Objective, Burma! (1945)

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Released 8-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio
Short Film-The Rear Gunner
Short Film-The Tanks Are Coming
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1945
Running Time 142:17 (Case: 136)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Raoul Walsh
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Errol Flynn
James Brown
William Prince
George Tobias
Henry Hull
Erville Anderson
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Franz Waxman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (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
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Romanian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, well they are soldiers after all.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Former swashbuckler and Tasmanian Errol Flynn plays a very capable Major Nelson in this lengthy ode to the paratroopers who fought in the Burma campaign to throw the Japanese out of mainland Asia. His band of merry men are tasked with blowing up an important radar installation behind enemy lines, and to then make a quick getaway courtesy of the army Air Core. Of course, plans don't always work out in wartime and the lads find themselves in for rather a lot more exercise than they had originally intended.

    Objective, Burma! is arguably one of the best films ever made by Hollywood action director Raoul Walsh during his 49-year career, and also features one of Errol Flynn's best ever performances. It was made in 1945 while war still raged in the Pacific, but remarkably lacks the overt propaganda which mars so many war films of the time. In fact, screenwriter Lester Cole was later vilified as one of the 10 'communists' drummed out of the movie business during Senator Joe McCarthy's witch-hunt in the 1950's. Perhaps for not being gung-ho enough?

    Experienced paratroopers and officers were used as technical advisors on the set of the film, and combined with fine performances from supporting cast members such as Henry Hull and Erville Anderson, the cast and crew have produced a gritty, authentic war story. Many war films try to balance out their masculine orientation by having flashback scenes showing characters with their wives or girlfriends, or even the odd farmer's daughter conveniently turning up in a Belgian cow shed. There are no such breaks from the relentless men-on-a-mission action in Objective, Burma!, as Flynn out-suaves the enemy at every turn.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Objective, Burma! was made prior to widescreen being introduced into cinemas and is therefore presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced, close enough to its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. From the nature of the image quality, namely the complete lack of any aliasing, this version appears to have been mastered from film stock, not video. However, given this fact, there is also a remarkable lack of any noticeable telecine wobble during the film or the credits.

    The sharpness of the film varies wildly from moments of almost perfect clarity to others that look like someone attacked the film stock with sandpaper! For example, between 107:05 to 107:13 the quality of the picture drops down almost to the level of the stock footage used at times throughout the film. Having been made in black and white, the shadow detail in each scene would have been looked at closely during shooting, and the DVD transfer is quite good in that regard, with a good level of detail even in the night scenes.

    As previously mentioned, Objective, Burma! is a black and white production, and its use of light and shadow is effective, though not what I would describe as a work of art.

    Sadly, film artefacts abound in this transfer, some of which could have been easily removed. However, there is also evidence of some damage that would have been very difficult if not impossible to repair. The large spot that appears on a soldier's left shoulder at 5:49 is an example of something that could have been repaired, while the extensive damage between 34:02 and 34:20 probably couldn't have been fixed without many, many hours of fiddling. Several sections also show a remarkable clarity and sharpness, making you wish the entire film looked that good. However, I must say that a bit of film damage in a black and white WWII film made in 1945 really just adds some flavour, and didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story one bit.

    The English subtitles programmed for the disc are almost a word-for-word reproduction of the original English dialogue. I cannot vouch for all the other languages included as I don't speak any of them, but at least any hearing impaired English language viewers can be confident that they are reading the same dialogue that is being spoken by the characters.

    The length of the extras on the disc means that it has been presented in a dual layered format. However, several viewings of the film and a lot of carefully directed squinting failed to reveal the layer change point. If you have a player with a very low memory buffer, such as an XBox or a PS2, the layer change may be more dramatic.

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

Audio

    As with many films of the period, Objective, Burma! was made with a mono soundtrack, and no effort has been made to extrapolate it into a multi-channel format.

    There are two audio tracks available on the DVD; an English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack.

    The English audio is crisp and clear, the dialogue is easy to understand and there are no noticeable audio sync problems. The Italian audio, on the other hand, sounds as if it were recorded in a cheap studio in Uncle Tony's basement. Outdoor scenes are where this is most noticeable as the characters obviously sound as though they are talking to each other inside a small room.

    The incidental music is of a martial nature, with lots of trombones and kettle drums, but plays a very small part in the production and is mostly barely noticeable.

    In a film like this, the sound effects are as important as any other aspect of the audio, and the crew seem to have gone to some length to record the authentic sounds of each weapon used, although of course there is no surround nor subwoofer activity from this monaural soundtrack.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu is a simple still picture affair with access to the different language options and special features.

Featurette - Rear Gunner

    An hilarious army recruitment film made to boost the obviously flagging number of recruits signing up for the suicidal tail gunner position in the B17 Flying Fortress. It features an all-star cast, with Burgess Meredith (The Penguin to Batman fans) as the hopelessly naive gunner and Ronald Reagan as his enthusiastic officer. Rear Gunner boasts some great lines like "Our rear gunners are protected by the finest armour plate in the world!" Of course the narrator completely fails to mention the 40% casualty rate, but hey this is war!

Featurette - The Tanks Are Coming

    Another amusing piece of military propaganda, but this time in colour. The Technicolor presentation of this short is quite remarkable given that it was made in 1941, before the U.S. entered the war. It shows off America's first ever armoured brigades in carefully choreographed action, and in laughably dinky-looking tanks, fording very small rivers and traversing very small holes in the ground. Yes, the tanks are coming, and I'm sure if the Germans had seen this at the time they would have been about as worried as a fox in a chicken coop.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer for Objective, Burma! is an interesting look at what the marketing people of the day considered to be the selling points of the film. Henry Hull's character, reporter Mark Williams, narrates as though he were telling the story of the film. However, the most interesting aspect of the trailer is its use of some footage that isn't in the actual film!

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this DVD have essentially the same features.

Summary

    If you're a fan of 40s to 60s war films as I am, Objective, Burma! is a great addition to your collection, and even though it doesn't boast the finest visual quality, the impact of the film itself isn't lessened one bit. The inclusion of some genuinely worthwhile extras is also a bonus. The normal practice with releases such as this is to only include the theatrical trailer, and maybe a scan of a movie poster if you're lucky, so the additional extras are a welcome bonus.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© George Soropos (read my bio or the puppy dies)
Monday, September 22, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig ST70-670. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderMarantz SR7200. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationLuxman LV600 valve hybrid stereo amp for front stereo pair and Marantz SR 7200 for centre and surround channels
SpeakersAltec Lansing Model 15's front stereo, matched Krix Centrix front and rear, Krix matched rear surrounds, Sony rear subwoofer (Altec's provide sub for front)

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