The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1962
MPAA Rating: G
Feature running time: 178 Minutes
Genre: War Drama
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Lossless, English Dolby Surround, French Mono
Subtitles: English, Mandarin, Cantonese
Starring: John Wayne, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Red Buttons, Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Steve Forrest, Robert Wagner, Rod Steiger
Directed by: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited)
Music by: Paul Anka
Written by: Cornelius Ryan
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 3, 2008
"Never so timely, never so great"
With an all-star cast including John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger and Peter Lawford, to name a few, the Academy Award-winning epic THE LONGEST DAY (1962, Fox) recounts one of the largest and greatest military missions in history; the triumph and tragedy of the World War II heroes as they stormed the Normandy Beach on D-Day.
June 6, 1944, a day to remember. The Longest Day is a film that details the 24 hour period where Allied forces invaded German occupied France during World War II. This was a pivotal point in the war and one that cost the lives of many Allied soldiers in that effort. It holds special meaning for many of us as well as significant importance to the outcome of the war.
I think that as viewers we tend to watch movies without having a true appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes. In a case like this one there was much going on and had it not been for the passion and vision of one man this important film would never have come to fruition. Darryl F. Zanuck was the literally the glue that held The Longest Day together. That is not to take anything away from the 3 directors, production staff or the cast in any way. The bonus features included in this two disc set provide much more detail into his role in its making so I will leave that for viewers to see on their own. I felt that is was important that I mention it.
This is truly epic style movie making at its best. Huge set pieces, amazing (at the time) special effects, extensive and superb casting (43 international stars !), and collaborative direction. The painstaking attention to detail and elaborate reproduction of the pivotal events that surrounded D-Day are what makes this such a wonderful and classic movie. Zanuck made a controversial decision to film The Longest in black and white because he wanted it to have documentary style feel to it. He also had the foresight to have the German and French perspectives spoken in their native languages and subtitled in English. This added a layer of realism in the story’s telling. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won for Best Cinematography and Best Special Effects.
The visual and sound effects are certainly dated by today’s standards. The shooting of the large sequences and brilliant art direction is something that definitely did not feel that way. I suspect that others have copied some of the successful elements used in this film.
The casting was incredible and included so many familiar faces, both at the star level and up and coming star level. The seasoned actors were simply incredible and provided a solid foundation for the performance aspects in the movie. I had never seen The Longest Day before this viewing. The fact that it was filmed over 45 years ago didn’t concern me going in. For me a great movie is a great movie. When I finished watching it I felt as though I was fortunate. I felt a true appreciation for the work that went into it and for those who it documented. We all know about D-Day and there have been other great films that have covered its subject. This is the one that covers it from a perspective that should make us all proud to Americans.
The G rating surprised me. There is no graphic violence however it does depict war violence (people being shot and death). These shots contain no bloodshed or morbid details.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Monochrome reproduction:
The longest day comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p AVC encoded video with an average bitrate of 24 mbps and DTS-HD Master Audio Lossless sound with an average bitrate of 3.1 mbps.
This is the first Blu-ray Disc review of a black and white film that I have had the pleasure of doing. Looking at the film from a colorless aspect took some getting used to. Once that was done I was able to appreciate how wonderfully detailed this presentation is. Close ups revealed lots of fine articulation in the faces, hair and clothing worn by the cast members. Some have very expressive features, like John Wayne for instance, where high definition reveals every crack, crows foot, and wrinkle. Things that might otherwise be missed like tiny droplets of water (like dew) laying on the surface of clothing and hair had distinctive shapes and texture to them. Object detail in both interior and exterior shots was delivered quite well. This added a wonderful sense of depth to the image which made it appear more lifelike. Blacks had plenty of dynamic range and consistency which played very well against the various gray tones. Gray tones had plenty of variation so that images looked dimensionally diverse rather than a single shade of gray. Shadow detail and visible structure to objects contained in low light or dark areas looked great most of the time. Even in black and white it was easy to make out the different tonal qualities contained within the skin tones of the cast. I think that it was interesting to see how they appeared without color. I can’t say for sure how well this would have come across in standard definition but in HD it was noticeable. Grain was visible at times but it was in fine layers and appeared to be preserved just fine. I saw no signs of video noise or compression related artifacts. Keep in mind that this is a 40 plus year old film and some of the film effects are pretty dated. As a result fidelity in some scenes varied a bit but nothing that resulted in measurable degradation.
The audio presentation had elements that reminded me a bit of Patton in that it lacked the palpable dynamic range, engaging sound design and crystal clarity of the better soundtracks of today. Dialogue sounded excellent through the center channel as tonal characteristics in voices among the cast was clearly audible. The front three channels carried the majority of the sound associated with the mix which left it feeling less dimensional. The front sound stage was wide enough that it didn’t sound compressed. Panning sequences matched the onscreen information quite well which was a plus. Low frequency detail was not prevalent but when it was mixed to the subwoofer it had solid weight to it. Some notable examples are when the train is derailed by the French resistance, the exploding anti aircraft flak fired by the Germans and the truck explosion during the Allied capture of the bridge. These scenes contained respectable LFE output. The films score wasn’t very memorable and didn’t really play a part in the story telling. Although one thing did stand out. The music used to represent the Germans on several occasions reminded me of the beginning moments of the theme to the 1960’s TV series Hogan’s Heroes.
The bonus set included with this two disc Fox Blu-ray release of The longest Day is loaded with informative facts about the film, its subject, and the film makers who brought it to the big screen. Disc 1 contains two commentary tracks, one with Historian Mary Corey and the other with Director Ken Annakin. Both offer a unique perspective of the events and the film through these two knowledgeable people. Disc 2 is a standard definition DVD and contains the bulk of the supplements. A Day to Remember is probably the most comprehensive look at the films production as told by British Director Ken Annakin. AMC Channel’s Backstory documentary provides a deeper look at Darryl F. Zanuch and the internal struggles that surrounded the film and the studio at the time. The D-Day revisited is a filmed documentary shot in 1968 and hosted by Darryl F. Zanuck. It looks at the landing locations in Normandy 25 years after the invasion and contains footage from the film depicting those areas. The Salute to Courage feature looks at some of the real people who were there on that historic day in June 1944. The last featurette is a short one where Richard Zanuck talks about his father and his legacy. Trailers for Patton and Tora Tora Tora round out the feature set. This inside look at The Longest Day is definitely time well spent.
- Historical commentary with Mary Corey
- Film Commentary with Ken Annakin
- A Day to Remember - featurette
- Longest Day: A Salute to Courage - featurette
- AMC Backstory - The Longest Day
- D-Day Revisited - Documentary
- Richard Zanuck, on the Longest Day - featurette
- Still gallery
- Original theatrical trailer
The Longest Day is a film of great significance not only for its historical value but as a creative work. I was touched by the dedication of the film makers who did their absolute best to ensure that this retelling of the D-Day invasion in Normandy France was as close as possible to what transpired that fateful day. Fox Blu-ray has provided a superb package which includes excellent video quality, and comprehensive bonus features. If like me you have never seen this classic film then you can feel free to pick it up with confidence. Highly Recommended.
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