Memphis Belle (1990)

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Released 25-Oct-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 102:46
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Caton-Jones

Warner Home Video
Starring Matthew Modine
Eric Stoltz
Tate Donovan
D.B. Sweeney
Billy Zane
Sean Astin
Harry Connick, Jr.
Reed Edward Diamond
Courtney Gains
Neil Giuntoli
John Lithgow
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music George Fenton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during

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

Plot Synopsis

   Memphis Belle is a World War II drama inspired by a 1944 documentary entitled "The Memphis Belle", a documentary made by William Wyler, a Hollywood director before the war, who flew and filmed 5 missions with the crew of the real Memphis Belle.

    The movie follows the 10 men that crew the Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17 long range bomber. These men are about to make history as the first in the U.S 8th Airforce to complete their tour of duty (25 missions). Any crew that reaches this milestone gets to go home and doesn't have to return to the front lines again. Their final mission is a perilous one - a daring daylight bombing raid on the German city of Bremen, a heavily-protected target.

   To add to the pressure, the Air Force have sent Colonel Bruce Derringer (John Lithgow) to arrange the celebrations and to begin the task of making these men into national heroes. Each man reacts to this pressure differently. The navigator, Phil Lowenthal (D.B. Sweeney), who thinks he is sure to die, drinks himself into a stupor at the squadron's 1 year anniversary party. Ball turret gunner Richard "Rascal" Moore (Sean Astin) tries to seduce the local womenfolk, while the captain, Dennis Dearborn (Matthew Modine), tries to keep everyone focussed and calm. Further tension is added when bad weather forces a delay in the mission and each man is left to sit, think and wait for the go signal.

   The chances of survival during this period of the war were slim. During the closing scene of the movie, a caption is shown that suggests that over 200,000 people died in the European air war - a sobering thought indeed. Can you imagine flying in a close formation comprised of many dozens of 30 ton aircraft, powerless to manoeuvre while being shot at by small heavily-armed enemy fighters? Or being peppered by large ground-based cannon with shells that explode and spray hot, jagged pieces of shrapnel in your path? Not to mention the bullets that are hitting your plane from your colleagues as they try and shoot down the enemy fighters! A living hell if you ask me!

    I really enjoyed this film as it develops each of the characters and doesn't gloss over the horrors that the real crew of World War II bombers experienced while at the same time also managing to have some fun. It reminds me of some of the classic World War II movies of the past such as The Battle Of Britain and The Dam Busters.

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Transfer Quality


    This DVD is a two-sided affair. There is a fullscreen 1.33:1 Pan & Scan transfer on one side and a "letterboxed" 1.66:1 widescreen transfer on the other. Neither side is 16x9 enhanced.
Widescreen Side
    This transfer is a mixed bag, some of it good, but most of it bad I'm afraid.

   The sharpness of this transfer is generally OK. Any wider scene is adequate while scenes shot inside the aircraft are good. You can easily see rivets, dents and areas where the paint has come off the skin of the aircraft and so forth. See 38:24-38:30 for an example. Shadow detail is adequate and the black level is good.

    The colours in this film are spot on and are easily the best part of this transfer. The colour palette is dominated by greens but where a patch of another colour is shown it is lovely and strong without being overpowering.

   Now for the bad news. Pixelization is frequently seen, especially in any scene that includes a section of sky. This is most unfortunate in a movie about flying (!). Two specific examples of this are at 1:30-3:07 and 33:34-33:54 both of which are typical of the rest of the film.

   Aliasing also occurs frequently. Fortunately, the duration of any given occurrence is not great and so I didn't find it overly annoying. Examples of aliasing can be found at 28:37-28:46, 45:54-46:05 and 59:32-59:45. Edge enhancement has been used in places but isn't particularly noticeable. A typical example can be found at 4:47-5:02 on John Lithgow's face and on the corner of the control tower's brick wall.

   Film artefacts were rife. Black and white flecks flew by constantly and large dust fibres were often spotted. See 1:30-3:07 and 42:06-42:09 for typical examples. It looks like someone put this particular source print on their coffee table and left it there unprotected for a few years!

Fullscreen Side
   This transfer suffers from all of the same faults and appears to be from exactly the same source. The only differences are in the framing of many of the scenes. Some of the closer shots have been enlarged so that the main element completely fills the frame, no doubt done to cover the fact that other elements are half-in and half-out the frame. Where this has been done, the image is a little softer. As this presentation is not letterboxed, more sky is visible which only exaggerates the pixelization problems previously noted.

   I have no idea why a full frame version of this film is on this disc. The widescreen side is a letterboxed image and any display device can show it. The space that this transfer took up could have been used for some extras, or even better, for a 16x9 enhanced version.

   This is a very good film and it deserved a better transfer than these appalling efforts.

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


    The audio presented on this DVD is good, but fails to maintain a full soundstage throughout.

    There are 3 audio tracks present, all Dolby Digital 5.1 and encoded at a bit rate of 384 Kb/s. These tracks are in English, French and Italian. I listened the English track.

    Dialogue was always clear, even during the height of battle. There were a couple of short passages where poor ADR work was obvious, as the actor visibly spoke his line before his voice was heard, but otherwise audio sync was not a problem.

    I really enjoyed George Fenton's score. It supported the on-screen action beautifully and had the right military feel to it. At times, it was sweeping and inspirational while at others, it was dramatic and tense. The effect is enhanced because the score is mixed nicely into the surrounds channels as well as the mains.

   Surround activity was varied. There were long passages where all channels were busy such as at 51:12-51:45 and 52:12-54:20, where the fighters attack and again at 65:16-77:46 when the anti-aircraft fire starts. At other times, the soundfield collapsed to the front only. Still, the front channels were used effectively. During the breakfast scene, chatter and coughs are heard in the mains while the dialogue is coming from the centre. See 26:00-26:57 for an example of this.

    The subwoofer was used appropriately to support both the score and the action sequences, although I did note one period where I thought its use was out of place. This was during  6:03-6:41, where rumbles are heard as a damaged plane approaches the runway. This rumble is not present in any other scene involving aircraft on approach.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras on this DVD are severely limited. There is only a theatrical trailer present.

Theatrical Trailer

   The theatrical trailer is 16x9 enhanced and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded. The quality is similar to that of the film itself.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

   The Region 4 disc misses out on:

   The Region 1 disc misses out on:    The quality of the source material in the Region 1 version is almost the same as ours. There are perhaps a few less film artefacts present, but they are still rife. The extras presented on the Region 1 disc are all textual and in my opinion, of limited appeal. I'd give the nod to the Region 4 disc by a whisker due only to the superior resolution of the PAL transfer.


    Memphis Belle is a really good film ruined by the video transfer which is terrible. The audio quality is pretty good. Extras? No, sorry!

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Richardson (read my bio)
Sunday, October 22, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPhilips 711, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig M70-281. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSherwood 8090R
SpeakersMains and Rears: Tannoy Mercury M1. Centre: Tannoy Mercury MC. Subwoofer: Polk Audio PSW-120

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Comments (Add)
Is this uncut? - Dane S (Bio...were you expecting some smart alec remark?)
Re: Is this uncut? - wolfgirv