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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell [Blu-ray]


(Otto Preminger, 1955)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: United States Pictures

Video: Olive Films



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:40:45.039

Disc Size: 19,871,651,668 bytes

Feature Size: 19,724,888,064 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.98 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 30th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 2.55:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 838 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 838 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)






• None





Description: Gary Cooper (High Noon) portrays a controversial American hero in this electrifying, true story of he most sensational military trial in our Country's history. It is the end of WWI and the birth of aerial warfare. Though airplanes had only been used for reconnaissance, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell has foreseen their deadly power and importance in future combat as bombers and fighter planes. But his superiors in the Army Air Service are blind to his prophecy and when Mitchell begins to campaign to build an armed Air Force against their will, they brand him a traitor and summon him for court-martial. Although the Army attempts to cover up the trial, it becomes an explosive media event that explores the self-serving incompetence of the military and how one man's vision can serve to shape history. The stellar cast includes Charles Bickford, Ralph Bellamy, Rod Steiger, Elizabeth Montgomery, Jack Lord, Peter Graves, Darren McGavin and Fred Clark. Directed by Otto Preminger (Anatomy of a Murder).



The Film:

In this 1955 Otto Preminger film, Gary Cooper stars as World War I hero Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. The film recounts Mitchell's efforts to prove the viability of a strong air force. The hidebound military higher-ups refuse to finance aviation any further, figuring that the strength of the United States lies in its navy. When a friend is killed by flying a faulty plane, Mitchell charges the War and Navy department with incompetence and criminal negligence. When the brass tries to quietly court-martial Mitchell, they are forced into the open by the strength of public opinion, largely in Mitchell's favor. Subjected to the grilling of prosecutor Alan Guillon (Rod Steiger) during his trial, Mitchell sticks to his guns, even outlining a potential Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor unless the military wises up and strengthens its air power. Elizabeth Montgomery makes her film debut in the role of Margaret Landsdown.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Based on fact, Preminger's impressively low-key film is about an American general who, in 1925, accused the military of incompetence and criminal negligence for their lack of interest in building up an air force, and was court-martialled for his views. With Cooper as the crusading officer, one is never in any doubt as to the correctness and sincerity of his views (Mitchell was posthumously rehabilitated in 1947), while Steiger puts in one of his inimitably flashy performances as the prosecuting attorney.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

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

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell never looked great on my old DVD and this new Olive Films Blu-ray transfer doesn't seem to fare much better. I'm not blaming Olive as I strongly suspect that this is either a close approximation of how it looked originally or the only available source print is... inferior. This is only single-layered and visuals are hazy but I don't know that dual-layering would benefit the appearance extensively. The stock flying footage has more speckles and damage but I wouldn't say marks on the rest of the feature are troublesome. Generally the image is quite consistent. Detail is modest and there is no real depth but there is some grain. The haziness is unfortunate. The Blu-ray video may be a disappointment for those expecting a stellar 1080P presentation.















Audio :

Olive provide an expected simple, flat, but lossless DTS-HD Master mono track. Fitting-in perfectly would be the subtle score of the iconic Dimitri Tiomkin (Angel Face, Strangers on a  Train, The Men, Dial M For Murder, The Thing From Another World etc. etc.) that sounds wonderful via the uncompressed. There are no subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

No supplements - not even a trailer which is the bare-bones route that Olive are going with the majority of their releases.



I thought this was a very well-made bio-pic film. It has many good performers (Bickford, Bellamy, Steiger, Elizabeth Montgomery, Jack Lord, Peter Graves, Darren McGavin) and Preminger pulls it all together nicely. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray image is certainly no demo and suffers - for whatever reason. It didn't disturb my entertainment value of The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell but those seeking a pristine a/v should probably look elsewhere.

Gary Tooze

July 24th, 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 5000 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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

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
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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