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Patton 360: The Complete Season One(TV) (2009)
History puts you in the action with Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., as he leads his heroic soldiers in North Africa, Sicily and the charge across Europe to defeat the Third Reich.
For more about Patton 360: The Complete Season One and the Patton 360: The Complete Season One Blu-ray release, see the Patton 360: The Complete Season One Blu-ray Review
Patton 360: The Complete Season One Blu-ray Review
If you only know Patton via George C. Scott, you're in for a surprise with this extremely entertaining and informative new History Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 10, 2010
Judges hearing lawsuits in which they have either a personal interest or standing are usually asked to recuse themselves, removing any hint that a decision could be biased one way or the other. I'm not sure if the same criterion is applied to Blu-ray reviewers, but I should state outright going into this summary of Patton 360 that my father was a battalion commander under old "Blood and Guts" in World War II, and in fact one of my father's most celebrated commands (for which he and his men were awarded a Presidential Unit Citation), the taking of Port Lyautey by the 2nd battalion of the 60th Infantry as part of Operation Torch, is covered in some detail in the first episode of this History Channel series. Therefore I beg your indulgence if I spend a little time dealing with Patton 360 by way of remembering my father, of whom I am I think quite justifiably proud.
Through the sad attrition which accompanied the mortality rate of our soldiers in the Second World War, my father quickly rose from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel in just a couple of years (he would end his Army career as a Major General, with a wall full of citations, medals and awards, as well as two buildings—including a Military Museum he founded—named after him at various Army Forts). With a then daring handlebar mustache and an indomitable will, my father quickly earned two soubriquets, "Black Mike" (for the mustache) and "Iron Mike" (for his bravado). His exploits as battalion commander became fodder for noted war correspondent A.J. Liebling, who covered my Dad's adventures in a number of his famous stories, several of which appeared in The New Yorker, most notably the "Molly" series, named after one of the enlisted men under my father's command. My father served under Patton for the bulk of his command, following the General from that first invasion of Morocco through to Sicily and beyond. Growing up with a father of this caliber meant I was regularly exposed to personal history lessons, often of the variety that never quite makes the typical school curriculum.
For instance, my father delighted in telling me, when the film Patton came out and everyone assumed the real man was just like George C. Scott, that in reality Patton had a very effeminate, high voice, something my Dad thought played into Patton's need to be overbearing and aggressive. Now that's the sort of history lesson most books (and shows) tend to leave out. Other, perhaps more questionable, anecdotes often filled my father's reminiscences, as when he confided he improved morale considerably among the troops who had taken Port Lyautey (many of them very young and in their first battle) by making the town's houses of ill repute available to them once fighting had died down. (For anyone interested in a less provocative, but no less fascinating, recounting of my father's campaign from Lyautey on, there's a website devoted to the 60th Infantry, run by one of the men who is interviewed on Patton 360, which has uploaded his typewritten comments. It's available in PDF form here).
For those without the family connection to the epochal conflict of the 20th century, and Patton's place in it, Patton 360 may have a somewhat less personal impact, but should be no less informative or compelling. The series does a superb job in reviewing not only the tactics of Patton's various campaigns, but the personality of the General, who was infamously volatile and, some would argue, neurotic. Patton was an unusually philosophical commander, though truth be told most of the great commanders of World War II (including Lucian Truscott, my father's direct superior) were amazingly articulate, thoughtful men, as is proven not only here in Patton 360, but, from my personal experience, as revealed in their personal correspondence to the field commanders under their watch. Patton felt called to his service, though of course it wasn't entirely an altruistic affair; he felt, rightly or wrongly, that he was a great man whose mettle would be proven in a great battle. History seems to have agreed, at least in part.
Patton was a conflicted individual, as this series makes clear, at least tangentially. When his reputation was nearly destroyed after he slapped two (not one) shell shocked soldiers, it revealed an ugly side to Patton's temperament that colored not only his reputation with his superiors and underlings, but, perhaps more importantly, at least for Patton himself, with the press. (In another personal sidebar, if I may be permitted: my father was part of the brigade to whom Patton was forced to apologize after he had slapped the men. My Dad snuck a camera in under his pants, steadied it between his knees, and snapped several pictures up close and personal of Patton apologizing. He showed them to me several times as I was growing up, but I was horrified to discover after he died and I received all of his memorabilia that he had simply given them away to one of his buddies who had asked about them. So much for my fantasies of eBay riches. I do have a marvelous picture my father took of Patton, Eisenhower and Churchill emerging from a tent on some battlefield).
As in its sister series Battle 360, Patton 360 is after all less interested in the psychology of its players than in the strategies utilized to achieve supremacy on the battlefield. Copious use of CGI, as well as very well chosen and insightful interviews by a handful of survivors who fought these battles and are still around to talk about it, as well as military experts of later generations, help to make the realities, and indeed the horrors, of war, viscerally authentic for the viewer. (One of the episodes is dedicated to one of these elderly vets, who died just as the episode was being assembled for air).
Patton 360 traces a largely chronological path through Old Blood and Guts' World War II exploits, splitting the General's activities into 10 episodes which are offered on two Blu-rays. The episodes included are:
Blood and Guts
Rommel's Last Stand
Baptism of Blood
Leading the Charge
On Hitler's Doorstep
Battle of the Bulge
Crushing the Third Reich
Patton 360: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Video Quality
Patton 360 is a hit or miss affair, image quality wise, with an AVC encoded 1080p image in 1.78:1. Interview segments are sharp and well detailed, with lifelike color delivered with excellent saturation. Some of the battle reenactments feature desaturated, overly grainy processed shots which need to be taken into consideration. The CGI, while fairly basic, is sharp and well defined, though sometimes not exceptionally colorful. What is odd about this series is the unusual choice to present a lot of the archival footage anamorphically stretched, rather than either blowing up the image to fill a 16:9 screen or, preferably, simply pillar boxing those elements. A lot of the archival footage is pretty rough looking, with extensive damage and often overwhelming grain. The series does have a good sweep and variety of visuals to keep the viewer engaged, and the Blu-ray offers excellent to exceptional sharpness and detail throughout the ten episodes.
Patton 360: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Patton 360 is presented with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that is robust but never overbearing, something to be thankful considering the many battle scenes which are included here. Those scenes offer some extremely propulsive LFE, though the narrower soundfield means you won't be ducking your head due to any panning effects. Dialogue, voiceover and onscreen interview segments are all very clear and mixed extremely well, so that nothing gets buried under sound effects. This soundtrack does of course bristle best in the battle sequences, which are full of explosions, crunches, snaps and other sounds of action, all of which the DTS track offers with sterling fidelity and excellent dynamic range. It would have been nice to have been offered a full surround track here, especially considering the fact the bulk of this series is battle recreations, but what we do have is a very sharp, clear and well detailed track, albeit one with a narrow soundfield.
Patton 360: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are included on either disc.
Patton 360: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
My personal biases aside, Patton 360 should be compelling viewing for anyone with an interest in World War II in particular, or battle strategies in general (no pun intended). Adding to the intrigue here is Patton's very volatile temperament, which receives a balanced review. As we get further and further away from the Greatest Generation, series like Patton 360 help us to remember the individuals who helped to preserve our freedom and defeat one of the most evil regimes to ever conquer the globe. Patton 360 is very highly recommended.
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