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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Armored Attack and The North Star [Blu-ray]

 

(Lewis Milestone, 1943)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: RKO Radio Pictures

Video: Olive Films

 

Disc:

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

 

Armored Attack:

Runtime: 1:16:16.572

Disc Size: 40,089,295,069 bytes

Feature Size: 14,881,376,256 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.89 Mbps

Chapters: 8

 

The North Star:

Runtime: 1:46:16.370

Disc Size: 40,089,295,069 bytes

Feature Size: 23,114,532,864 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.62 Mbps

Chapters: 9

 

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 15th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 851 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 851 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

• Radio Adaptation (29:43)

 

Bitrates:

1) Armored Attack - Region FREE Blu-ray  - TOP

2) The North Star - Region FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Description: In a peaceful Ukrainian village, the school year is just ending in June 1941. Five young friends set out for a walking trip to Kiev, but their travels are brutally interrupted when they are suddenly attacked by German planes, in the first wave of the Nazi assault on the Soviet Union. When the village itself is attacked and occupied, most of the men flee to the hills to form a guerrilla unit. The others resist the Nazis as well as possible, but soon the village is placed under the command of a Nazi doctor who begins using the town's children as a source of constant blood transfusions for wounded German soldiers. Meanwhile, the small group of young persons tries desperately to take a supply of firearms to the guerrillas.

***

When the school year ends, five friends from a small Ukrainian village decide to travel to Kiev. Their trip is cut short when German aircraft attack and their town falls under occupation. While many escape to the hills to form an anti-Nazi resistance group, a German doctor, Dr. Otto Von Harden (Erich von Stroheim), begins to use the children for medical experiments and as sources of blood transfusions for wounded German soldiers. Directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front), this story of valiant resistance stars Dana Andrews (Laura), Anne Baxter (All About Eve), and Walter Huston (The Treasure of Sierra Madre) as the Russian doctor who discovers the nefarious German plot. In 1943,The North Star was nominated for six Academy Awards.

 

 

The Film:

Heroic Russian villagers fight off Nazi invaders in this hokey pro-Soviet flag-waver, which was later to embarrass the Goldwyn studio and just about everybody who'd worked on it, when McCarthy's commie-hunting investigators started prying. Lillian Hellman adapted the dire screenplay from her own book - and, yes, that is Walter Brennan as a Russky.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

A screenplay by Lillian Hellman and an all-star cast including Dana Andrews, Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, Erich von Stroheim and Farley Granger (in his film debut) highlight Lewis Milestone's controversial 1943 World War II drama The North Star. The film focuses on the people of a happy Soviet farming collective in 1941 whose lives are shattered following a violent invasion by the Germans. Condemned by many as blatant Communist propaganda to help rally support for the alliance between the United States and Russia at the time, The North Star is a fascinating blend of politics and melodrama.

The idea to make The North Star came initially as a request from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to producer Sam Goldwyn. "In the winter of 1942, when the news from the Russian front was very bad indeed," explains actor Farley Granger in his 2007 autobiography Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway, "Goldwyn received a message from President Roosevelt through Lowell Mellett, the chief of the Bureau of Motion Pictures of the Office of War Information, that America needed a film about our Russian allies." It would be a portrayal designed to gather sympathy for the Russian people and strengthen American support for the U.S. government's alliance with the Soviet Union. Goldwyn was very enthusiastic about the idea and rushed the film into production. Fueling his enthusiasm was also the fact that President Roosevelt's son, James, was an executive at Goldwyn's studio at the time.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

Firstly, this Olive Blu-ray has two editions of the film. The North Star (1943) was re-released in the midst of the Cold War as Armored Attack! (1957.) The original references to the allied Russian military were excised and an overtly anti-Communist narration track was added. This disc includes the original theatrical cut, The North Star, which runs 30 minutes longer and preserves Milestone’s initial version of the film before these politically-motivated changes were made. So, it is dual-layered with quality about the same for the two versions (the longer The North Star may actually be marginally better with a bit higher bitrate.) It looks typical for Olive - the 1080P exports some impressive contrast but there are occasional marks and speckles. Detail is decent although there is only modest depth but there is some pleasing grain textures. The Blu-ray provides a solid presentation for both versions.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Armored Attack - Region FREE Blu-ray  - TOP

2) The North Star - Region FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio comes in the form of a DTS-HD Master - authentic mono track for both features. Effects include planes and bombing raids, but the biggest beneficiary may be the score by Aaron Copland (The Red Pony, The Heiress) with pieces like 'Song of the Fatherland' and 'Song of the Guerrillas' - all with lyrics by Ira Gershwin.  There are no subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being Region FREE - playable on Blu-ray player worldwide.

 

 

Extras :

aside from the inclusion of The North Star (under the 'Bonus Materials' menu) there is also a half hour Radio Adaptation broadcast January 1944 - it has Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, Farley Granger and Jane Withers reprising their roles from the film.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
This is one of the more valuable packages from Olive - offering both versions and the radio adaptation supplement. This is one of the more obvious propaganda films that I've seen and it is interesting to see what was removed as the political winds altered. You could almost say it was funny at how blatant and melodramatic it extends - although, I admit to being susceptible to its charms.  But I like the cast, Dana Andrews and Farley Granger - Anne Baxter - all good. The film on Blu-ray is more a historical artifact - and well-presented in 1080P. It's value should appeal to students keen on this topic as well as those who enjoy the performances, James Wong Howe cinematography and a master storyteller in Lewis Milestone. There is value here, but it may not appeal to everyone. 

Gary Tooze

July 10th, 2014

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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