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The Colditz Story(1955)
During the Second World War the Germans put many of the Allied prisoners-of-war (POWs) who had proved consistent escapees together in a maximum security fortress, the very name of which became a legend. Based on the book by Colditz escapee Major Pat Reid, The Colditz Story (1957) documents the further, sometimes successful, escape attempts of these extraordinarily brave, resourceful and indomitable men.
For more about The Colditz Story and the The Colditz Story Blu-ray release, see the The Colditz Story Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 3, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Mills, Christopher Rhodes, Lionel Jeffries, Frederick Valk, Eric Portman, Bryan Forbes
Director: Guy Hamilton
» See full cast & crew
The Colditz Story Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 3, 2012
Guy Hamilton's "The Colditz Story" (1955) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal. The supplemental features on the disc include the documentary film "Colditz Revelead" and a restoration demonstration. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Various prisoners, amongst them British, Polish, Dutch, and French soldiers, are transferred to Colditz Castle, a heavily guarded POW camp deep inside the heart of Germany. As soon as they are sent to their cells, the men begin discussing the fastest way to get out.
During the day, the prisoners are allowed to move around the castle and even spend time on the big backyard where they mingle with the guards. Those who aren't busy digging secret tunnels and drawing maps typically discuss the latest escape attempt and why it has failed. Inside the castle, the Kommandant (Frederick Valk, Latin Quarter) and Colonel Richmond (Eric Portman, 49th Parallel), the leader of the British soldiers, often meet. They dislike but admire each other.
Shortly after Pat Reid and his comrades arrive in Colditz, they encounter a group of Polish soldiers who have figured out how to unlock every cell in their part of the castle. They also meet some French and Dutch soldiers who are digging a tunnel. Immensely impressed by their work, Reid and his men also begin plotting the perfect escape.
But in the days that follow the Germans uncover the tunnel and then deal with the Poles. (The Poles also deal with a traitor, one of their own). Other wannabe heroes are also captured or killed while trying to escape. The Kommandant then approaches Colonel Richmond and requests that he speaks to his men so that order is restored.
Eventually, a bubbly Scottish giant approaches Reid and reveals to him that he has found a safe way out. But before they attempt to escape, he clashes with the guards. This prompts Colonel Richmond to speak with him and the plan is changed. Reid still uses the original plan and escapes to Switzerland. From there, he sends Colonel Richmond a letter, which he reads in front of his men.
The film is based on P.R. Reid's novel, which was published in the United Kingdom in 1952. It has some similarities with Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion and John Sturges' The Great Escape, but both of those films are vastly superior.
The majority of the events in the film are seen through Reid's eyes. Some of the escape plans are discussed in detail while he is present, but the rest of the film is filled with various patriotic statements and even comedic overtones which make it clear that it was meant to be an entertaining propaganda piece rather than an accurate account of the events that took place in Colditz Castle.
The manner in which the Germans are portrayed in the film is particularly strange. Quite often it seems like they are the ones following the orders of the vastly more intelligent prisoners who are left digging all over the castle. There are sporadic arrests, but the troublemakers are rarely, if ever, punished.
The acting is mostly good, but this isn't a film where Mills makes an impression. (For a much more convincing performance from the legendary actor in a similarly themed film, see J. Lee Thompson's Ice Cold in Alex). On the other hand, Christopher Rhodes, who plays 'Mac' McGill, is only in a couple of big sequences where the camera follows him closely yet he is a lot more likable.
The Colditz Story was lensed by Gordon Dines, who also collaborated with Charles Frend on the war drama The Cruel Sea (1953) and Alexander Mackendrick's High and Dry a.k.a The Maggie (1954).
The Colditz Story Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Guy Hamilton's The Colditz Story arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal.
Recently restored, The Colditz Story looks very healthy on Blu-ray. There are no traces of excessive degraining and color boosting. Edge-enhancement is also not an issue of concern. Naturally, there is plenty of depth while clarity is consistently pleasing. This being said, select darker sequence exhibit sporadic softness, while a few frame transitions convey light edge flicker. Clearly, however, these fluctuations also reflect unevenness in the original elements that were used for the restoration (some of the softness is typically easy to spot where light is restricted). There are no serious stability issues. Also, it is quite clear that the film was cleaned up as best as possible. All in all, even though I do not have a DVD release of The Colditz Story in my library to perform some direct comparisons, it is quite obvious to me that this new restoration of the film is the best commercial presentation of the film to ever appear on the home video market. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Colditz Story Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, StudioCanal have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track has a limited dynamic amplitude, but this should not be surprising. Excluding a couple of mass scenes where the prisoners attempt to make a statement and anger their guards, the rest of the film has a fairly modest sound design. Depth and especially clarity, however, are very good. Also, there are no pops, cracks, distortions, and problematic hiss.
The Colditz Story Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Colditz Story Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Recently restored by StudioCanal, Guy Hamilton's The Colditz Story should appeal primarily to war film buffs. I am not familiar with the book that inspired it, but the material is indeed quite interesting - until the liberation of Colditz in 1945, there were approximately 320 attempted escapes in this legendary German castle. The film claims that this is a record unequaled in any P.O.W. camp in the two world wars. RECOMMENDED.
The Colditz Story Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Colditz Story Blu-ray - October 9, 2012
StudioCanal will release on Blu-ray director Guy Hamilton's recently restored war drama The Colditz Story (1955), starring John Mills, Eric Portman and Christopher Rhodes. The preliminary release date set by the studio is December 10th.
The Colditz Story Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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