They Were Expendable (1945) (NTSC)

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Released 8-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1945
Running Time 134:46
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:07) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By John Ford
Robert Montgomery

Warner Home Video
Starring Robert Montgomery
John Wayne
Donna Reed
Jack Holt
Ward Bond
Marshall Thomson
Paul Langton
Leon Ames
Arthur Walsh
Donald Curtis
Cameron Mitchell
Jeff York
Murray Alper
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Earl K. Brent
Herbert Stothart

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    They Were Expendable is an odd title for this film. You would think the title would usher up some movie about special forces units sent behind enemy lines to achieve the impossible in a high risk mission. But it’s not. This is basically a patriotic US movie about PT Torpedo Boats fighting a delaying action against the Japanese in the Pacific shortly after Pearl Harbor.

    Given this movie was made in 1945, you really have to take that into account when you sit down to watch it. The revisionist history movement regarding WWII would not evolve for decades, and the Hollywood film industry was churning out plenty of movies about the heroic efforts of their defence forces. Seen in that light, it is perhaps not all that bad given its ultimate conclusions.

    So, yeah – sure the acting is pretty bad by contemporary standards, although Robert Montgomery is excellent in his understated role. Sure the war realism isn’t so great, although admittedly it is pretty good for its time. Sure, some of the dialogue is just atrocious drivel. Sure the sentimentalism is totally out of place a lot of the time. Sure the romantic subplot was a bit of a Hollywood try hard effort. But there are no happy endings here, and that is perhaps its saving grace.

    I wouldn’t suggest a remake of this movie as I think the war in the Pacific has been handled exceptionally well with Terrence Malick’s masterpiece The Thin Red Line. But if the directors, producers and stars had the insight of contemporary film making they might have toned down some of the patriotism and played up the ‘war is hell’ angle to more effect and had a piece of truly timeless film making. As it is, this is best viewed as a good movie for its time, definitely worth a look if, like me, you are interested in the war film genre, but otherwise dated and nostalgic.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, this is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Indeed, the credits, both intro and extro are presented in 1.37:1 letterboxed, before the picture widens out again to 1.33:1.

    Sadly, this is a re-badged Black & White NTSC transfer, rather than a new Black & White PAL transfer. Although this does not make as much difference as an NTSC colour transfer, the resolution is still not as good.

    That said, this is a relatively clear and sharp print. Shapes are well defined, and shadow detail is quite good. It is not overly grainy, even for a film of its age.

    There is a bit of dirt on the print, but considerably less than I was expecting for a film made in 1945.

    There are no real MPEG artefacts, but sadly there is a film-to-video transfer artefact here that makes the picture almost unwatchable. It would appear that every twenty-fourth frame or so is out of sync, jumping up slightly higher than the rest by maybe only a millimetre or two. As a result, the picture looks ‘wobbly’ or ‘flickery’. Although in panning shots and in shots where there is nothing in the background it is very hard to notice this problem, if you take a point, say in the top right corner of the screen, and focus on it, you will see it persistently hovering up and down. This actually starts to hurt the eyes after an hour or so, and by the end of the movie you are guaranteed a nasty headache.

    There are two sets of subtitles – one in French and one in English. They are white with a black border and convey the story with only a few minor discrepancies.

    The dual-layer pause is at 83:07. It is during a black frame at the end of a fade out between scene changes and barely noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The only audio available is an English 2.0 Mono track. Like most mono tracks, it is fairly flat, artificial, and tinny. Sound effects are pretty dull.

    You can understand the dialogue throughout, if you can get past Wayne’s Texas drawl, and I spotted no audio sync problems, which is a plus.

    There was no surround use and no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (1:40)

    Presented in 1.37:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Mono.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R1 release of this disc would appear to be largely identical, although the original DVD release had an 8-page booklet with production details. I do not know if the ‘flicker’ problem is also present on the R1 release, but can find nothing to suggest that it is.


    They Were Expendable is a fairly good war movie for its time, but it is somewhat dated and does not really hold up all that well.

    The picture is badly flawed.

    The sound is flat mono.

    The extras are slim.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Jules F
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Roger L
Web Wombat - John K

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