Battle of the Bulge (1965)

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Released 9-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-The Filming Of "Battle Of The Bulge"
Featurette-History Recreated
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1965
Running Time 162:42
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Ken Annakin
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Henry Fonda
Robert Shaw
Robert Ryan
Dana Andrews
George Montgomery
Ty Hardin
Pier Angeli
Barbara Werle
Charles Bronson
Hans Christian Blech
Werner Peters
James MacArthur
Karl-Otto Alberty
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Benjamin Frankel


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.76:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.76:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Croatian
Slovenian
Czech
Hebrew
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Icelandic
Hungarian
Greek
Bulgarian
Romanian
Turkish
Polish
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

    The Battle Of The Bulge revolves around the events leading up to and during the actual Battle of the Bulge. However, although the basis of the movie is factual, there has been a lot of fictional elements thrown in in order to create an enjoyable storyline.

    In the dying stages of World War II, Hitler's Third Reich tried for one last time to win the war in Europe. This is the story of that final attempt, his so-called 50 hour mad march to the sea. The movie follows both the American and German efforts throughout the campaign and it does so with some historical accuracy. Full marks must be given to Milton Sperling for creating a movie with such attention to technical detail. Of course this was only possible due to the brilliant technical assistance of the actual German Major General who waged the campaign, truly an unprecedented occurrence and one that I am sure was looked upon with great reverence by the actors. This is truly an epic movie with a literal cast of thousands all attired to exacting detail. Along with this is the very impressive collection of original tanks, both American and German, that were scrounged up from all over Europe. There was no need to make fake mock-ups of the equipment as all the original gear was still available, and full marks to Warner Bros.for recreating the town of Ambleve, at the cost of half a million dollars. If you think that is unimpressive, then in today's money taking into account inflation this equates to the princely sum of $2,979,069.

    Robert Shaw plays the role of Colonel Hessler, the commander of the German tank divisions and he plays a superb role. It is interesting to note that Robert Shaw was the only non German to play the part of a German in this movie and he does so very convincingly - all the other German roles were filled by actual Germans. It is not often that American filmmakers create a movie which portrays the American soldier as the ill-prepared underdog that gets his behind soundly whipped by a superior German military force, but that is precisely what they have done with this movie. This is a credit to them, as they have maintained the true account of the way the battle played out - the American forces won out in the end, but due more to luck than through superiority on the battle front.

    It is rather rare these days to see a movie as it was shown in the theatres forty years ago. I remember as a kid going to the matinees on a Saturday to watch the blockbusters on the big screen and how there used to be a programmed intermission to allow for comfort breaks and to restock on the essential candy and drinks. Well, this movie also comes complete with the same programmed intermission to enable you to do the same. Quite novel in this day and age, and it somehow makes the viewer actually feel they are back in that era.

    Of course there are going to be people who are going to compare this movie to modern era productions like Band Of Brothers. I will say that where this movie is concerned, one has to make allowances for the poorer quality special effects and the lack of CGI. Let's face reality here - we are talking about a 40 year old movie. However, the acting is first rate and how could you go wrong with names like Henry Fonda, George Montgomery, Dana Andrews, Telly Savalas, and Charles Bronson just to name a few of the excellent cast?

     The most amazing thing with this movie is that unlike a lot of movies today, all the armour is real and so are the conditions under which we see them in the movie - the snow is real, not fake or computer generated. These actors performed in real operational tanks in all kinds of weather. Warner Bros. went to great lengths to bring all the weapons and armour back to full operational capacity and brought in tons of high explosives for the battle scenes. I found this to be a most enjoyable movie to watch.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Well, here we have 40 year old film stock that I would suggest was not stored in the best of ways to maintain its quality. Does it show its age? Absolutely. Some scenes are a bit dark and there is a strange white pulsing visible in some scenes, possibly due to the production team's efforts to enhance some of the worst affected darkened scenes. Does this detract from the overall movie? Well, in my opinion the answer is no - the movie is probably the best that it can be now and although on larger display screens there are definitely MPEG compression artefacts to mar some of the scenes, it is still generally speaking the best this movie has looked since it was released back in 1965. I believe that on screen sizes of 42" and below this movie will look very good. I have based my review on watching the movie on my 102" screen.

    The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.76:1 and is 16x9 enhanced

    There is a degree of graininess to some scenes and shadow detail can be poor occasionally. There was no hint of aliasing, however there has been some editing out of obviously severely damaged parts of the film stock. Thankfully the editing has been minimised so as not to eradicate entire scenes.

    Generally the colours are adequately displayed without any bleeding, but as I have mentioned there has definitely been a lot of work put into rejuvenating the film stock and there are some scenes that are still dark and dull looking - the video production team have made the right decision to keep these scenes in the movie even though they have not weathered the passage of time all that well.

    There are definitely MPEG compression artefacts present which give rise to background blurriness and of course there are the expected film artefacts to contend with, but overall if you were to watch this on say a 42" display or lower then I think you will not notice these problems as much.

    The layer change occurs at 83:29 which is during the execution of the American POWs, when the scene changes from the truck mounted machine gun to the view of the slaughtered POWs. The layer change has been handled well and is not all that noticeable.

    There are a myriad of subtitle languages to choose from, however I only checked the English For The Hearing Impaired for accuracy which appears to follow the spoken word reasonably well. I am not conversant in the other available languages to say if this is also true of them.

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

Audio

    Although this movie has been given the English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s) treatment it still tends to lack some depth of field when it comes to using the surround channels and subwoofer.

    I found the dialogue to be clear with no muddiness to it. There were no signs of any lip sync issues.

    As you would expect with an epic motion picture of this scale it also has a grand music score thanks to the talents of  Benjamin Frankel. He has made good use of the music to enhance the mood of the scenes and the main theme music is used in both the menus and intermission static displays. I also particularly enjoyed the rousing vocal renditions of the German tank commanders during their first meeting with Col. Hessler.

    I have already touched on the fact that the surround channel usage does not maintain an adequate sound field during the battle scenes, however when the surround channels have been put to use it certainly makes for a better viewing experience.

    Along with the surround channel usage I found the subwoofer was not used as well as it should have been. It is still present but its use during explosions is very limited.

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

Extras

Main Menu

     The main menu is semi-static, it initially shows armour on the move then switches to displaying a picture of a tank in battle with superimposed pictures of Henry Fonda and Robert Ryan. This is combined with computer graphic simulations of exploding shells. The menu is quite nicely done, as are the submenus. The main menu also has the main theme music playing in the background.

Featurette-Making Of

     This featurette, which is 9:36 mins in length, is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is black and white. I found this featurette to be very interesting as it showed in detail how Warner Bros. managed to gather the necessary men and equipment together in order to bring the required level of realism to this movie. Of special note is that Warner Bros. enlisted the technical services of  Maj. Gen. Meinrad von Lauchert who was the commander of the 2nd German Panzer division during the actual battle.

Featurette

     The second featurette, which is 8:05 mins in length is titled History Recreated.This is also shown at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and in black and white. This featurette is made up of interviews with the producer, Milton Sperling, and Robert Shaw who played Colonel Hessler. Again an interesting piece of work.

Theatrical Trailer

      This is the original theatrical trailer.

R4 vs R1

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

    I have not viewed the R1 version of this movie, but based on disc specifications I would say that both the R1 and R4 versions carry exactly the same extras and both have the same English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s) soundtrack. In this instance I feel confident in saying that the R4 PAL version of the movie probably has the edge over the R1 NTSC version.

Summary

    The Battle Of The Bulge was a definitive battle in the closing stages of World War II and this movie tries to tell the story from both sides of the campaign. Band Of Brothers it is not, however it still deserves  to be seen in order to understand the complexities of both sides of the battle. However, above all it is a well constructed story that achieves its aim of entertaining the viewer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Svensen (So you have nothing else to do but to read my bio)
Monday, October 17, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880DX upscaling player, Samsung DVD-HD747 player, Pioneer DV-535 player, Toshiba D-R1-S-TG , using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE700 WXGA LCD Projector, 102" 16:9 Grandview motorised screen, Panasonic TH-42PV500A HD Plasma Display, Toshiba 83 cm 4:3 CRT. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderDenon AVR-2802. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete plus Sansui two channel amplifier driving Back Surrounds
Speakers Fronts, Centre, and Back Surrounds - Accusound Ref 8 speakers with 150W RMS accusound sub woofer, Surrounds - Sony

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Comments (Add)
featurette times? - Neil REPLY POSTED
Historically Inaccurate!!! - REPLY POSTED
IMDB LINK -
Military accuracy - GraemeG
Regarding historical accuracy - Neil
Historical accuracy. -
"original tanks, both American and German" - give me a break - SimonU
German "Panzers" -