The Young Lions (1958)

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Released 11-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Theatrical Trailer-2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:43)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 160:31
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Edward Dmytryk
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Marlon Brando
Montgomery Clift
Dean Martin
Hope Lange
Barbara Rush
May Britt
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Hugo Friedhofer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Based upon the novel by Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions is a rather pretentious film that seems to take forever to go nowhere, and does not do much along the often soporific journey to that destination. For me, the problem is that the film really does not know what it wants to achieve, and in doing so completely fails to capture the nature of the book (which I vaguely recall reading many years ago). Obviously there are plenty out there who have a different opinion than I regarding the film, but it really seems to me to be a film that strives to emphasise something about the war but completely misses the mark. Part of that problem might well be that I have no real understanding of what exactly is the point it is trying to make.

    This meandering little tale begins on the Bavarian ski slopes on New Year's Eve 1938. Part time ski instructor Christian Diestl (Marlon Brando) is trying to make headway with American tourist Margaret Freemantle (Barbara Rush) and is really not succeeding. He is the epitome of the Aryan ideal - blonde hair, presumably blue eyes, tall, and strong. She reluctantly agrees to go to the evening's festivities with him, but at the party comes to realise that the Nazi ideals have burned themselves deeper into German life than she imagined, and is quite appalled by the fact that Christian has sympathy for some of the ideals they espouse. She leaves him at the party, much to his disgust. The next time we see him is as part of the German occupation of France. The next time we see her is in New York. In New York we first meet Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin), a Broadway producer who is looking for a way (any way) out of being drafted - despite being rated 1A. He has no desire to go to war and will do just about anything to get out of it, which surprisingly does not bother his girlfriend - Margaret Freemantle. At the medicals, we also meet Noah Ackerman (Montgomery Clift), almost the complete antithesis to Michael - ready and willing to go to war - although this may have something to do with the fact he has no family and has had no success in life. Michael and Noah meet and, on the slightest pretence, Noah finds himself invited to a bash held by Michael and Margaret. At that bash, the shy Noah meets Hope Plowman (Hope Lange), a beautiful country girl from Vermont, and starts on a voyage that will change his life.

    The film then descends into an intertwining look at the men and their lives. Christian has strong beliefs that only good will come from the German occupation of Europe - a united Europe will result - and cannot understand the attitude of a French girl who sees him as nothing more than a pig. As his relationship with this French girl develops, he finds himself questioning what exactly he is doing in France and what the Germans are actually doing. He requests a transfer to combat duties, and eventually finds himself in North Africa where the devolution of his belief in the Nazi ideals continues, along with the contraction of the German sphere of influence as the Allies gain the upper hand. His final tussle is with the concept of concentration camps and the murder of thousands of people. His devolution is also accompanied by that of Germany and the showcase for that is Gretchen Hardenburg (May Britt), wife of his commanding officer. Meantime back in the States, Noah is willingly off to the Army (after marrying Hope, a not inconsiderable achievement). Despite his best efforts, Michael too finds himself in the Army in the same unit as Noah. Both have difficulty adjusting to the Army - Noah predominantly because of his religion and the persecution by his superiors as he is seen as an intellectual because he reads such books as Ulysses by James Joyce. Noah's troubles in the Army are the central core of his participation in the film as he sees nothing wrong with what he is, yet is continually having to fight for the respect he should deserve. Michael's time in the Army is made easier by the fact that he knows people and is transferred out of the combat unit to unspecified duties. However, as he comes to realise that his self-indulgent ways are not the road to answers as a man, the lives of the three main characters come to intersect at one point in time in Europe.

    The casting of the film is perhaps the most interesting thing about it. Marlon Brando is the star here of course, and this is a fine effort. The ride he takes us on from superficial to deeply perturbed as his character comes to understand the fundamental truths about the Nazi ideals is the highlight of the film. Brando fans will certainly enjoy this no end. Unfortunately, with the commanding Brando in the lead role, the casting of Dean Martin was not so great. Sure, this remains one of his better turns as an actor - something he strove to be respected for - but no matter how good he was, he would always pale against Brando. Were it not for Brando's presence I am sure that Martin's performance would be recognised more for its braveness (come on, think about when the film was made and the nature of American patriotism). Montgomery Clift was a great actor who unfortunately had problems with his life that saw him succumb to an early demise. This was the sort of role that he played so well, with comparisons to his role in From Here To Eternity being inevitable - the downtrodden but decent person who has to fight hard for what should be his. They carried the film as a trio but the supporting roles are no less well cast: Hope Lange was wonderful as the country girl, Barbara Rush excellent as the street-wise New York girl and May Britt shines as the parallel of German fortunes as the stay-at- home wife of a German officer. But beyond the cast. the cinematography is great and the direction assured.

    It is therefore something of a pity that all this is wrapped up in a film that meanders its way through a soporific path to nowhere. This is definitely not going to be to everyone's taste and I fear that time has not been at all kind to this film. Whilst my general appreciation of film has improved as I get older, this one still leaves me as cold now as it did thirty years ago.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I have only seen this film probably twice before this review session and its presentation never really enthused at all. Obviously I never had the chance to see it on the big screen and it was many years before I started to understand how badly some films were affected by the pan and scan process for television broadcast. This is clearly one film that really did suffer badly from the process, and to see the film in widescreen finally does make you realise how fine the cinematography was - and why it copped an Oscar nomination in 1959. I know many people complain about having black bars on their television when viewing widescreen films, but just seeing how much a film like this loses in the pan and scan process is surely a convincing argument as to why the process ought to be banned.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is not a transfer in the same league as D-Day The Sixth Of June, a slightly older film, and nor in the league of the slightly younger Sink The Bismarck!. One reason for that is the war footage used here is much more prone to grain and badly afflicted with film artefacts. But that is not the entire explanation and from the opening sequence on the ski slopes, you know that the grain problem here is going to be bad. It generally is. Despite the grain, amongst a myriad of other issues, there is still plenty of stuff that is decent about the transfer. Ignoring the variable nature of the actual war footage, the transfer is quite sharp and very nicely detailed. Aside from one or two spots where shadow detail might have been better, this is a generally better than average transfer in that regard and some of the scenes are quite stunningly effective in this regard. When the grain diminishes, the clarity is excellent.

    This is a very nice looking transfer as far as the black and white tones are concerned, with the blacks having a generally very good depth to them. The grey scales are very well defined and the overall feel is quite a vibrant one. Obviously the actual war footage is not up to this calibre, and unlike Sink The Bismarck! where the blending of war footage with film was very skilfully done, this is a little more obvious in its move from one sort of footage to the other.

    There is no indication here of any significant MPEG artefacting. There is however a bit more aliasing here than in the past two films - the usual suspects being railings (16:35) and fences (64:38). Whilst it is certainly worse than the previous two films, it is by no means blatantly distracting. Unfortunately, film artefacts are way more of a problem, with the transfer exhibiting some rather obvious black scratch marks on the print for quite extended periods of time. Add into the mix the obligatory specks and so on and the whole thing does get a little tiring on the eyes.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD obviously, given the length of the film, but I am buggered if I know where the layer change is. There were a number of places where the layer change could potentially be, but in the end I could not be sure at all, as they could equally be slight glitches in the source print.

    There is a small number of subtitle options on the DVD. The English efforts are generally quite good, with little missing in the dialogue.

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

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, with four of them being indicated as Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtracks: French, German, Italian and Spanish. The fifth soundtrack is an English soundtrack that is indicated as a Dolby Digital 2.0 effort. Whilst everything seems to point to a stereo effort, it really does sound very mono, centre channel only to me. It should be noted that the film apparently garnered an Oscar nomination in 1959 for Best Sound: I found this very surprising as the overall quality here was very laughable.

    Whilst by no means a spring chicken as far as age is concerned, this is one of the rare instances where I have genuinely been reduced to laughter by the quality of the soundtrack. Most of the problems surround two aspects of the transfer: the appallingly obvious ADR work and the bodiless, echoey sound of the transfer where ADR has not been employed. Given that between them these comprise just about the whole soundtrack, the result is a major disappointment. The ADR work is really the worst of the offenders, as it is glaringly obvious whenever ADR has been used. Not only does the dialogue have a much fuller sound, but it is much smoother and without any form of background noise. Everywhere else the sound has a peculiar echoey feel to it with plenty of background noise. That echoey sound is very similar to that heard on D-Day The Sixth Of June but this time more pronounced. The result of the variations in the sound is a soundtrack that staggers from hissy, thin, echoey sound to clean, full bodied sound - often several times during conversations. Add into the equation that the ADR work is not always the best, and it always seems to be that the soundtrack is very slightly out of sync to the film. It is not really - it is just that the ADR work really was that sloppy - and this for a film that garnered an Oscar nomination for sound...

    Hugo Friedhofer provided the original score, which also copped an Oscar nomination. It actually is a pretty good score, and provides the film with an interesting theme during the opening credits. It adds some nice support during the film but, like the film itself, soon wears out its welcome.

    The soundtrack really does come across as a straight mono sound, very much coming straight from the centre channel. I cannot say that I liked the presentation that much, and at times the sound became really very thin. Some of the sound effects for instance really do not come up well as a result and the whole soundtrack just underwhelmed and disappointed me.

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

Extras

    The basic standard package seen in the previous two releases from the series: Sink The Bismarck! and D-Day The Sixth Of June.

Menu

    The same very functional but out of character with the era of the film menu as on the previously reviewed discs from this collection.

Theatrical Trailer (2:43)

    The trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Unfortunately, the sound is at times slightly distorted, the transfer rather darkish and blessed with plenty of film artefacts.

R4 vs R1

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

    It would appear that the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 release misses out on nothing but some variation in soundtracks. In Region 2 (UK) the film is available in a two disc set with the other film being D-Day The Sixth Of June (the previous film in this series to be reviewed). Given the style of the films, the latter presentation is an entirely apt one. From what I can ascertain, the transfers of the Region 1 and 2 releases seem to be very similar overall and there is little to choose between the three releases. The presence of the additional trailers would however make the Region 1 release the marginally more preferable.

Summary

    Whilst I have rarely seen the film, The Young Lions has never struck me as a coherent film. It seems to take an interminably long time to go nowhere and does nothing in the process that really sustains the film. There are certainly some messages to be found in the film, but in general these are hardly worthy of the length and lack of direction The Young Lions covers. I am well aware that there are many that proclaim it a classic film, possibly because it is one of Marlon Brando's early films, but unfortunately I am not one of them. The video transfer afforded the film is the worst of the three Fox War Classics seen thus far, and the audio transfer is almost laughable in its presentation. Admittedly the latter is not the fault of the transfer, but it does detract overall from a DVD that is really not a great effort at all.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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