Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

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Released 2-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1949
Running Time 105:23
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Allan Dwan

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring John Wayne
John Agar
Adele Mara
Forrest Tucker
Wally Cassell
James Brown
Richard Webb
Arthur Franz
Julie Bishop
James Holden
Peter Coe
Richard Jaeckel
William Murphy
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Victor Young

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French 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 Arabic
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This is an old-fashioned war movie from back in the days when, well, it wasn't old-fashioned. Inspired by the famous photograph of Marines raising the Stars and Stripes on the eponymous island, the bulk of this film takes place elsewhere: at training camp in New Zealand and on Tarawa, where the Marines get their first taste of fighting.

    John M. Stryker (John Wayne, of course) is a tough Marine sergeant, a veteran of Guadalcanal, or "the Canal" as he calls it, is given a bunch of raw recruits and misfits to train into a fighting force. There's Thomas (Forrest Tucker), the ex-boxer with whom Stryker has a history and Conway (John Agar) whose late father served with Stryker but who has a huge chip on his shoulder. There are a couple of brothers who are always fighting, and various token ethnic characters, as there always seems to be in war films of the era. And this era too, for all that.

    Stryker has his own dark history - a failed marriage and a 10 year old boy who doesn't answer his letters. He seems to want to have Conway, the son of his friend, as a surrogate son, but Conway doesn't want a bar of it. Conway marries a New Zealand girl (Adele Mara). She comes from that part of NZ where everybody speaks with an American accent.

    Despite the lack of sophistication in the story, this is actually a pretty good film. Wayne gives one of his better performances, although the Oscar nomination for this role seems a bit far-fetched. The battle scenes are exciting and mostly realistic (the Japanese are as always poor shots), with interpolated actual combat footage from Tarawa and Iwo Jima. There is one disturbing sequence showing a burning corpse that may be confronting for some viewers. The direction by veteran Allan Dwan (who had been making films since the 1910s) is not bad. Allowances need to be made for some of the dialogue, for example when the Japanese are referred to as "lemon-coloured characters", which would not pass muster these days.

    A reasonable entertainment which will appeal to Wayne fans and those who enjoy good war films.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, close to the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

    The image is quite sharp, which is good seeing that the film has not been restored. Shadow detail is satisfactory, and generally there is a fair bit of detail present, though for mine it is slightly lacking and backgrounds are a little blurry.

    Being a black and white film, there is only a palette of shades ranging through the grey spectrum available. Blacks are dark enough and while there are no clean whites, the image looks reasonable.

    Apart from a couple of minor instances of aliasing, and some edge enhancement, there were no significant film to video artefacts present.

    There are, however, a lot of film artefacts, including dirt, white specks, scratches and the like. It is a pity that the print was not cleaned up before being transferred.

    English subtitles are available, and are clear and readable and generally faithful to the spoken word from the brief sample I made.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change positioned at 62:49 at a cut between shots, and is not really disruptive.

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


    The default audio channel is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with a French alternative available.

    The audio is good for a film of this era. This is not high-fidelity, but it accurately reflects the original cinema experience, complete with minor hiss and occasional harshness. Actually, it is a bit more harsh than it should be, but the ear quickly adjusts.

    The patriotic score is by Victor Young, who seamlessly weaves the Marine hymn into the music, without going over the top. It scrubs up pretty well in this transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

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

    Reviews of the US Region 1 DVD are mixed in terms of the video quality, with only one reviewer seeing the same issues with debris that I saw. Make of that what you will. The Region 1 has an 18-minute making of documentary hosted by Leonard Maltin containing interviews with several cast members, all of whom are now deceased and some of these must have been made some time ago. There is also a theatrical trailer.

    The extras make the Region 1 the more desirable release, if extras are your thing.


    A fine and highly successful Marine recruiting film, with a star performance from John Wayne.

    The video quality is good but could have been better.

    The audio quality is good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, July 12, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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