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

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.

The Longest Day [Blu-ray]


(Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton and Bernhard Wicki, 1962)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: 20th Century Fox

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:58:22.691

Disc Size: 40,765,784,132 bytes

Feature Size: 39,626,440,704 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.39 Mbps

Chapters: 40

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 3rd, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




DTS-HD Master Audio English 3090 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3090 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 4.0 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps



English (SDH), English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), none



• Disc 1: Film Commentary by Director Ken Annakin

• Disc 1: Historical Commentary by Historian Mary Corey

• Disc 2: Featurettes:

• A Day to Remember

• Longest Day: A Salute to Courage

• AMC Backstory: The Longest Day

• Richard Zanuck on The Longest Day

• Documentary: D-Day Revisited

• Still Gallery

• Original Theatrical Trailer



The Film: 7.5
I suppose this is a Darryl F. Zanuck movie in much the same way as Gone With the Wind was David O. Selznick's. The director doesn't much matter. In this case, that goes triple, since there are in fact three directors: one for the "British Exterior Episodes" (Annakin), one for the "American Exterior Episodes" (Marton), and one for the "German Episodes" (Wicki). One wonders who directed the Allied "Interior Episodes"? In any case, Zannuck, who participated in the first world war in France and Belgium, wanted to recreate the Normandy Invasion in a quasi-documentary – but always faithful to the Hollywood idea of things. Thus, perhaps, its being filmed in black & white. Also, so that it could better mix with actual WWII documentary footage. Also, so that its many stars – so many that none are listed on the cover - could better blend into the action. A good choice all around.

I think The Longest Day has always been one of my guilty pleasures. I keep half-expecting Natalie Wood as a Belgian peasant girl to jump out of the bushes. John Wayne couldn't be more the icon, and Henry Fonda more out of place, plus more stars than Louis B. Mayer - put together! As mentioned, there are even three directors plus Zanuck and a coordinating producer, Elmo Williams. Yet somehow it all seems to work. Once things get underway, there is plenty of action and a few remarkable and complicated set pieces. Whatever the time of day, even if we can't see the faces, we always know who is who and what they're about. The German actors are my favorites: Hans Christian Blech, Curt Jürgens, Wolfgang Preiss, Paul Hartmann. And who said Crouching Tiger broke the subtitles barrier! This is a 3-hour movie where no small part of it is spoken in the language of those who murdered millions less than twenty years earlier – that's serious risk-taking on Zanuck's part. I think it paid off. That, and the intent – not so much to glorify, as to remember. And not only to remember, but to understand the cost. When this title arrives on shelves on Blu-ray, that day will have been almost exactly 64 years ago.


Image: 7/8

 NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

It was nearly two years ago that I posted my first review of this movie, virtually falling over myself with how clean the image looked. So clean, I am embarrassed to admit, that I failed to notice the absence of grain. There needn't have been a lot. I have some DVDs of black and white movies from the 1940s and 50s that are so highly resolved we scarcely notice the grain. In some instances we can even discern the makeup (try Now, Voyager!). I think it may have been the sheen on those leather jackets that seduced me to the dark side of digital noise reduction – a phenomenon relatively new to me then. But now, it’s all too easy to see the culprit behind the mask. There are so many textureless faces whose sheen is not all that much different from their jackets (he said, as he falls on his sword.)

As we can see from these new screencaps, it's often difficult to tell the difference between leather and fabric and whatever it is that the Nazi officer with the glasses is wearing in my first screen capture. Without minimizing the effects of digital scrubbing on this Blu-ray, what remains is glorious to behold, especially when projected onto a large screen. Even behind the DNR it’s easy to make out how beautiful this print is – it’s too bad we get only a taste of it. The photography is stunning – nighttime, daytime, sets, on-location. Doesn’t matter. The sharpness is superb - even if the resolution is marred. The contrast and tonal range of the film is usually perfect, but varies on rare occasion, at times lacking mid-tones. Archival footage is edited in from time to time, most at night or pre-dawn when we would expect grain. Yet there are other times during the feature that we can almost reach out and touch it – despite the digital polish. Blacks are deep, more so than we would have seen in the theater, I'm reasonably sure – it makes for a nice effect even if it may not be truthful to the negative.


One more observation about the Blu-ray as versus the SD Collector's Edition. I have included only one screencap comparison, as it suffices to make the point. In addition to the overall murky quality of the image and the fact that the Blu-ray is cropped less at the top and bottom, we can see that the DVD image is squeezed. Note the soldier holding a paper in the background at the far left. Is it not clear that he is anamorphically challenged? And now that we see that, do we not see that the same is true for everyone else in the frame, though perhaps not to the same degree? This error did not exist on the previous letterboxed edition, by the way, and certainly not on the Blu-ray.




SD editions TOP 2 vs. Blu-ray - BOTTOM














Audio & Music: 7/9
I finally have what should be a pretty decent surround system in place. I feel I am much closer to the intentions of the audio mix than ever before.

Dialogue can feel a little hollow and nasal, generally not responsive to location (inside a plane, a room, outdoors, etc.) On the other hand, the effects are often surprisingly effective, especially as sorted out I the surrounds. This is especially felt in England at the various camps where soldiers prepare to leave. Planes can be heard flying low, overhead, coming from behind. Trucks and armored vehicles pass our point of view from either side. The timbre of train whistles, airplane engines, bells, rain, small and large arms fire is very effective, especially when we consider the age of the film.

The music score by Maurice Jarre (the same year he won the Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia) with its persistent drum tattoos, and the way its edited into the audio mix, raises The Longest Day to a higher level. The movie seems to expand beyond its dramatic and visual boundaries. I can't praise it enough, and Fox did an admirable job of bringing it back to life. The percussion, especially the crashing cymbals over the titles, will knock your proverbial socks off. The rest of the mix – vehicles, planes, artillery and small arms fire, mainly – couldn't possibly live up to that dynamic level, nor does it – not in 1962.

While I give the overall audio score only 7 points, the music track should rate 9-10 for audio excellence. The percussion, especially the crashing cymbals, over the titles will knock you
r proverbial socks off. The rest of the mix – the artillery and small arms fire, mainly – couldn't possibly live up to that level of contrast, nor does it – not in 1962.


Operations: 7
Major points for the art work for the main menu: As we get further from the time that The Longest Day commemorates, some things slip into the recesses of memory. It won't be much longer before there will be no one still alive who fought on either side on that day. The second disc contains all the bonus features other than the feature film commentaries. There is no pretense on this disc of anything other than your basic 480i.

Extras: 9
We may never see a Blu-ray movie about Operation Overlord on D-Day that has the breadth of these extra features. Sure, the second disc is entirely in 480i and tends to be repetitive in its praise of Zanuck, but much of its 3 hours is well positioned, especially the AMC Backstory: The Longest Day and The Longest Day: A Salute to Courage - and the two audio commentaries – one about the making of the movie, the other placing the events we see on film in their historical context – are very good indeed.



Bottom line: 8
Alas, I now have to demote my score due to the DNR. But even for all its scrubbing and polishing, the image can be breathtaking. (I say this with the full realization that it could never have looked like this in the theater.) Maurice Jarre's brilliant music score and the set's extra features are just icing to the cake. Of course, it helps if you like the movie, as I do, but even if you're only lukewarm about it, The Longest Day is an important historical document as one of the great Hollywood visions of that great war. Fox’s Blu-ray will have to suffice for some time to come, I imagine.

Leonard Norwitz
May 24, 2008

April 20th, 2010







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About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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