off a huge cast of luminaries, but only one (A Bridge Too Far) does it without undue posturing. All of them have outstanding photography: even the least successful as a script (Battle of Britain) has some terrific aerial photography.

Between the five, they scored nine Academy Awards, which is less impressive when you consider that seven of them were for one picture alone (
A Bridge Too Far, which had zero nominations, has become, for me, one of the more rewatchable WWII movies, and has one of the most engaging film scores composed for the genre. Jerry Goldsmith's score for Patton was rightfully nominated, but lost to – are you sitting down for this – Love Story!

The Longest Day is remarkable for two reasons: it is one of the first films shot in Black & White to be released on Blu-ray! (Bergman's The Seventh Seal jumps to mind as another - there may be a few more) and it is also one of the older films on the new format... and best looking image – all the more surprising considering how bloody awful the SD 2-disc Collector's Edition was. (The previous letterboxed image was sharper, even after zoomed out to full size.) The sound tracks for all of these movies are very good-to-excellent. They may not have the same level of crunch we have come to expect since Saving Private Ryan, but they are convincing all the same, regardless of age. The music tracks for these films are especially clear, invigorating and supportive of the mood.

All of the titles have seen SD-DVD incarnations previously, some very good ones, some with extensive supplements. My comparison of the supplements from the latest SD editions and the respective Blu-ray reveals that all of the extra features – with the exception of
A Bridge Too Far - are ported over to High Def. Except for the occasional trailer, there are NO high-def extra features to be found on any of these new releases. Two of them (A Bridge Too Far and Battle of Britain) have no extra features at all, unless you count trailers (which I don't.) Battle of Britain SD edition, by the way, is the sole movie of this quintet not too have received the 2-disc treatment in 480i. The BRDs of Patton and The Longest Day are 2-disc affairs, but Fox opted for a single 50 GB disc to accommodate all but "Road Show" version of the 2-disc material from their most recent SD of The Sand Pebbles.

A Bridge Too Far [Blu-ray]


(Richard Attenborough, 1977)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: MGM

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 176 min

Chapters: 28

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case: 1 disc

Release date: June 3rd, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG2 @ 18 MBPS



English DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, French 5.1 Dolby Surround, Spanish Mono



English, English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese and Korean



• Theatrical Trailers




The Film: 9
Fox opted to exclude the bonus features included in their 2005 Collector's Edition, inviting speculation as to why. It couldn't have been space, since their
The Sand Pebbles accommodated as much or more on its 50 GB disc. I can understand that they might not wanted to have given it the full 2 disc treatment, given the movie's relative lack of popularity. . . which leads me to think that the reason lies elsewhere.

A Bridge Too Far is a film about the failure of leadership in time of war. It takes a hard, cold look at the sort of arrogance that feels the need to undertake a difficult expedition: more because it had never been done before than for military expediency. A shudder will almost certainly run through you as General Browning rationalizes intelligence about the enemy's hidden weapons so as not to have to reconsider his plan. A Bridge Too Far is also about bravery, loyalty and determination in the face of almost certain death. Of the five movies represented in this collection, it is the only one that can move me to tears. I weep again for its having gotten the shaft here – not only in terms of content, but, as we shall see, in respect to image quality.

The time is September, 1944, and the Allied advance after the Invasion has slowed. Supplies are not getting through. The Allied command under Montgomery comes up with a plan to air drop 35,000 troops behind enemy lines and secure four important bridges so that the various allied armies could meet up with them and be able to cross the Rhine into Germany. The plan resulted in the greatest Allied defeat of the war: some 17,000 dead or wounded (roughly twice that suffered by the Germans), and the plan didn't succeed anyhow.

The movie is not, therefore, another Longest Day, despite its having been written by the same author, Cornelius Ryan. Quite the contrary. A Bridge Too Far has more in common with The Charge of the Light Brigade. Hardly the sort of story that we would want to take to heart in a time of whatever the hell we're doing in the mid-east these days. I shall say no more.

You can find detailed analyses of Operation Market Garden HERE and HERE



6 (5~8/8)
The score of 6 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten-point scale. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

It must have been about the same time as the release of the 2-disc Collector's Edition that I sprang for the Japanese Region 2 Studio Classics edition of the same content. My experience with other Japanese "Ultimate Editions" suggested it might be a little better, though I admit to being uncertain to ever having made the comparison to the new R1. As you can see in my screencap comparisons the BRD can have a softer, gauzier look and then: suddenly, it's as right as rain – or, shall we say, a clear day. The R2 is almost certainly manipulated for higher contrast and brightness, though for much of the first half hour of the movie, we might wish the BRD wasn't so dull – even if it does reflect the intentions of the movie – then or now.

SD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM



SD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM 



SD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM









Audio & Music: 7/10
That tear in my eye starts with the John Addinson's stirring music score over the titles and list of luminaries. Addinson hits just the right stride of British foolhardy courage. The pacing gives the music the needed space to breathe and the imagination to see the streamers blowing behind the 600 as they march to their respective destinies. My new surround system captures the majesty of the score as well as the clipped utterances of Dirk Bogarde's General Browning and Edward Fox's Lt. General Horrocks, Sean Connery's not very amused Major General Urquhart and Anthony Hopkins' heroic Lt. Colonel Frost. Of the five movies in this collection of war movies, I would place it last in terms of dynamic sound, however. We never really feel the need to duck for cover.


Operations: 7
Since there is not much to choose from, there is little to object to, nor get lost in.

Extras: 1
As already noted, there are no bonus features, only a handful of trailers in High-Def. The content of disc 2 from the SD Collector's Edition is not present, nor accounted for. Most of that content would have discussed the politics of "Operation Market Garden" as well as the politics of making a movie of this sort so close on the heels of the Vietnam fiasco.



Bottom line: 6
While not an out and out Thumbs Down for this DVD, it cannot be recommended unless you already own the Collector's Edition. Even though there are stretches where the image is clearer and sharper, there are others that are as dull as yesterday's dishwater, even if it's more correct than not. But it's the lack of extra features that already exist elsewhere that makes this release a disappointment.

Leonard Norwitz
May 24, 2008








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