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(aka 'The Immortal Battalion')

Directed by Carol Reed


Carol Reed's lump-in-the-throat, flag-waver still packs a powerful punch and his semi-documentary technique provides a realistic grittiness to the on screen action. A highly talented cast moves this impressive wartime story on, as we observe a motley crew of young recruits, as they learn to become soldiers, through to the end of the film when they must prove themselves against the enemy. Film debut of Trevor Howard. Originally released in the U.S. in a shortened, more serious version titled "The Immortal Battalion".


The Immortal Battalion has a bit of a convoluted history. It started life as a training film, The New Lot, which ran 44 minutes. When Winston Churchill approached David Niven about creating a film that would do for the British Army what In Which We Serve had done for the Royal Navy, he contacted Carol Reed and suggested expanding The New Lot. The result, written by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov, was the acclaimed The Way Ahead. For its U.S. release, Way Ahead was edited to a shorter length and retitled The Immortal Battalion. In either of its feature length forms, the film is concerned with the training of a bunch of raw recruits into a capable and efficient fighting regiment. Niven stars as Jim Perry, a lieutenant and former ordinary guy who finds that he must learn to take a tough line in order to make his wildly diverse crew come together and understand the importance both of the war and of their place in it. Although it takes time and constant effort on the part of Perry and his sergeant, the eight men eventually overcome their different backgrounds and feelings, and transform themselves into a unit which performs its tasks with admirable skill and dexterity, preparing them for their battle against the Desert Fox in Africa. Told in a semi-documentary style, Battalion also features the screen debut of Trevor Howard.


Theatrical Release: June 3rd, 1945

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DVD Review: VCI Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution VCI Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:54:44 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.7 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: VCI Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 matted to 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Battle of the Desert (49:14)
• Photos

DVD Release Date: July 25th, 2012

Keep Case
Chapters: 8



VCI have chosen an excellent film - previously available in the UK HERE - to release on DVD in region 1 - NTSC. It is documentary-like and has shows the evolution of some stalwart civilians being educated in the tactical principles of battle in North Africa. It is filled with important star performances and highlights teamwork and togetherness in the war effort. Reed succinctly captures the spirit of the events.

Strangely this 1.33:1 film has been matted to a 960 anamorphic transfer while maintaining the original aspect ratio. Hence there are thick black bars on the side edges (cropped on the captures below). The resulting image is in-and-around 720 pixels wide and may have benefited from this uncommon authoring practice. The dual-layered image comes from an impressive source. Contrast is reasonably strong and detail surprisingly good. There isn't any intrusive damage and only minor speckles deviating from a pristinely smooth appearance. There is a thickness to the image quality that reflects a strong sense of the film although a touch of DNR may have been applied. Regardless, the outcome is very pleasing considering the SD format.

Audio is unremarkable but close, I'll wager, to the way it was produced. There are optional English subtitles. Supplements include a 50-minute "Battle of the Desert" episode from the "Big Battles" Series - essentially a war documentary and there is also a photo gallery.

Great stuff here - a solid, and historically interesting, production - adeptly transferred supply a worthy DVD presentation. I was taken back by how good the film is. Strongly recommended! 

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution VCI Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC


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