Operation Pacific (1951)

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Released 8-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:42)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1951
Running Time 104:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By George Waggner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring John Wayne
Patricia Neal
Ward Bond
Philip Carey
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Max Steiner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French 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
German
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Romanian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian 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

    After a bit of a diet of early Disney animated cotton candy in recent times, it is good to return to something a little more evocative of those carefree days of my youth when the weekend meant a) going up to town to blow what little money I had on stuff I probably did not need and b) spending the rest of the weekend indulging the afternoon matinees on television. Of course the staple of the afternoon matinees were westerns and war films. Since those were the staples, then there was every chance in the world that a certain bloke going by the nickname of The Duke would be featured. So it was that I invariably found myself indulging in the films of John Wayne. He might not have been the world's greatest actor but he was the world's greatest movie star. Now you might just have gathered that I like John Wayne given that a fair few of his films have made it through my player for review, and you would be right. Long after we have forgotten the tripe that the modern stars and their over-bloated salaries produce, we will still be enjoying the films of The Duke. Sure he managed to star in a fair few films that were pretty average - but his average is way better than the best stuff of such untalented "stars" as Leonardo De Craprio...

    Operation Pacific sees us venturing back into the Second World War and a film dedicated to the memory of those who served, and lost their lives, in the silent service - the submariners. It is basically the story of Lieutenant Commander Duke E. Gifford (John Wayne), second-in-command aboard the U.S.S. Thunderfish, which so happens to be commanded by his best friend Captain John T. "Pop" Perry (Ward Bond). The story starts on some island in the Pacific where Duke (gotta love the way they name the character after the man's nickname) leads a party that rescues a couple of nuns and some children from a fate worse than death (or at least the Japanese Imperial troops). The children include one literally new-born babe. After the daring rescue, during the return to Pearl Harbor, the sub engages the enemy a couple of times without success due to duff torpedoes. The sisters and kids of course take the subsequent attack on the sub by the Japanese in their stride and like real troupers. We now cue the back stories - one involving Duke and his former wife Mary Stuart (Patricia Neal), whose marriage apparently broke up over the death of their young son.

    It turns out that Pop is a bit of a matchmaker, and knowing that Mary Stuart is in Pearl Harbor as a naval nurse, he requests she meet the boat to take charge of the kids. Only trouble is that Mary Stuart is now going out with Pop's younger brother Bob (Philip Carey), who happens to be a naval aviator (pilot to you and I)... So now you have the main characters and should pretty much be able to guess where this one heads. Just as Duke tries to get back together with Mary Stuart, duty calls and he is off to sea again. Cue more misadventures with torpedoes that frustrate every one, as well as an engagement with a Japanese decoy ship that results in the death of Pop. Naturally Duke takes command, but faces hostility from several corners when he returns to Pearl Harbor. Since The Duke has always been able to win the war on his own, Duke leads the team that solves the problem of the misfiring torpedoes before heading off to sea again without resolving anything with Mary Stuart. Out on the high seas, Duke now leads the search for the Imperial Navy who are steaming towards Leyte to stop the American invasion. Well, we all know who wins don't we. And who gets the girl, right? And surely a new-born baby falls into the equation somewhere too...

    There is nothing at all original about the story, but what the heck. It is all done so convincingly that we don't have to bother about unlikely coincidences and so on do we? Everybody involved knew that they were not making a masterpiece and so just got on and did a respectable job of turning out a classic piece of matinee fodder. In many ways, this is what the film is celebrating, but who cares? The whole thing is just a plain enjoyable one hundred minutes of action and romance. Everybody does a good job on the acting front and George Waggner's directing is adequate enough for the job at hand. The cinematography is a bit pedestrian but then it is always difficult to make this sort of film with stock footage being spliced into studio filmed stuff.

    I would hate to think how many times I might have seen this film, but it has been quite a while since the last viewing. Despite that, watching Operation Pacific again was an enjoyable old time. Turn off the brain and grab a few snack biscuits and a beer or three and it makes the perfect lazy Saturday afternoon entertainment. A bit of action, a bit of romance, what more could a bloke want for a couple of hours? If you can't get that, well maybe the film will do instead!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 Full Frame and it is not 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical aspect ratio was the Academy ratio, 1.37:1, so the DVD is not that far from the correct aspect ratio (by the way - the difference between 1.33:1 and 1.37:1 is so minuscule that I doubt anyone would really be able to tell the difference with the naked eye).

    The transfer is a little bit all over the shop in most respects, but much of that is to do with the source material. Since the film does include stock footage as well as genuine war footage, the movement between these and the studio filmed stuff is fairly obvious. The studio material is generally quite sharp with ample detail and definition. The same cannot be said for the stock and war footage, which tends towards a rather soft, often out of focus, image that is not exactly oozing detail and definition. The stock footage is also somewhat grainy, a problem that does not affect the studio filmed material. Shadow detail and contrast are rather variable too, with some of the night-time stuff being rather poor in this regard.

    The black and white tones are equally a little variable. The studio filmed material is really rather good even though it is more grey and grey as opposed to black and white: I really would have hoped for more black to the blacks and more white to the whites. Definition across the grey scales is quite reasonable. The stock footage is somewhat worse than the studio footage. Within themselves however, the different material is quite consistent.

    There did not seem to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Surprisingly, there was nothing much in the way of apparent film-to-video artefacts. Of course, this only serves to compensate for the copious film artefacts in the transfer. Some of the stock footage is especially badly affected, with scratches and film dirt to the fore. In most respects this was worse than I was expecting. It should be noted that there is a slight glitch in the transfer at 20:26, which appears to be a badly aligned join between what would almost certainly have been the first and second reels of the film.

    This is a single sided, single layered DVD so there is no layer change to be contended with.

    There are ten subtitle options on the DVD, with just the English and English For The Hearing Impaired efforts garnering attention from me. These were quite decent with only a few places where minor dialogue omissions were noted.

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

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtracks. The language options are English, French and Italian. I of course stuck with the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up reasonably well in the transfer and it was generally easy to understand. There are just a few places here and there where the dialogue got a little bit lost in the overall soundtrack. There did not appear to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Max Steiner and I found it quite a rollicking little effort at times. It is the sort of soundtrack that does draw attention to itself at times, but this suits the style of the film well enough.

    The soundtrack itself is not a brilliant effort, but then again I doubt that the original theatrical release was any better. At least we can be assured that this is the original mono soundtrack... It is a little raw and strident in places but nothing that I consider annoying. I was not exactly expecting anything especially wonderful anyway, so maybe others may be a bit more bothered than I about it. There seemed to be a noticeable drop-out of the audio around the 82:00 mark but that would be about the extent of the obvious problems with the soundtrack. I would hazard a guess that if you really cranked up the volume, you might find the background noise a tad annoying. At normal listening volumes it is not an issue at all.

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

Extras

   The extras package is firing as many blanks as the torpedoes in the film...

Menu

   In colour, in widescreen and 16x9 enhanced. In other words, a bit incongruous in comparison to the film itself.

Theatrical Trailer (2:42)

   A fairly typical example of film trailers of the era, this is let down by some poor contrast early on (it is very dark) and a truckload of film artefacts. In other words, not a fine example of the art of film promotion. The presentation is Full Frame, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with strident mono Dolby Digital 1.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as can be ascertained, the Region 1 and Region 2 releases offer nothing much different to the Region 4 release (the Region 1 apparently has filmographies). Go with whichever is the cheapest to acquire.

Summary

    Whilst the technical quality is not brilliant at times, it was certainly not any worse than I was expecting. Accordingly, there was little in the transfer that could detract from the enjoyment of the film. Operation Pacific is not a great film, not even a great war film, but it is an enjoyable piece of matinee fodder that can bear repeated viewings with relative ease. Worthwhile investigating if you hanker for those days of the afternoon matinee and one of the greatest stars Hollywood has ever seen.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, December 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, 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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