The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

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Released 5-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 99:06 (Case: 103)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mark Robson
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring William Holden
Grace Kelly
Fredric March
Mickey Rooney
Robert Strauss
Charles McGraw
Keiko Awaji
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Lyn Murray


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame 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 None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
French
German
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Italian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Serbian
Slovenian
Spanish
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Harking back once again to those glorious days of the Saturday afternoon matinee on television sees the Korean War set drama of The Bridges At Toko-Ri appearing on Region 4 DVD. I well remember sitting back many a time to watch this film and always enjoying it. Part of the reason for that was that it contains some rather nice footage of the McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee, one of the primary weapons of the United States Navy aboard its carriers during the Korean War. The F2H-2 Banshee was not one of the great aircraft of the United States Navy but certainly performed its fighter-bomber roles in Korea with distinction. It also featured some nice footage of one of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy, CV 34 USS Oriskany (at least I believe that is the carrier used in the film). Me watching the film had absolutely nothing to do with the presence of Grace Kelly...

    Yeah, right...

    Something of an at-times heavy-handed tribute to the service personnel who fought during the oft-neglected (at the time) and then-recently concluded Korean War, the story is based around one Lieutenant Harry Brubaker (William Holden), a successful lawyer pulled out of his practice to go back to war fighting the Communist hoards from the north. He is not happy about it, especially as it means leaving behind his wife Nancy (Grace Kelly) and his two daughters. The film starts with him ditching his aircraft whilst returning to his carrier and having to be rescued from the cold water by rescue chopper pilot Mike Forney (Mickey Rooney) and his offsider Nestor Gamidge (Earl Holliman). His dissatisfaction with having to be where he is is not lost during a meeting with Admiral George Tarrant (Fredric March) aboard the carrier as he recuperates from the ditching, a meeting during which a highly dangerous mission against a certain bunch of bridges is first brought to the attention of the viewer. Turns out that Brubaker has been a bit naughty too, in arranging for his wife and children to go to Japan where he can meet them during liberty when the carrier returns to Yokosuka. However, the time with his family is interrupted by having to get Forney out of jail after a brawl, time which Admiral Tarrant uses well to raise within Nancy Brubaker certain issues with respect of the proposed mission and what effect it might have on Nancy and her daughters.

    A lot of the film is simply a set-up for that few minutes of the film where, with the aid of rather stilted dialogue, Harry and Nancy confront the basic fundamental truth about war and its effect on a family. Once that moment has passed of course, the film proceeds in a manner that is hardly surprising. Although not an especially commanding story, it has its moments before becoming ultimately far too heavy-handed in the patriotic Uncle Sam, mom and apple pie stuff that never seems too far away in American films and life in general. The ending is not the best way to end this film but I suppose that were it not for the ending the producers would never have gotten the wholehearted support of the United States Navy in the making of the film. Given that Harry Brubaker is supposed to be a thirty-something young officer, William Holden is hardly the best choice to play the role, looking more like mid forties at best. Still, he carries off the role as best he can. Grace Kelly made few films before becoming a real-life princess and those films certainly demonstrated that whilst she might not be the best actress ever seen, there were few who could touch her in the beauty stakes. Her role here is quite modest but she sure looked the goods. Fredric March as the Admiral seems to be a heavy-handed role and rather stilted too - even in the scene where we find out more about the character. The light relief in the film is Mickey Rooney but even that was not much. One noticeable aspect of the film is the use of rear projection, which is extremely obvious here, and does at times provide some continuity issues - notably the kissing scene after the arrival of the carrier at Yokosuka. On the other hand, the film did win an Oscar for Best Special Effects...

    The film has dated rather badly, partly due to the heavy-handed message and partly as a result of some significant cultural stereotyping and partly due to some weak dialogue. However, offsetting that is some great action footage and to return to the film after so many years has been quite an interesting experience. However, given the technical quality of the DVD, I am not sure that I will be returning to the film too frequently. Although the allure of Grace Kelly...

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and the transfer is not 16x9 enhanced. This is in accord with the Academy ratio of the theatrical release, as the film is regrettably one of those that was finished just before the Academy ratio died and widescreen became the norm. It is to be regretted that the film has not been subjected to a full restoration, although I suppose that wishing for that is almost like wishing for Wolverhampton Wanderers to win the English Premier League this year - it ain't going to happen.

    The transfer is not a pretty sight, being heavily affected by grain at times, and the digital domain really exposes that rear projection stuff. Overall, the transfer is reasonably sharp and quite well detailed, but whenever you pause the image the lack of serious definition is very plain to see. This problem pervades the whole transfer and I really found it a bit bothersome at certain points. For instance, there is some footage of the aircraft positioning for launch on the carrier and the movement creates quite a loss of resolution in the image. At the end of the transfer though, the biggest problem is the grain, lots and lots of it that I would hazard a guess is going to look lousy on a big screen. It is throughout the whole transfer and rather easy to find. Shadow detail is quite good all things considered.

    The colours are generally well saturated, although not really vibrant. Skin tones are perhaps a little too overdone, but this would be consistent with Technicolor filming of the day. Black levels could have done with being a bit more black, but otherwise there is nothing really to complain about. There was no over saturation in the transfer but there were a few places where there seemed to be some bleed. This was usually around the face, and examples could be found at 15:12 and 16:28. There appears to be some slight inconsistency in colour between the individual reels making up the original film.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, with most of the minor resolution problems almost certainly being inherent in the source material. There is a constant problem with aliasing in the transfer and the only thing that really saves this from being totally annoying is the fact that the grain hides it quite well at times. Just about everything that moves or has a sharp edge aliases: at 3:40 in the helicopter blades and fuselage, at 5:44 and 52:06 in the aircraft, at 8:15 in the operations board, and so on. I simply gave up recording the problem, there were that many instances of it. Thankfully that was about the extent of the film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. As is to be expected in an unrestored film of this age, there are plenty of film artefacts, mainly specks of dirt but also some scratches and something that is not readily identifiable at 0:11 in the top right hand corner of the image. It should also be noted that there appears to be a missing frame at 37:14 and the aircraft achieve the remarkable ability to jump slightly, but noticeably, backwards at 53:40.

    This is a single sided, dual layered RSDL formatted DVD, but I have no idea where the layer change is located (unless it is where the aircraft jump backwards).

    There is a smorgasbord of subtitle options on the DVD, although I stuck with the English efforts. They are pretty good although missing some of the dialogue here and there.

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

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Not wishing to have Grace Kelly's beautiful voice replaced by some overdub, I stuck with the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up reasonably okay in the transfer, but this is really a dated sounding effort. Nonetheless, you will have little trouble understanding what is going on. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The score comes from Lyn Murray and an entirely serviceable, and equally unmemorable, effort it is too. It seems to borrow a bit from well known military tunes - not unexpectedly so I guess - and that is part of the reason why it really does nothing other than provide some support to the film.

    This really is a tired sounding soundtrack, as well as one that at times is very well blessed with the old snap, crackle and pop. The supposition is therefore that this is pretty much the original mono soundtrack jazzed up to play through two channels. One of the problems with having such a mono soundtrack for action sequences is that they come across with all the oomph of a feather duster. Thankfully the soundtrack is free of distortion.

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

Extras

    I tend not to expect much from Paramount on their DVD releases, but at least we normally get a theatrical trailer. Not here.

Menu

    Pretty average looking it has to be said.

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 release hardly sounds much better than the Region 4 but at least does have a theatrical trailer.

Summary

    I have always enjoyed The Bridges At Toko-Ri, but I cannot say that I have enjoyed its appearance on DVD. The digital domain has certainly highlighted the problems in the source material, then compounded them by the introduction of the aliasing problems. Audio-wise this is not really flash and somewhat below average. A disappointing release in most respects.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, September 02, 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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