The Fighting Sullivans (The Sullivans)

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1944 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 111:53 minutes Other Extras Menu Audio and Animation
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Lloyd Bacon

Force Video
Starring Anne Baxter
Thomas Mitchell
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $29.95 Music Cyril I. Mockridge

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s) 
English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    The packaging proudly proclaims this the movie that inspired Saving Private Ryan. Since I have not seen that film, I would not be able to pass comment on that claim, but it certainly starts the viewing experience with some trepidation. Which is a pity as The Fighting Sullivans is not too bad a film - providing that you ignore the very serious doses of American patriotism that very nearly sink the film. This really almost borders on being a propaganda film, to bolster American support for the war effort in the latter part of World War II - which apparently backfired somewhat. And if you are expecting a war film here, you are definitely going to be disappointed.

    The movie is based upon the true story of the Sullivan family, the five boys of which served on the same ship, upon which they all lost their lives in Guadalcanal in 1942. The story begins with the baptism of each of the five boys (but noticeably the single daughter did not rate a mention), and covers the "highlights" of their lives as they grow up in Waterloo, Iowa. Eventually, the story reaches their adulthood and their eventual enlistment with the Navy after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The war section of the film is very brief and covers their death on board the U.S.S. Juneau, and the eventual launch of a vessel named in their honour.

    The whole film was clearly designed to be a patriotic boosting effort, and needs to be seen in that light. If you are unable to stomach too much in the way of American patriotism, then you would probably be best advised to avoid this effort. Certainly at times I felt it became just a little too much to stomach. The performances are suitably tear jerking, highlighting every suitably apple pie event of the boys lives, such as the Huckleberry Finn escapade in the boat, the building of the wood box and eldest brother's victory in a motorcycle race. But this is far from great acting, although it is suitably engaging. I was somewhat surprised to discover that the film garnered an Oscar nomination in 1945 for Best Writing-Original Story: I did not think it was that good!

Transfer Quality


    So this effort is fifty six years old, so obviously the transfer has some problems. Nonetheless this was actually better than I was expecting in general.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    The transfer is somewhat variable, at times being very sharp and with very nice contrast, and at other times, the sharpness becoming a little softer, although nothing too bad at all, with the contrast dropping somewhat. In general the definition is acceptable, and nothing more. Shadow detail at times is very decent for a film of this age, at others it is extremely poor with no real definition at all. There does not appear to be any low level noise problems with the transfer. We do again have some problems with green tinges on the left hand side of the film at times, compounded by the odd appearance of a blue tinge to the bottom left of the picture.

    The black and white transfer at times has a very nice depth to the blacks, at other times they become more like greys. The vibrancy at times is excellent, but is generally pretty decent.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were not too prevalent, although at times there was some noticeable, although minor, aliasing present. There was no lack of film artefacts during the film, but certainly no more than I was expecting: at times, these were quite distracting to the film. Obviously, there are some inherent problems with the original print, such as jumps in the film and inconsistencies in the contrasts, but these are not mastering problems.


    For the second Force release in a row, there are some problems with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I listened to the 5.1 soundtrack whilst sampling the 2.0 soundtrack.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear and easy to understand.

    There were no significant audio sync problems with the disc, although early on there was the odd hint that perhaps sync was about to become a problem.

    The score by is provided by Cyril I. Mockridge, and a completely hackneyed effort it is too, completely lacking any merit whatsoever.

    As for the actual soundtrack itself, this started out as a shocker. There is significant distortion in the soundtrack, especially in the first twenty minutes of the film, and the entire soundtrack is blessed with inconsistency in the audio level. After the first twenty minutes or so the overall quality improved, but this is far from a good 5.1 remastered soundtrack. The surround presence is sadly lacking in general, with very little (if any) noticeable use of the rear surround channels nor the bass channel at times. When the bass channel does get some use, it sounds most odd mainly because it is so sadly lacking from most of the film. The overall sound picture is not too bad though, if not totally encompassing, as the film is predominantly dialogue driven. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack seems to be a much more consistent soundtrack, and you are really better served by listening to it in preference to the 5.1 soundtrack.


    Well, I suppose the synopsis counts as an extra.


    Features some quite extensive, if ultimately not too worthwhile, menu audio and animation.


    This is actually a brief collection of notes detailing the story of the Sullivan boys.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that this has not yet made the release sheets in Region 1.


    Well if you can get past the American patriotism and the somewhat problematic sound, coupled with the usual transfer problems associated with films of this vintage, The Fighting Sullivans is actually quite an interesting film, and still quite watchable. I doubt that I will return to it often, but it will be a film that will appear in my player again.

    The video transfer is average.

    The audio transfer is less than average.

    The extras are hardly worth bothering with.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
4th January 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL