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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Twelve O'Clock High [Blu-ray]


(Henry King, 1949)


Coming out in the UK September 2013


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Video: 20th Century Fox



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

Runtime: 2:12:30.067

Disc Size: 45,806,359,386 bytes

Feature Size: 41,658,519,552 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.98 Mbps

Chapters: 36

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 3rd, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2828 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2828 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps



English (SDH), French, Spanish, none



• Commentary by Rudy Behlmer, Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman

• Memories of Twelve O'Clock High (29:09)

• WWII and the American Homefront (7:32)

• Inspiring a Character - General Frank A. Armstrong Jr. (7:27)

• The Pilots of the 8th Air Force (12:25)





Description: Hard-as-nails World War II Gen. Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) must turn a discouraged group of American bomber pilots into heroes. Along the way, the once-alienated general comes to view the men as family. No longer a heartless commander, Savage -- with the aid of his loyal adjutant Maj. Harvey Stovall (Dean Jagger) -- learns how difficult true leadership really is. Director Henry King's Oscar-winning war drama boasts actual air combat footage.


Henry King. Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell, Dean Jagger, Paul Stewart. Taut WW2 story of U.S. flyers in England, an officer replaced for getting too involved with his men (Merrill) and his successor who has same problem (Peck). Jagger won Oscar in supporting role; Peck has never been better. Written by Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay, Jr., from their novel. Later a TV series.


How much can a man give? When the U.S. 8th Army Air Force 918th Bombardment group is ordered on their fourth harrowing... mission in four hard days, Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) demands maximum effort. The bombers are forced to fly lower, to fly farther, and to test themselves -- overspent and fatigued -- right up until death's door. When their dedicated colonel speaks out in their defense, Savage mercilessly takes over command -- an officer should not sympathize with his men. The Brigadier General will compel the 918th to stop pitying itself and to hone its morale in the face of danger. Yet, as the men grow colder due to Savage's orders and the missions bring them closer to their crucial German targets, the officer learns the practical impossibility of raising the confidence of young men while also sending them to their deaths. He begins to understand that it is the burden of command that makes even the toughest leader sympathetic. Eventually caring for his men above all else, it is Savage who is forced to carry the hardships of maximum effort -- asking himself, how much can a man take?

~ Aubry Anne D'Arminio, All Movie Guide.



The Film:

Wisely, the writers and director, Mr. King, have husbanded the potential of an illustrated mission for one big concentrated punch, and they have got into this major sequence great excitement and reality. The terrible tension of a bomber crew while on a mission, the breathless action of attack and repulse and even the anxiety of the ground crews are finely realized. Some fast actuality footage of attacking fighter planes has been discreetly used.

High and particular praise for Gregory Peck in the principal role is natural, since Mr. Peck does an extraordinarily able job in revealing the hardness and the softness of a general exposed to peril. But everyone else in the picture is equally good in carrying out his task—Dean Jagger as the middle-aged major, Hugh Marlowe as the lieutenant colonel who gets hazed, Gary Merrill as the displaced group commander, Millard Mitchell as a tough two-star general, Paul Stewart as the doctor, Bob Patten as the young pilot, and many more. They have helped to "cut" a bang-up good picture of aerial warfare and the ruggedness of men.

Excerpt from Bosley Crowther at the NY Times located HERE


Along with The Gunfighter (also directed by the erratic but undervalued King), one of Peck's best performances as the martinet required to take over an exhausted World War II American bomber group in England because High Command feels that the present CO (Merrill) is too emotionally involved with his men: appalled by the casualty rates, Merrill is reluctant to turn the screw, and their deteriorating performance is casting doubts in high places about the value of daylight precision bombing, still in its experimental stages. A superb first half dissects the sense of demoralisation, with the group, already bowed under its reputation as a hard-luck outfit, initially wilting even further as Peck applies kill or cure remedies (like segregating the worst misfits and malingerers as a crew known as 'The Leper Colony'). Latterly, with Peck beginning to crack under the emotional strain and go the same way as Merrill, the film sails close to becoming a (less romantic) remake of The Dawn Patrol. But King's control, the electric tension, and the performances all hold firm.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

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

Twelve O'Clock High was a shade beneath my expectations on Blu-ray from Fox. It definitely looks HD - but contrast (a factor of detail) remains a bit muted and it appeared a moderately inconsistent in my viewing.  There are times where black levels are quite solid and imposing and others where the brightness level fluctuated - albeit almost imperceptive-ly.  This is dual-layered with a very high bitrate and the film is over 60 years of age so with Fox's stellar track record for vintage films - I'll assume the source was less dense than some might have hoped. Grain and noise are visible but the former is not is texturized in abundance. Predictably, the 'real' aerial footage used looks less pristine. By modern standards this is fairly tame visually but as a representation of the original - I can only assume this is the best we are likely to get for this war classic. This really is a good film, btw.


Contrast fluctuation

















Audio :

Then 5.1 Surround boost (DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2828 kbps 5.1) didn't give away its formidable abilities by extending beyond 'normal' support for this classic film. Yes - there is some separation in the flight battles but Twelve O'Clock High is surprisingly tame beyond that. This actually brings up the dynamic audio as it seems more sparingly utilized.  The mono option, however compressed, is available for purists but it doesn't share the depth of the lossless track. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

The supplements appear to duplicate the CE DVD with the fine Behlmer/Redman/Burlingame commentary. I could listen to these guys all day - as they offer an incredible breadth of knowledge about the topic in question.  There is a 1/2 piece - again citing history entitled Memories of Twelve O'Clock High and another WWII and the American Homefront for about 7.5 minutes. Some may be quite educated by Inspiring a Character - General Frank A. Armstrong Jr. and reminiscences via The Pilots of the 8th Air Force last a dozen minutes.



Despite my picky reservations on the image on Twelve O'Clock High this is such a wonderful film to own on Blu-ray. One of Peck's best roles and King seems at his height of helmsmanship. This is infinitely superior to its past DVD and for fans of war dram - this strikes emotional cords with all who see it. Still recommended! 

Gary Tooze

April 30th, 2011

Coming out in the UK September 2013


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
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Gary W. Tooze






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