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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

For Whom the Bell Tolls [Blu-ray]


(Sam Wood, 1943)





Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Paramount Pictures

Video: Koch Media



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

Runtime: 2:45:30.211 / 2:12:27.356 

Disc One Size: 30,674,266,342 bytes

Disc Two Size: 39,265,475,222 bytes

Feature Sizes: 30,430,783,488 bytes / 23,072,827,392 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.00 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Digi-book Blu-ray case

Release date: July 9th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Disc one:

2003: DTS-HD Master Audio English 1084 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1084 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)


2003: DTS-HD Master Audio German 991 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 991 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
1951: DTS-HD Master Audio German 863 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 863 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)


Disc Two:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1014 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1014 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)


DTS-HD Master Audio German 849 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 849 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)


Subtitles (both):

German, English, none


Extras (all on disc 2):

• Both original and edited versions
• German Trailer (1:33)
• English Trailer (2:06)
• Radio Play (58:51 in English with Copper and Bergman)
• Image Gallery (26:07)
• 16-page booklet case with photos and German text



Blu-ray 1 (Original longer cut)



Blu-ray 2 (Edited version)



Description: Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls is a romantic drama set against the turbulent tapestry of the Spanish Civil War. Gary Cooper plays Robert Jordan, an idealistic American fighting with a Spanish guerilla band. He is assigned to blow up a crucial bridge in order to halt the enemy's progress. He falls in love with Maria (Ingrid Bergman), a young peasant girl who's joined the fight after being ill-used by enemy troops. Pablo (Akim Tamiroff), the eternally drunken leader of the guerillas, resents Jordan's attentions toward Maria, and he refuses to help Jordan in his sabotage work. Pablo's wife Pilar (Oscar-winner Katina Paxinou) takes over command of the guerillas and helps Jordan by arranging horses for the band's departure after their job is done. The man supplying the horses (Joseph Calleia) is killed, and Jordan is left to finish his task minus a means to escape. For Whom the Bell Tolls was a long, faithful adaptation of the Hemingway novel, with excellent performances, torrid love scenes, and first-rate Technicolor photography.



The Film:

Choosing a leading lady proved a major issue. Ingrid Bergman desperately wanted to play Maria, convinced the role would establish her as a major dramatic actress. She met Hemingway and impressed him as the best choice for the role. But somebody at Paramount - nobody will accept responsibility - decided to give the role to Vera Zorina, a ballet dancer under contract there at the time. Rumors suggest she was having an affair with somebody at the top (she was married to choreographer George Balanchine at the time). Just as likely is the fact that her salary was considerably lower than the fee Paramount would have had to pay for Bergman.

Instead of the career-making role in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Bergman had to settle for the lead in a minor World War II drama at Warner Bros. - Casablanca (1943). But as shooting for both films progressed, word came down from the For Whom the Bell Tolls locations in the Sierra Nevadas that Zorina was not working out. After three weeks of disastrous rushes, Bergman was called in to audition. She won the coveted role during the final days of shooting on Casablanca and quickly drove to the remote location. She also had her hair cut off for the role, a style that swept the nation.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

With such fidelity to the original that practically nothing was left out except all of the unmentionable language and the more intimate romantic scenes, Ernest Hemingway's wonderful novel of the Spanish civil war, "For Whom the Bell Tolls," has been brought to the screen in all its richness of color and character. By and large, it is the best film that has come along this year, and its opening last night at the Rivoli was a truly deserving "event." For, in spite of its almost interminable and physically exhausting length—it takes two hours and fifty minutes to cover less than four days in a group of people's lives—and in spite of some basic detruncations of the novel's two leading characters, it vibrates throughout with vitality and is topped off with a climax that's a whiz.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

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

This is a pleasant surprise - Koch Media in Germany have produced a two Blu-ray package of the 1943 film adaptation of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. It has been available for many years only in the 130-minute reissue version, but this also includes the restored 168 minutes - original-length version. Both get their own dual-layered disc. I compared quality and it is the same for both (same bitrate as well.) Both version are long - 2 1/4 hours and 2 3/4 hours. The image is thick and film-like - softness is inherent in the original production I suspect. There are instances of depth. Colors may not be at Technicolor vibrancy but you can see they advance handily over the greenish and faded SDs. Detail rises dramatically - as does contrast. Damage marks duplicate the DVDs but they aren't as prominent (see sample below.) I doubt this will be looking better - and I was pleased with the fairly consistent video presentation.




Subtitle Sample - Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray



1) Universal Pictures Germany - Region 2 - PAL - TOP
Playstation World Korea - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



NOTE Damage

1) Universal Pictures Germany - Region 2 - PAL - TOP
Playstation World Korea - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Universal Pictures Germany - Region 2 - PAL - TOP
Playstation World Korea - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Universal Pictures Germany - Region 2 - PAL - TOP
Playstation World Korea - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Universal Pictures Germany - Region 2 - PAL - TOP
Playstation World Korea - Region 3 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) Koch Media - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



More Blu-ray Captures












Audio :

Koch Media provide lossless audio - for the longer, original, version they supply 3 options - a 2003 (restored) German DUB in DTS-HD Master as well as a 1951 German DUB (similar encode) - both 16-bit. We also get the restored English via another DTS-HD Master track and it sounds pretty decent with some depth in the aggressive effects (guns, explosions) and all dialogue is clean and clear. The score is composed by Victor Young (Three Faces West, The Sun Shines Bright, Johnny Guitar, China Gate etc.) that adds to the atmosphere of danger, adventure and love. There are optional German or English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


NOTE: While the original version contains the Overture, Entre' Act music - it is not identified by a screen as it is on the German DVD:




Extras :

Aside from both original and edited versions - there are some supplements - and all on the second Blu-ray - we get German and English trailers, the hour-long Radio Play in English (with Copper and Bergman) that I actually liked - plus an extensive image gallery and the case is a Digi-book with photos and 16-pages of German text.


Blu-ray 2


For Whom the Bell Tolls is a powerful film - it took me a while but I watched both versions. I can appreciate the original as an attempt to be faithful to the book. And the edited version was simply to condense - remove some of the fighting and eliminate the Overture, Entre'Act. I think this was a wonderful choice for Koch to release on Blu-ray and they have really gone the extra mile in offering both versions without cramming them both into one lone Blu-ray. It's a good package and the film has such an epic feel - Bergman is at her most beautiful and Cooper is, his usual, subtly impressive level. I was very pleased with this and recommend to fans of Hemingway, Copper and especially Bergman. Great job Koch! 

Gary Tooze

November 20th, 2015





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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Gary W. Tooze






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