The Longest Day: Special Edition (Remastered) (1962)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 20-Oct-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Featurette-Hollywood Backstory - The Longest Day (24:08)
Featurette-D-Day Revisited (49:45)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1962
Running Time 171:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (96:43)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ken Annakin
Andrew Marton
Bernhard Wicki
Darryl F. Zanuck
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Eddie Albert
Paul Anka
Arletty
Jean-Louis Barrault
Richard Beymer
Hans Christian Blech
Bourvil
Richard Burton
Wolfgang BŁttner
Red Buttons
Pauline Carton
Sean Connery
Ray Danton
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $24.95 Music Paul Anka
Maurice Jarre


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/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 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

††† Nearly three years ago, I concluded my review of the rather lacklustre initial Region 4 DVD Video release of The Longest Day with the comment that "It will be some time I would suggest before we get the definitive version of The Longest Day on Region 4 DVD - although the Sixtieth Anniversary of D-Day is only three years away..."

††† The Sixtieth Anniversary of arguably the longest day in history is now of course a thing of the past but here we have that Sixtieth Anniversary DVD that I suspected we would be getting.

††† The trouble is that it really was not worth the wait. Quite simply, little has been added to the two DVD package that we already had: we gain a full-blown six channel soundtrack that really does not use the format that well, we get the long-overdue remastering so that we finally get the English subtitles for the German and French dialogue, gain a moderately interesting featurette and lose the theatrical trailer. What we still don't get is a fully remastered film and a truly encompassing extras package that warrants the Special Edition tag.

††† Still, we are talking about one of the truly great films based upon the Second World War. As indicated in my earlier review, way back when, in the days when I could spend most of the weekend watching the matinee movies, these war films were the highlight of the viewing. Such efforts as The Battle Of Britain (thankfully finally getting a Region 4 DVD Video release), Sands Of Iwo Jima, Midway, Battle Of The Bulge (okay, we are still awaiting this one), The Bridge At Remagen, The Eagle Has Landed and a whole bunch of others were the films that had me glued to the box. But above all those efforts, which do include some great films by the way, was a modest production put together by Darryl F. Zanuck - The Longest Day. I would be hard-pressed to name any better film of its era and in many ways not even the at-times over-hyped Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan comes close to this, other than for the sheer realism of the opening scenes on the beaches. Mind you, given the differences in available technology between the two eras the films were made in, The Longest Day can still hold its own pretty d*** well.

††† The film is of course a dramatisation of the events immediately preceding and during Operation Overlord - the Allied invasion of Europe on 6th June, 1944, better known as D-Day. And that is basically the story here. Whilst the sheer magnitude of the events of the day are far beyond the scope of any film, The Longest Day makes a pretty fair fist of the task in its near three hour length. Tending to concentrate on individuals rather than providing a huge spread of battle action, we get to see some of the more incredulous aspects of the day's activity as well as some of the heroic actions.

††† To bring this epic day to the screen, Darryl F. Zanuck assembled one of the most star studded casts ever assembled for a film. Indeed, so star studded that the promotion of the film was quite heavily based upon the fact. Amongst the names who signed on were some of the biggest stars of the day: Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Robert Ryan, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Fabian, Roddy McDowall, Kenneth More and a whole bunch more. But really the presence of all those big names was not essential to the film and some of the acting was not of the highest order in any case. Where the film excelled was in the way the individual little episodes of the day were woven into a coherent story, highlighting some of the incompetency on the German side especially. The film could perhaps have benefited from some slightly better effects work, since the digital domain does expose quite noticeably the blue screen work, but there was some reasonable blending of actual live footage with the film footage. The film did win two Oscars however, for Special Effects and Cinematography, which is indicative of the quality of the behind the camera work.

†† As a piece of entertainment, The Longest Day is one of the great war matinee films of all time, and if you have never had the pleasure of indulging in this film then where have you been? As a rough historical guide it is not a bad film either, but really and truly is only a nice adjunct to any number of books about the day - amongst them of course that by Cornelius Ryan, upon which the film is based. As war films go, I certainly rank this amongst the better ones revolving around the Second World War and is certainly worthy of consideration for addition to any collection.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

††† As far as I can see, the video transfer appears to be the exact same one that blessed the original Region 4 release. This of course means that most of the comments made in that original review are still applicable here, so much of what follows is simply recycling that original review (it's environmentally friendly...).

††† Considering the age of the source material, the transfer is not too shabby at all for what would appear to be an unrestored film. Whilst not in the league of some of the restored efforts we have seen of late, it is certainly serviceable enough. Unusually for a film of this vintage, it is presented in black and white, a deliberate choice by Darryl F. Zanuck (an excellent colourised version does exist and was used for the D-Day 50th Anniversary VHS tape released a few years back). The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

††† Apart from the fact that the transfer is a tad on the dark side, still more so than I remember the Region 1 version being, there is not much wrong here at all. It certainly is not stellar in any department, but it is a good, solid transfer without being spectacular. It is quite sharp, and certainly sharp enough to highlight the fact that much of the film involving exterior shots seems to feature blue screen work (or else is blessed with extreme edge enhancement). Detail is more than adequate and the only issue comes in the somewhat more darker sections of the transfer where the detail tends to get hidden by the darkness a little. Shadow detail is of course subject to some variability thanks to the dark nature of the transfer at times, but generally is pretty good throughout. Unfortunately there is some issue with the clarity of the transfer, and there are sections here that are quite grainy. Some of the grain is inherent in what would appear to be newsreel footage, but this is not the sole reason for all the grain that is present. It is perhaps this area where the lack of full digital restoration is best highlighted. There does not appear to be any low level noise in the transfer.

††† The black and white tones are pretty well handled overall, although with a strong tendency to black and grey as opposed to strict black and white. There is some inconsistency in the tones and a more uniform presentation across the grey scales would not have gone astray here. The transfer does lack somewhat in vibrancy, but overall this is not a bad effort at all.

††† There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although some minor loss in resolution in one or two pan shots is noted. Surprisingly, the transfer is free of any really significant film-to-video artefacts, and I would be hard pressed to recall any significant aliasing in a transfer that I was expecting to suffer somewhat from the problem. The lack of such artefacts is however made up for by the presence of film artefacts, and these are a tad too noticeable at times. Still, for a film of this vintage the problem is no worse than would reasonably be expected.

††† Obviously a film of this length requires an RSDL formatted DVD, and so it is with the layer change coming at 96:43. Since I did not notice the layer change at all, it is obviously quite a good one.

††† There is just the sole subtitle option for the main feature, being English for the Hearing Impaired. They are still not the best I have ever seen and seem to miss a fair portion of the dialogue, especially the foreign language dialogue. Whilst none of the missed dialogue is really that essential, it does tend to change the tone of the dialogue a little, especially with respect to the German side of things. At least we don't need to switch on the subtitles to get the English subtitles for the foreign dialogue that were provided on the video releases and Region 1 release of the film.

††† Oh, and don't forget to note the missing Rommel between 4:43 and 4:50...

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

Audio

††† There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, although this time it is a full bitrate English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

††† The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is easy to understand. There appears to be some marginal audio sync issues here and there, but I think I would be correct in suggesting that these may be inherent in the source material owing to some less than stellar ADR work.

††† The original score comes from Maurice Jarre and features another of those instantly recognisable theme tunes that seem to bless the big films of this era. It is a slight shame that we do not get an isolated music score here for I do believe that this is a very supportive score that perhaps does not get the sort of credit that it should do.

††† There really is nothing much to write about as far as the soundtrack is concerned, other than to perhaps open a debate about the merits of the six channels as opposed to the five channels offered on the previous release. Personally I find it a rather debatable "improvement". Obviously the original film was in stereo and thus the original five channel soundtrack was rather more reminiscent of the original soundtrack than this new six channel effort. The bass channel rarely gets let loose and most of the time it is rather noticeable in its absence. When it is used, it is done so in a more sympathetic manner than would be expected, probably to preserve the original feel of the soundtrack whilst trying to pander to those who demand full blown six channel sound. Frankly, I was happier with the original five channel soundtrack, although this new six channel effort does perhaps boast improved surround channel use, albeit rarely in the rear channels.

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

Extras

††† If the original Region 4 release was no Special Edition, then this new release is no different. We lose the theatrical trailer of the original release and gain another featurette.

Menu

††† Nothing at all special and still preserving the functional theme of the original release. They are 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette - Hollywood Backstory: The Longest Day (24:08)

††† Actually more of a backstory about Darryl F. Zanuck, the founder of Twentieth Century Fox who left the studio under something of a cloud and proceeded to be an independent filmmaker for a while. The Longest Day was his pet project and he had to fight tooth and nail to get funding from Fox, which at the time was under massive financial strain owing to the horrendously over-budget Cleopatra. He got a modest budget and proceeded to make a far better film... The presentation is Full Frame (it is made for television), not 16x9 enhanced and comes with decent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It does have selectable English subtitles. It is quite interesting and from a technical point of view pretty good - given the age of some of the source material used.

Featurette - D-Day Revisited (49:45)

††† Despite the loss of a couple of minutes in the running time, this seems to be the same featurette as was included on the original Region 4 release. Made in 1968 in anticipation of the 25th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, this is basically a reminiscing by Darryl F. Zanuck about his desire to see the locations where these historic events took place. Accompanied by a film crew, we get to see places such as Sainte Mere-Eglise, Oisterham, Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc as they were in 1968, as well as a bit of a history lesson. In its own way it is reasonably interesting but hardly essential. It is presented in a Full Frame format, which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The 1968 filmed stuff is in colour, whilst the relevant extracts from the film itself are in black and white. Unfortunately, the quality is not the best and at times the resolution leaves a lot to be desired. The only subtitle option available this time is English (selectable of course).

R4 vs R1

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

††† In comparison with the original Region 1 release (an anniversary release has yet to issue), this Region 4 release misses out on:

††† The Region 1 release misses out on:

††† In comparison with the original Region 2 release, this Region 4 release misses out on:

††† In comparison with the Region 2 Anniversary release, this Region 4 release misses out on:

††† Interestingly, from the review found on DVD Times, there may be subtitle issues regarding the foreign language in the main feature. If that is the case, then it would seem that Region 4 now becomes the better option for the film - aside from the trailers, we have the same extras but with the subtitles correctly displayed in the main feature for the foreign languages. There was a collector's edition box produced in the United Kingdom that would have been a treat for devotees of the film, as it included eight lobby cards, a booklet, a Senitype image from the film and a reproduction poster. Other Region 2 releases (Belgium and Denmark for instance) all seem to offer a similar package as the "normal" United Kingdom release.

Summary

††† The Longest Day is one of my favourite war films of all time and a film to which I can return to on a regular basis and enjoy thoroughly. Unfortunately, the addition of the Special Edition tag to this further, Anniversary Edition, two DVD set does not exactly get my pulse racing. This is no Special Edition in my view and the extras package is nothing to write home about. The film deserves a full restoration and this transfer shows why: not exactly bad but certainly not exactly sparkling either. In many ways this is still a disappointment and despite the fact that it is a classic war film, I really think that we have yet to receive the package that the film truly deserves.

††† I suppose there is always the prospect of a Seventieth Anniversary release on High Definition DVD...

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, August 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R1 release -
"Special Edition"? - wolfgirv
Why not let fans have the colourised version? -
Colourising - pellicule
Colourising is vandalism! - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)
Excellent job of colourising. - Ron Stevens
Newcastle boy is wrong about colourisation. -
Colourising - yes or no? -
Colourising - pellicule
Colourised is not how original film screened -
Colourised is not how original film screened -
Colorised Films - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
Subtitles a bit dodgy? -
Film length - Graeme Edgeler REPLY POSTED
Blu Ray is in B&W -
Colour bad on lovely B&W films of the past - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)