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The Longest Day(1962)
The triumph and tragedy of the World War II heroes who stormed Normandy Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, are immortalized in this film. Seen through the eyes of Allied generals, foot soldiers, strategists and paratroopers, The Longest Day recounts the largest and greatest military mission of all time. In a battle that would change the course of history, 5,000 ships unloaded over 3 million men on the beaches of France, and the Allies gained a valuable foothold on enemy territory, at an incalculable cost. This massive production required five directors and featured an international cast of thousands, including John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Eddie Albert, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Peter Lawford, Rod Steiger, Stuart Whitman, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Curt Jürgens and more!
For more about The Longest Day and the The Longest Day Blu-ray release, see the The Longest Day Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 30, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd
Directors: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki
» See full cast & crew
The Longest Day Blu-ray Review
An epic Hollywood war masterpiece invades Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 30, 2008
We're on the eve of a day that people are going to talk about long after we are dead and gone.
The Longest Day is a true Hollywood War epic. Made when soldiers still died while clutching wounds in a grossly exaggerated manner, making a theatrical production out of each death, and when war was made to look somewhat glamorous and toned down from the grisly realism seen nowadays, it nevertheless remains a classic, if just a bit campy here and there, perhaps the crowning war movie achievement churned out by the Hollywood of yore. Even the war movies of two or three decades ago, such as Platoon or Apocalypse Now didn't show the excrutiating, lifelike, and grisly detail that is the reality of war as seen in newer films like Black Hawk Down. Also unlike the war films of today, save for the likes of We Were Soldiers and the lesser-known The Iron Triangle, the classic war films spent quite a bit of time focusing on the tactics of the enemy, allowing the audience to "infiltrate" their headquarters and understand their strategy and place in the film, rather than making them generic, faceless targets for the good guys to kill. We also see this moviemaking strategy in Patton and Tora! Tora! Tora!. The Longest Day may not have nailed the lifelike grittiness of war like the modern war movie does, but it's a spectacle all its own, and a genuine American classic.
Long before 1998's Saving Private Ryan, audiences were shown the hardships endured by the world's fighting men on D-Day, June 6, 1944 in The Longest Day. While Ryan only scratched the surface of the madness, albeit in excruciating and sometimes hard-to-watch detail, The Longest Day goes in-depth to focus on the last stages of the planning of the attack, the German's planned defense for the inevitable invasion of France, and the attack itself, not only on the beaches of Normandy but the nighttime drop of Allied forces behind enemy lines the night before the attack. The movie opens with the Nazis preparing for a potential invasion, discussing the defenses and coded messages they've intercepted. Meanwhile, back in England, at one of the 1,108 Allied camps, American troops prepare for the invasion. The first half of the movie plays out like a chess match, each side trying to outwit the other, the Allies by dropping dummy soldiers that explode on impact, for example, while the Germans are trying to figure out what this diversion means and where the real invasion will hit, strategically positioning their forces to counter it. The movie deals with the frustration of postponing the invasion from the allied perspective and concerns over the lack of preparedness from the German side. From here, the movie showcases both the nighttime Allied air drop into France and the invasion itself in an excellent and epic fashion.
The Longest Day is unique in that several directors helmed various segments of the film. Ken Annakin oversaw the British segments, Andrew Marton the American segments, and Bernhard Wicki the German segments. Despite the hodgepodge of directors who worked on the film, the transition from one to the other is seamless, and had I not been familiar with the history of the film, I would not have noted a drastic change in pace, tone, or style. Amongst the three segments are numerous classic scenes and lines ("I wonder what 'bitter bitter' means?"). One of the film's most famous scenes showcases the brief ordeal of a soldier (Red Buttons, Sayonara, Hatari) whose parachute becomes caught in the steeple of a church. He watches the chaotic battle from above, is shot at (and is hit in the foot), and the audience must wait in agony to find out what became of him, and we won't know until later in the movie. There are many other classic scenes in the film, a soldier mistaking "two clicks" indicating a friendly for the working of a rifle bolt by a German soldier being another. In fact, the clickers provide for several great scenes, some will make you laugh, others will make you angry. The Longest Day, much like A Bridge Too Far, features a plethora of Hollywood's finest stars, many in small cameo roles. One of the all-time greats, John Wayne, shines in his role, and Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Jeffry Hunter (the original Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike of television's "Star Trek"), Roddy McDowall, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Wagner are but a few of the stars littered throughout the film.
The Longest Day Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Longest Day storms Blu-ray with an impressive black-and-white, 1080p, 2.35:1 framed stunner of an image. If this is what classic black-and-white films are going to look like on Blu-ray, I enthusiastically recommend that the studios bring them on. A vertical black line appears in some scenes. Some effects shots, like those of the German General Erwin Rommel discussing the possible Allied invasion at the beginning, stand out as especially phony under the harsh scrutiny of Blu-ray. Nevertheless, it adds a certain nostalgic charm to the scenes, and allows us to view the film fairly close to exactly how it was made. Some shots appear a bit soft and undefined, but for the most part, the image is remarkably sharp with excellent detail. Any time we see a close-up of uniforms, the German officer uniforms in particular, the ornateness of the medals and symbols, and the fabric of the clothing is exceptionally clear. In close-up shots inside the drop planes bringing the soldiers to the fight, we are privy to some remarkably fine detail in the straps, seeing every fray on their edges and stitching lines going through them. Even though this is a classic black-and-white image, there is still excellent separation of shades, and black levels are strikingly solid. There is also some wonderful cinematography in the movie; a long, continuous and panning shot of a running gun battle in chapter 34 is mesmerizing, and one of my favorite war movie scenes, ever. Much like the transfer we saw on Patton, this is another first-rate effort and befitting of the spectacle and grandeur of the film. Again, well done, Fox.
The Longest Day Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fox's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless sound presentation found on The Longest Day is a solid one. It's not going to blow you away like an action film of more recent vintage such as Rambo, but for what it is, it's fantastic. Surrounds manage to be in use a good bit of the time, delivering both ambiance and action. They aren't always active, especially in a few spots where we would expect them to be in some scenes (take for example, chapter 14 where the noises of the busy German command center come through the front, but not the rear), but that's OK. The track seems representative of the source material, and for a film released in 1962, I'm more than pleased with the results. The militaristic, percussion-heavy music sounds wonderfully powerful and engaging, as do the opening credits featuring Beethoven's Fifth symphony. Bass isn't deep, but it more than suffices; all of the film's explosions sound magnificently classic, as does the machine gun fire, the ricochets of the bullets, and all the sounds of war. As planes strafe troops or drop bombs during the film's landing sequences about two hours in, you'll feel the impact of the munitions and almost constantly hear echoes and the distant sounds of gunfire and explosions. It's a nice effect, and a chilling one. This lossless soundtrack is obviously the best I've ever heard this film, and easily surpasses the DVD copy I've owned for a while now.
The Longest Day Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Longest Day invades Blu-ray as a two-disc special edition. Disc one features two commentary tracks, the first a historical commentary with Mary Corey, a post-World War II professor of intellectual and cultural history at UCLA. Corey discusses the importance and nuances of the musical cues of the film, points out some historical inaccuracies (the hair of the bicycle girl at the beginning of the film), and provides some fascinating trivia about the movie (did you know this was, at the time, the most expensive black and white film ever made?). Corey, as a college professor, brings that lecture hall sense to the track, which I happen to love (I was a history major in college, in part because I couldn't get enough of the fascinating lectures). The second track features co-director Ken Annakin, the only living director to have worked on the film. Annakin discusses the origins of the film, covering much of what is discussed in the other supplements, but this track remains a fascinating listen nevertheless. Annakin has plenty of stories to tell, never allowing us to become bored with listening to him speak about the movie and filling in some gaps about what input the other co-directors may have had for us, discussing both the German and American actors, not just focusing on his segments.
Like Patton, The Longest Day's second disc supplements are contained on a DVD disc. A Day to Remember (480p, 17:52) leads things off. The feature is a discussion with one of the film's directors, Ken Annakin, who recounts his memories about the making of the film. The Longest Day: A Salute to Courage (480p, 43:45) is a documentary from 2001 that looks at the importance of the true battle and how the real story far outweighs the brilliance of the film based around it. Narrated by Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), the piece examines the contributions of Cornelius Ryan, the author of the 1959 book of the same name as this movie, to the project. Also examined is the influence the book had on 20th Century Fox founder and The Longest Day producer Darryl F. Zanuck. This feature goes in-depth from everything to the selection of the film's directors, to the decision to film in black and white, to some of the factual errors in the film, and to some of the real stories of courage that took place on June 6, 1944. This is a solid documentary that anyone who enjoys war films, classic movies, or history will want to add to their Blu-ray collection.
Backstory - The Longest Day (480p, 25:09) is a feature from 2000 that focuses on the life and times of Darryl F. Zanuck and the importance The Longest Day played in his life and career, as well as the painstaking lengths the filmmakers went through to make the most authentic D-Day film imaginable. D-Day Revisited (480p, 51:52) is a classic making-of documentary from 1968 that features footage from the film along with behind-the-scenes color footage filmed by Zanuck himself. Darryl F. Zanuck: A Dream Fulfilled (480p, 3:58) is a short feature where Zanuck's son, Richard, recounts a few highlights from his father's career that revolve around The Longest Day. Four separate series of still galleries are next, focusing on "production," "behind-the-scenes," "concept art," and "marketing & publicity." Concluding the supplemental features on disc two are trailers for The Longest Day (480p, 1:48), Patton (1080p, 1:46), and Tora! Tora! Tora! (480p, 3:40).
The Longest Day Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One of the finest war movies of all time, The Longest Day remains a crowd pleaser and first-rate war epic some 45+ years after its release. Combining the intelligence and pace of a thinking man's behind-the-scenes war movie, much like The Great Raid, with the nonstop action of Black Hawk Down (though decidedly toned down in gore but certainly not in intensity), The Longest Day stands proudly near the top of the list of the all-time great war movies, and this comes from one of the genre's biggest fans. 20th Century Fox has once again gone above and beyond the call of duty, providing fans a glorious transfer that feels larger than life and looks fantastic, too. The audio quality is a marked improvement over any version I've heard before, and the supplemental materials are exhaustive and interesting. As far as classic movies on Blu-ray go, they don't get a whole lot better than this, and The Longest Day comes highly recommended!
The Longest Day: Other Editions
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The Longest Day Blu-ray, News and Updates
• War Classics on Blu-ray from Fox/MGM - April 22, 2008
Fox Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment have announced five war film classics coming to Blu-ray on June 3rd. MGM will bring 'Battle of Britain' and 'A Bridge Too Far', while 'The Longest Day', 'Patton', and 'The Sand Pebbles' will come from Fox. Video ...
• Patton Gets Detailed for Blu-ray - March 11, 2008
Fox Home Entertainment has revealed the the specs and special features that will be included with the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Patton', due to hit store shelves on June 3rd. Video will be presented in 1080p AVC and be accompanied by a DTS-HD Master Audio lossless ...
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