Never So Few (1959)

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Released 9-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 119:20
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By John Sturges

Warner Home Video
Starring Frank Sinatra
Gina Lollobrigida
Peter Lawford
Steve McQueen
Richard Johnson
Paul Henreid
Brian Donlevy
Dean Jones
Charles Bronson
Philip Ahn
Robert Bray
Kipp Hamilton
John Hoyt
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Hugo Friedhofer

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, frequently
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     In the early days of World War II a mixed group of British, Americans and Kachin tribesman, led by Capt. Tom Reynolds (Frank Sinatra) and Capt. Danny de Mortimer (Richard Johnson), operate in North Burma behind the Japanese lines, ambushing the Japanese and disrupting their communications. On a trip back to Headquarters in India to get supplies and a doctor for their force, Reynolds and de Mortimer meet irreverent driver Corporal Bill Ringa (Steve McQueen). They also meet the rich and mysterious Nikko Regas (Paul Henreid) and the alluring Carla Vesari (Gina Lollobrigida), with whom Reynolds quickly falls in love. At first Carla is dismissive, but before long the love is returned.

     Recruiting Ringa and Doctor Grey Travis (Peter Lawford), Reynolds and de Mortimer return to their force and are ordered to attack a Japanese airfield and base. They succeed but suffer heavy causalities because the Chinese support they were promised failed to eventuate. Even worse, they discover that a unit of American soldiers sent to help them had been ambushed and killed by the Chinese troops of a renegade warlord, working under Kuomintang orders. Disillusioned, Reynolds decides to risk everything, including his career and the woman he loves, in order to mete out justice to the Chinese.

     Directed by John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963)), with a galaxy of stars including Frank Sinatra, Gina Lollobrigida, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson and filmed on location in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma, Never So Few has an excellent pedigree but does not quite attain the excitement levels it should. A CinemaScope production, the widescreen landscapes look spectacular courtesy of cinematographer William H. Daniels, although the Kachin camp in the jungle looks impossibly pristine; reality this is not. This spills over to the action scenes, which are well staged, if sanitised and bloodless (it was a 1959 production). The acting is a mixed bag: Frank Sinatra is acceptable as Reynolds, although his romantic scenes with Gina Lollobrigida don’t convince. She looks fabulous and is costumed to the hilt, but she is very wooden which does not help. On the other hand Richard Johnson is excellent and TV actor Steve McQueen exhibits intense charisma and steals every scene he is in, his star power confirmed by his performance, again for Sturges, in The Magnificent Seven the following year.

    The most serious issue with Never So Few is the scripting. It tries to be a war film, a love story and to include a theme about the destruction of men’s souls in wartime within a two hour running time. It switches frequently between the jungle and India, where there is a lot of talk, some of it witty, some of it silly: “I kiss you and the bells ring wildly in my temples” is one example. On the other hand, acts that would now be considered crimes against humanity, such as the shooting of a score of unarmed prisoners on Reynold’s orders, are glossed over. Other strands of the narrative, such as the Paul Henreid character, peter out into nothing. And the ending is just too trite and easy for words. This means that although interesting and good to look at, the film does not successfully deliver on its promise.

     With the amount of talent on board New So Few would never be a disaster. It is let down by the script but it looks good, has some impressive set piece action scenes and Steve McQueen is terrific.

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Transfer Quality


     Never So Few is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a lush CinemaScope production that looks great for a 50 year old film.. Colours have wonderful depth, the greens looking especially beautiful, and the print is as sharp and crisp as one could wish for. Blacks are great and shadow detail pristine. Skin tones are natural. There are frequent small artefacts, and a couple of bigger ones, throughout the film but they never become too obvious or distracting. Grain is natural, and faults were minimal, with only one minor piece of aliasing on a temple (118:30).

     Subtitles are available in a number of languages. I sampled the English subtitles – they are in a clear white font and followed accurately the spoken dialogue.

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


     Audio is a choice of English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 Kbps, or French and Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 at 192 Kbps. The film was released in cinemas with a 4 track stereo mix.

     The English track is not particularly enveloping. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. There is some ambience, music and effects in the surrounds, but the track generally was fairly flat. The sub did support the explosions, but not very much.

     The orchestral score by veteran composer Hugo Friendhofer was old style Hollywood; opulent and expressive. It adds perhaps more gravitas than the film deserves.

     Lip synchronization is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Trailer (2:35

     Plays up the love story.

R4 vs R1

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

     The Region 1 US NTSC release is the same with only language and subtitle differences. In Region 2 I can only find a Scandinavian release. Buy our local PAL version.


     Never So Few has an excellent pedigree but does not attain the levels it should. It tries to be a war film, a love story and to raise issues about the destruction of men’s souls in wartime but does not really develop any of them. It looks good, is reasonably entertaining and Steve McQueen is terrific. Pity about the script.

     The audio and video are good, especially for a 50 year old film. The only extra is a trailer but there is nothing more in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, September 30, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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