Midway (1976)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-The Sounds of Midway
Featurette-The Score of Midway
Featurette-"They Were There" documentary
Gallery-Photo
Additional Footage
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 126:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (102:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Subtitle Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Jack Smight
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Charleton Heston
Edward Albert
Henry Fonda
James Coburn
Glenn Ford
Hal Halbrook
Toshiro Mifune
Robert Mitchum
Cliff Robertson
Robert Wagner
Robert Webber
Ed Nelson
James Shigeta
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (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 English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Portuguese
Dutch
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Hebrew
Arabic
Russian
Turkish
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In 1942, the war in the Pacific was still in doubt. The two naval forces fighting for superiority in the region, Japan and the US, knew that a major confrontation was on the cards. More importantly, both sides knew the importance of aircraft carriers to modern naval warfare. After the Battle of the Coral Sea, 7 - 8 May 1942, the US naval forces were severely diminished, the carrier USS Lexington having been abandoned due to severe fire damage, and the carrier USS Yorktown suffering hits, but still able to return to Pearl Harbor under its own steam. The Japanese conceived of one final battle, the taking of Midway Island, from which to launch an attack on Pearl Harbor and ensure the destruction of the US Navy, at which point the US would have to sue for peace. However, luck and daring would play an integral part in this Pacific endgame, with the scales tilting back and forth during a cat and mouse game around the island.

    The film Midway charts the Battle of Midway from the Doolittle Raid in the opening credits to the Battle of the Coral Sea to the final outcome of Midway, at which point the future of the war in the Pacific was all but determined. Though several more years of fighting would ensue, the Japanese knew that their hopes of destroying the US Navy were dramatically lessened and the remainder of their naval forces were easy pickings for carrier-launched US aircraft. The movie plays out like a chess game, with two master strategists – Adm. Nimitz (Henry Fonda) and Adm. Yamamoto (Toshiro Mifune) – making moves that determine the fates of thousands of lives, and their officers playing the strategic field according to the given circumstances. This is a very effective means of storytelling and Midway works best at these moments.

    There is also a dramatic subplot here revolving around Capt. Matthew Garth (Charleton Heston) and his son, Ens. Thomas Garth (Edward Albert), who has fallen in love with a Japanese girl, Haruko Sakura (Christina Kokubo), who has been interned by the FBI. Relations between father and son are strained since a recent divorce, and Capt. Garth is seeking forgiveness. Although it is not clearly made out, Capt. Garth is also a naval aviator who has been grounded after suffering a hand injury. While certainly adding some depth to the overall plot, director Jack Smight (of Airport 1975 infamy) handles these sequences as poorly as a 1960s TV-soap opera of Passions calibre. While the aging Heston gives a fine performance, Albert and his romantic interest Kokubo are truly appalling, and in my opinion much of this was unnecessary and makes the early part of the film drag. It amused me to learn that a further dramatic/romantic subplot, featuring Susan Sullivan as Capt. Garth’s girlfriend, was removed and having now seen the sequence (it is available in the extras section of the DVD) I can see why. Aside from the fact that their apartment is dressed in 1970s decor and Sullivan is dressed in a 1970s costume, the acting is shocking, the lines dreadful, and the whole thing emotionally shallow.

    Midway works best during its chess game sequences of cat and mouse and confusion during battle at sea. Indeed, there is a movie core here that is ripe for a remake, especially given that the events of Midway, coupled with the Battle of the Coral Sea, are amongst some of the most tense and dramatic moments of the war when the outcome was still in the balance, and heroic sacrifice and bad luck really did dictate the outcome. If Ron Howard could do for this what he did for Apollo 13 he would undoubtedly have a few more Oscars on his hands. As it stands, this is still a good watch, but you will find yourself fast forwarding through some sequences.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I had a VHS copy of this film presented in 1.33:1. I initially did not recognise this as the same film – it looked too new and too recent. The VHS copy was blurry, over-soft, washed-out and shot through with film artefacts. This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    On the whole, this transfer is excellent, exhibiting sharp, detailed imagery, good shadow detail, and an acceptable level of graininess that is merely indicative of the filming technique. It should be noted that a lot of the film is cut up with real footage, although apparently quite a bit of it is not actually from the Battle of Midway. These scenes exhibit a noticeable loss in picture quality, particularly in terms of graininess and film artefacts.

    There were three shots, however, that I was not sure were stock footage, and which were incredibly grainy. These were at 12:58, 30:01, 120:01.

    Colours are very good, rivalling the transfer of Jaws: Collector’s Edition in its colour palette, which is a movie of the same vintage and from the same studio.

    There were, thankfully, no MPEG artefacts, and very few film-to-video transfer artefacts. The worst I noticed was some moire on grille plating at 55:58.

    As I stated above, the film was relatively free of film artefacts, although the stock footage sequences were visibly worse for this than the sequences filmed in 1976.

    There are 8 sets of subtitles, available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Swedish. They are white with black borders and, if I may say, a little ‘blocky’. Still, they are clear and easy to read and convey the gist of the dialogue if not being word for word.

    The dual layer pause occurs at 62:40 during a pause in dialogue. It is brief and non-disruptive.

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

Audio

    There are five soundtracks available – English, French, German, Italian, Spanish – all in 2.0 Dolby Mono. The dubbed language tracks seemed fine.

    The original English track, although only a Mono track, has an excellent range due to the fact that the original film was recorded in Sensurround, an electronic audio format that used low frequency bass to create sensation with sound.

    The dialogue is easy to understand throughout, and there were no audio sync issues.

    The score, a stirring and often militaristic ensemble by the legendary John Williams (of Star Wars fame), comes through clear and rich.

    I did notice some irritating popping static noises on the soundtrack at 28:36, lasting for only a few seconds.

    Because this is a Mono track, there really is no surround presence, and although the Sensurround utilised the low frequency bass in my left-right front towers, the active sub remained dormant.

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

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. The main menu has a 2.0 Dolby Stereo soundtrack and a moving snippet from the opening credits. The scene selections menu has small clips from each of the scenes which last for about ten seconds and the score playing in 2.0 Dolby Stereo. The other menus are static and silent.

Featurette – “The Making Of Midway” (38:58)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a documentary made in 2001 featuring interviews with the principal cast and crew on the making of the film. Like the rest of the special features here, this is particularly prone to macro-blocking.

Featurette – “The Sounds Of Midway” (4:17)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a recent featurette discussing the Sensurround sound format used in the film to give war realism. While certainly dated by today’s standards, it was still fairly effective in its day.

Featurette – “The Score Of Midway” (6:23)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a look at John Williams and the scoring of the movie.

“They Were There” Documentary (6:20)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Mono, this is an old, blurry promotional documentary that is brief, poorly produced and, well, crap.

Photograph Montage (2:59)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo. A collection of artwork and stills for the film with John Williams' score playing across it.

Deleted Scenes (10:30)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Mono, this is the removed sequence featuring Susan Sullivan as Ann, Capt. Garth’s love interest. Thankfully this sequence was removed from the theatrical release.

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 R4 release appears to be identical to the R1 Collector’s Edition release of this disc. The original R1 version was non-16x9 enhanced, and had no extras. It would appear that the full-length TV version is not available on DVD.

Summary

    Midway is a fairly good WWII war movie about a pivotal moment during the war in the Pacific. The core of this movie is in the right place and it is ripe for a remake. Let’s hope Ron Howard gets there before Michael Bay does, though, because I could really do without seeing this butchered Pearl Harbor style.

    The video is a very good restoration, all things considered, although there was little that could be done about the quality of the stock footage.

    The sound is very good for a 2.0 Mono mix.

    The extras were good, although the video was a little funny.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Wednesday, August 20, 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

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Comments (Add)
Stock footage - wolfgirv