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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Retreat, Hell! [Blu-ray]


(Joseph H. Lewis, 1952)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: United States Pictures / Warner Bros.

Video: Olive Films



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

Runtime: 1:35:29.056

Disc Size: 21,036,042,838 bytes

Feature Size: 20,936,454,144 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.97 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 18th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 839 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 839 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)






• None





Description: Considered by most as one of the greatest Korean War films ever made. A U.S. Marine battalion headed by Lt. Col. Steve L. Corbett (Frank Lovejoy, Shack Out on 101) and Capt. Paul Hansen (Richard Carlson, Flat Top) must fight its way out of a frozen mountain pass despite diminishing supplies, freezing temperatures and constant attacks by overwhelming numbers of Chinese and North Korean soldiers. The stellar cast includes Russ Tamblyn (billed as Rusty) in his first "adult" role, future-director Lamont Johnson (The McKenzie Break), and real-life war hero Peter Ortiz, one of the most decorated Marine officers of World War II. Directed by legendary filmmaker Joseph H. Lewis (The Big Combo, Gun Crazy). Co-written and produced by Milton Sperling (Merrill's Marauders).



The Film:

Retreat, Hell! is out of favor with most disciples of director Joseph H. Lewis, partly because it was a major-studio release, whereas Lewis' cult classics were made on shoestring budgets for independent producers. Despite this "handicap," Retreat, Hell! holds up beautifully when seen today. The faintly scatological title is based on a defiant quote from General Oliver P. Smith, which gained fame during the Korean War. Frank Lovejoy stars as Marine Batallion Commander Steve Corbett, whose men valiantly fight their way towards the Changjin Reservoir, then just as valiantly fight their way back to their own lines. The film's dramatic conflict is in the hands of Richard Carlson, cast as reservist Captain Paul Hanson, who is forced to leave hearth and home when his country calls upon him. Others in the cast include Russ Tamblyn in his first "adult" role, future-director Lamont Johnson, and real-life war hero Peter Ornitz.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

A curious Korean War propaganda assignment, perversely hymning the American art of attacking in the wrong direction. Lewis can't (for once) do a great deal with the well-worn yarn of an army unit being blooded and battling forth-and-back to rearguard heroism. But beyond his characteristically telling handling of violence, several incidentals push up the interest quotient: the most capable soldier is played by McCarthy blacklist victim Ned Young, while Lamont Johnson, later a director of note, is also in the cast.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

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

Retreat, Hell! has some issues on Blu-ray from Olive Films. It is only single-layered with a supportive bitrate but the source has been compromised. Aside from extensive speckling (notable most in the stock-footage battle sequences - see sample at bottom) - there are some scenes where quality degrades and is quite inconsistent from most of the film (see sample below). Other than that it is about what we usually expect from Olive - 1080P with well-layered contrast supporting decent detail. There is a bit of film-like thickness and a hint of grain. Most of the presentation looks acceptable but for those sensitive to the speckling - it IS quite heavy at times. Even with these less-consistent issue the Blu-ray gave me a watchable, and enjoyable viewing.














Stock footage sample



Sporadic weaknesses in the image quality



Audio :

We get a DTS-HD mono track at 839 kbps. There is no depth or range to speak of but it seems a faithful transfer without flaws. William Lava's score seems standard fare with a little 'Ra Ra' thrown in. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu 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 most of their releases.



When I saw Joseph H. Lewis name I got my hopes up a little high.. but Retreat!, Hell is still a pretty good film if not vintage Lewis. There are the expected war clichés and flag waving but the restrained dialogue and tension are well proportioned. I understand John Wayne was originally cast in the film but scheduling made him unavailable. I think this is a better-than-average propaganda war thriller and the Blu-ray is typical for a bare-bones Olive Films' release - a decent, un-manipulated 1080P transfer - fans of the genre may wish to indulge.


Regarding the title: "When asked if they were retreating, Frank Lovejoy's character, Lt. Col Steve Corbett, says, "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction." This was actually said by Maj. Gen. O.P. Smith, who was Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. " (IMDb) 

Gary Tooze

June 14th, 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
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Gary W. Tooze






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