Das Boot: The Director's Cut (Superbit) (1997)

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Released 14-Jul-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 202:06 (Case: 216)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Wolfgang Petersen
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jurgen Prochnow
Herbert Gronenmeyer
Klaus Wennemann
Hubertus Bengsch
Martin Semmelrogge
Bernd Tauber
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual-Secure Clip
RPI $37.95 Music Klaus Doldinger


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, a little
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Das Boot is the definitive submarine movie, and one of the greatest war films ever made. This Superbit version presents the extended Director's Cut, with a mammoth 202 minute run time spread across two discs. It used to fall just outside my "Top 10" movies of all time but with this disc, not any longer. Wolfgang Petersen, who co-wrote and expertly directed the film, has been universally recognised as creating a cinematic masterpiece. Originally filmed as a six-hour mini-series for German television in 1981, the original cinema release was nominated for six Academy Awards, which was unheard-of for a foreign language film. This seamlessly extended Director's Cut version exceeds Gone With The Wind for its ability to make hours pass with barely a glance at the clock.

    The film provides a unique insight into the lives of the fifty submariners aboard the U-96. There are all the required ingredients for a fabulous war story here - 75 per cent of all German submariners did not survive the war - so don't expect too many happy scenes from this film. It almost feels like this movie is a documentary at times, and it comes across more as a video journal of actual events rather than a cinematic work of fiction. The screenplay is inspired by the semi-autobiographical novel of Lothar-Gunther Buchheim detailing his experiences as a war journalist (played by Herbert Gronenmeyer) stationed aboard an active U-Boat during 1941 and his observations of the heroism and hardship of the crew and her young, battle-weary Captain (marvellously portrayed by Jurgen Prochnow).

    The film sustains its enormous running time by alternating highly contrasting idioms. Visually, we have the contrast between the cramped, claustrophobic interior of the U-boat versus the massive expanses of open sea when the sub occasionally surfaces. Sonically, there are tracts of the film where the near silence is punctuated only by the creaking of bulkheads and the gurgling of gas bubbles, juxtaposed by a terrifying maelstrom of noise from the cries of "Alarm!", the palpable explosion of depth charges and the even more terrifying "ping" of the sonar from Allied destroyers hunting overhead. Plot-wise we have very humanistic scenes which show the crew as everyday people - writing letters home, picking their nose, entertaining each other with song, watching flies climb the wall or weeping for the loss of enemy lives. These are thrown into stark contrast by periods of intense action and terror, verging on panic as they come under attack, frantically try to repair leaks - or prepare attacks of their own.

    Notably, Petersen avoids the trap of providing clichéd characters and delivering a sugar-coated Hollywood ending, instead providing a warts-and-all look at life as part of the crew. Issues such as the single toilet (the other is full of provisions), smelly feet, pubic lice and beds shared in rotating shifts are glossed over in the sanitised Hollywood films of this ilk. Not so here. Petersen creates a tangible world where you feel like you are observing real-world events in real time. There are several set-pieces in the film which heighten the tension to snapping point, but these flow beautifully and fit into the storyline as though Petersen were transcribing actual events rather than creating a story; there is no hint of contrivance in his wonderful film.

    The fact that Petersen can evoke such empathy for the crew of a wartime U-boat when it is full of "bad guys" is testament to his phenomenal storyline, utterly credible characters and directorial genius. The climactic scenes towards the end of the film (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) when the sub is resting on the sea bed, taking in water and running out of air, are truly some of the most tense and frightening moments ever committed to celluloid.

    If you liked U-571 or The Hunt for Red October, this film will leave you gasping for air. It leaves both of those Hollywood wannabes (both of which I enjoyed) floundering helplessly in its wake. Das Boot is one of the most tension-filled films you will ever experience. If you are claustrophobic, you may find the tension in the cramped interiors of the U-boat almost unbearable. The battle effects (particularly the nail-biting depth-charge sequences) are so realistically portrayed your ears will be ringing and your head spinning. The characters are superbly written and the tight direction is masterful. The soundtrack (see below) is a joy to behold. This film exceeds my capability for superlatives. Das Boot is not only a must-see, but in this Superbit version an absolutely must-own work of genius.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The overall video transfer of this disc is almost perfect and is generally of reference quality. The few defects tend to be due to the quality of the source material, and not the DVD transfer.

    The film is presented 16x9 enhanced at 1.78:1, which is almost identical to the 1.85:1 original theatrical aspect ratio.

    Sharpness is marvellous throughout, with the interior scenes in the submarine (ninety percent of the movie) razor sharp and looking like they were filmed yesterday. There are a couple of instances of fairly significant grain, usually in the aircraft scenes, dark night scenes and the submarine tank shots - all of these are present on the previous Director's Cut transfer, too. Noticeable examples on the first disc are at 1:20 and 72:31 or at 90:00 on the second disc.

    Colours are excellent throughout and although lots of browns, blacks and greys feature in the colour palette for obvious reasons, primary colours come up very well, for example onboard the Weser at 34:27 or during the seascape at 28:45 (both on the second disc). Whilst the colours are fully saturated they are clean and free from colour bleeding. Skin tones appear very natural. Blacks are very solid with no significant low-level noise. Shadow detail is perfect throughout. The film features a very creative use of coloured lighting, with some underwater shots almost totally green, and onboard scenes using blue or red lighting depending on the action status of the sub.

    Jost Vacano, the cinematographer surely deserved (but did not win) an Oscar for his outstanding work, including the ability to track his camera at full running speed through the tiny doorways and overcrowded gangways of the submarine. This was no Hollywood set - Petersen had a full size, seaworthy submarine built from the original plans by the original builder. The interior dimensions of this U-Boat are an incredibly tiny 10 feet wide by 150 feet long. The close quarters necessitated a lot of tightly-cropped shots and this only adds to the feeling of confinement whenever the hatch is closed.

    I could detect no MPEG artefacts. Edge enhancement is rarely noticeable, which is a great effort considering the usually razor sharp image (some can be seen on the Captain at 18:25 on disc 1). I could see no aliasing on my set-up. There is some minor telecine wobble during the opening titles.

    There are several minor film artefacts present - both flecks and the occasional vertical scratch (for example at 1:10, 24:59 or 82:19) on the first disc, but these are all fairly short-lived and given the age of the film, excusable. They are evident as both positive and negative artefacts.

    There are four subtitle tracks available. I watched the whole movie with the English subtitles enabled, and sampled the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles, and found them both to be largely well-timed and generally true to the on-screen dialogue. There are clearly instances, however, where the dialogue is incorrectly translated (my German is weak and rusty, but I'm sure that Scheisse! doesn't mean No!), and I noticed several occasions where the subtitle preceded the spoken words - or more rarely where I could not hear the subtitled words being spoken at all.

    This movie is presented (due to its extremely long run time) spread across two RSDL formatted discs, but I did not notice any layer change on either disc. The Collector's Edition had a noticeable, but not overly distracting layer change at 97:04, but that is not present on this transfer. Instead, the movie comes to a rather abrupt halt at the end of the first disc (at 97:41), and becomes a simple black screen. The second disc recommences at the start of Chapter 36 after the re-selection of audio set-up. This is of course disruptive to the flow of the movie, but the film is so utterly engrossing and the presentation on this set so awe-inspiring that all is forgiven. For this quality, I would even put up with a flipper!

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality of this disc is outstanding. To be honest, I have never heard a more powerful and evocative soundstage than that presented here. It is my new demonstration disc for the use of the LFE .1 track.

    There are three audio tracks available. I understand that the film was shot without sound, due to the unacceptable camera noise which would have been present. Amazingly, the entire soundtrack was added in ADR after the scenes were filmed. Fans of the film get ready to run out and buy this disc immediately - you have never, ever heard this sound so good.

    The first audio track is an utterly magnificent dts 5.1 track encoded at 768 kbps in glorious German. The second is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, also in German, encoded at 448 kbps. I listened to the former in full and sampled the latter. Both of these tracks are excellent and without any significant flaws, but the dts track is so overwhelmingly powerful that this disc is, in itself, a reason to upgrade your system if you do not have dts capability. It is quite simply outstanding. The final audio track is an English dub (mainly by the original actors) in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, encoded at a lightweight 192 kbps. This runs a very poor third and should be ignored. If you simply cannot stand subtitles, and do not speak German, then buy the previous Director's Cut disc instead - that has the English Dolby Digital 5.1 dub encoded at a reasonable 384 kbps and the German Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track encoded at a wimpy 192 kbps.

    Dialogue was crystal clear and audio synch was virtually perfect with few noticeable issues (for example at 15:09 on disc one). Understandably, if you watch the dubbed version, there will be a constant minor issue with synch, despite the fact that the dub has had a lot of effort put into it. The attempt to create good synch does however mean that the dialogue is modified to facilitate it.

    The original music is credited to Klaus Doldinger. Poor chap, how could he even hope to be noticed amid the storm of surround activity which permeates the transfer? I honestly did not notice the music, as I was too engrossed in the plot and overwhelmed by the phenomenal soundstage. On a concentrated re-listening however, I can say that his contribution is a fitting, subtle, and enjoyable string-driven piece which provides a great way to unwind during the closing credits after all the tension that has built up immediately beforehand. During the tension building scenes, he frequently employs stabbing chords and eerie woodwinds to really crank up the emotional stress levels.

    The soundstage redefines the term enveloping. The full complement of speakers are used effectively and frequently to convey hugely atmospheric creaks and bubbling noises within the submarine world. There are superb directional effects, with front to rear panning (like the aeroplane strafing at 48:17), surround utilisation (for example the creaking at 52:27), low frequency effects such as the depth charges around 7:20) plus cross soundstage effects (the incredible bolt bursting scene around 52:30). All these examples are from the second disc, but there are innumerable uses of each throughout the film. This soundtrack, particularly the dts incarnation, will leave you shaking and breathless due to its intensity.

    The subwoofer is used in the most dramatic and sustained way I have ever heard. Whilst it is used very frequently throughout the film for explosive noises (for example the depth charge sequence between 6:29 and 13:00 on disc two, it also supports the musical score and some truly vicious waves crashing over the bridge. As mentioned above, the various depth charge scenes are mind-bogglingly impressive. The bass hits you in the stomach like a punch, you really can feel the explosions and it adds immeasurably to the sense of fear and reality in this film. The contrast between deathly silence as we anticipate the explosion and its sudden arrival is phenomenal. Beware, this dts soundtrack packs a very, very serious punch. If you are uncertain about the capability of your subwoofer, your windows, or your heart, take my advice and crank it down a little. The bass effects here are the deepest and loudest I have ever experienced.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are absolutely no extras on the disc, as would be expected for a Superbit release.

Menu

    The silent menu consists allows the selection of playing the movie, audio set-up, subtitle selection or choosing one of a breathtaking sixty-six chapter stops.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Superbit version of this movie appears essentially to be the same as ours. The Region 4 version (also coded for Region 2) would my version of choice, due to the superior PAL transfer.

Summary

    There has been some debate recently regarding the value of converting already excellent transfers into Superbit format (The Fast and The Furious for example). In this case, the effort is utterly justified due to the sheer magnificence of the dts soundtrack in its original German presented on this version. I would honestly suggest that if you are a fan of this superb film, that you should own both the previous Director's Cut release and the Superbit release. The presence of the Petersen commentary track on the former, and the original German dialogue in magnificent, reference quality dts on the latter makes them both essential additions to your collection.

    The Superbit version of Das Boot is (except for the grain present in the original footage) flawless. The soundtrack is phenomenal and can be system threatening in the LFE department. If you do not already own the movie, then this would easily be my preferred version. If you do already own the previous Director's Cut release, and have the ability to decode dts audio, then I cannot recommend strongly enough that you also buy this magnificent Superbit disc.

    The video quality is generally of reference standard. It is sharp and clear, with well rendered colours and no flaws (except the grain present in a few scenes).

    The audio quality is of reference standard. The German dts track is astoundingly good and is now my soundtrack of choice for the demonstration of surround usage and particularly the power of a superb LFE track. This is a phenomenal soundtrack and I only wish I could allocate more than five stars!

    There are (of course) no extras.

There are Official Distributor Comments available for this review.
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Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Great Review!! - Zinzan (This is my.... bio) REPLY POSTED
Wonderful Film - REPLY POSTED
2 disc movies - Pantha REPLY POSTED
To Pantha - re: 2 disc movies -
good stuff - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic) REPLY POSTED
Picture quality - REPLY POSTED
Response to comments in response to my previous comments - Pantha
2 disc films - Tsargrad (My Bio)
Blue Ray ?!! Tell me more !! (please) - Bran (my bio, or something very like it) REPLY POSTED
Another question, please Daniel: - Bran (my bio, or something very like it) REPLY POSTED
A Comment on the Subtitles - Matthew REPLY POSTED
The u-boat for Indy Jones - REPLY POSTED
Subtitless different on R1 and R2 (including R4) -
R1 vs. R4 (both SuperBit) - MJ defender REPLY POSTED
Das Boot - the original series coming to r1 DVD - REPLY POSTED