The Longest Day: Special Edition (1962)

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Released 12-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Theatrical Trailer-2.35:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (3:09)
Featurette-D-Day Revisited (51:53)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1962
Running Time 171:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (97:12)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ken Annakin
Andrew Marton
Bernhard Wicki
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring John Wayne
Robert Mitchum
Richard Burton
Robert Ryan
Henry Fonda
Eddie Albert
Red Buttons
Sean Connery
Fabian
Roddy McDowall
Kenneth More
George Segal
Rod Steiger
Case ?
RPI $44.95 Music Maurice Jarre


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/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 Yes, minor during credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    Way back when, in the days when I could spend most of the weekend watching matinee movies (so far long ago that sport was not then the monotonous staple of weekend television), war films were the viewing highlights. Such efforts as The Battle Of Britain, Sands Of Iwo Jima, Midway, Battle Of The Bulge, 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 little production put together by Darryl F. Zanuck - The Longest Day. Indeed, it was such a staple that it seemed to get a broadcast about every month (or at least so it seemed), and I can tell you that I watched it every time. I would hate to think how many times I have seen the film, not just on television but on two VHS tapes and a Region 1 DVD. And no matter how many times I have seen the film, I can always sit down and watch the film again.

    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 does 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 that 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, Sean Connery, 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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Well, considering this is close to a forty year old film, one has to say that 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 colorized 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 - also unusual for a black and white film.

    Apart from the fact that the transfer is a tad on the dark side, and 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 (such as 12:07 and 43:10). 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 (such as at 5:52). 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 (such as at 30:05). 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 97:52. It is quite a good one, noticeable but without being too disruptive to the flow of the film.

    There is just the sole subtitle option for the main feature, being English for the Hearing Impaired. Frankly, they are not terrific and miss a fair portion of the 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 of the German side of things. Disappointingly, unless you select the subtitle option, you will not get any translation of the "foreign" dialogue of the film: there are no subtitles for the German and French dialogue in the film itself, which if I recall correctly were provided in the theatrical release and subsequent video releases of the film (and certainly were provided on the original Region 1 release of the film). I could, of course be wrong on this point.

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, being an English Dolby Digital 5.0 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. One could argue about the merits of remastering a 5.0 soundtrack instead of a 5.1 soundtrack, but frankly I doubt the source material would have really enabled anything especially brilliant to have been made of a 5.1 soundtrack without losing too much of the original soundtrack. As it is, the 5.0 soundtrack lacks a little in surround presence but otherwise is quite reminiscent of the original soundtrack. A little congested, it just lacks a bit of space in the sound that would have given the sound a much fuller nature. As it is, this has a slightly mono feel about it at times. Obviously there is nothing in the way of bass channel support here at all, and that is where you really notice the lack of zing when compared to more modern soundtracks.

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

Extras

    For a DVD with the Special Edition tag attached, I have to say that this is a disappointing collection of extras. Whilst appreciating that the film was made forty years ago, surely something better could have been assembled here? One monumental disappointment for me was the fact that the opportunity has not been taken to include the excellent colorized version of the film in the DVD package. This would have been a far more worthy inclusion than what we have here in my view, certainly at the retail price indicator quoted. Basically this is no Special Edition.

Menu

    Pretty boring in very way: no animation, no audio enhancement and not especially great looking to boot. I believe the word I might be striving for is functional.... Somewhat perversely, they do appear to be 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (3:09)

    Having seen this so many times, I know it virtually back to front. Presented in an aspect ratio 2.35:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not the greatest looking you will ever see, but for its age it is not that bad. Just a little on the dark side, but still eminently watchable. It does seem to be slightly truncated at the end, a factor it has in common with the Region 1 release. This is on the first DVD of this two DVD package.

Featurette - D-Day Revisited (51:53)

    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. You do however get a more extensive subtitle selection than the main feature.

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 Region 1 release, the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 release misses out on:

    Despite the presence of 16x9 enhancement on the Region 4 release, direct comparison between the two versions indicates that there is very little to choose between them.

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 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 a disappointment and despite the fact that it is a classic war film, I really think that we have some right to expect something better than this, especially at the indicated retail price indicator. Certainly there are indications that the PAL laserdisc release of the film included not just the featurette included here but also Movietone newsreel footage and a souvenir booklet.

    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.....

    Comment should also perhaps be made on the appallingly small number of chapters included in this rather lengthy film. Something like a dozen only for a near three hour film?

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, November 07, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). 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

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