James Mason plays Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in both The Desert Fox (1951) and The Desert Rats (1953), a WWII double-bill on DVD. The Desert Fox, released six years after the end of the War, is a solemnly respectful tribute to Erwin Rommel, Germany's most celebrated military genius. James Mason's portrayal of this gallant warrior became a highlight of his career iconography. The film itself is oddly disjointed, though: a pre-credit commando raid to liquidate Rommel is followed by a flashback to the field-marshal's lightning successes commanding the Afrika Korps--a compressed account via documentary footage and copious narration (spoken by Michael Rennie, who also dubs Desmond Young, the Rommel biographer and one-time British POW appearing briefly as himself). The dramatic core is Rommel's growing disenchantment with Hitler (Luther Adler), his involvement in the plot to assassinate the Fuhrer, and his subsequent martyrdom. The Desert Rats stars Richard Burton in only his second Hollywood role (between Oscar-nominated turns in My Cousin Rachel and The Robe), as a Scottish commando put in charge of a battalion of the 9th Australian Division defending Tobruk. The Aussies don't like him, and with a year of grim North African duty already under his belt, he's not too crazy about his new responsibilities either. The outfit is charged with staving off the battering assaults of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel for two months, to give the British Army time to regroup in Cairo and prepare for a counterattack. In the end, the "desert rats" play hell with the Desert Fox for 242 days, during which time they and their commander develop some mutual respect. This is a solid, workmanlike World War II picture that, having been made in 1953 rather than 1943, can acknowledge a degree of eccentric humanity and soldierly professionalism in the enemy. Featured guest star James Mason reprises his Rommel from The Desert Fox, playing all his scenes in German except for a scene of ironical repartee with Burton. Another distinguished Brit, Robert Newton, gets costar billing as a boozy, self-confessed coward who used to be Burton's schoolmaster. However, a goodly number of Australians--including Chips Rafferty and Charles "Bud" Tingwell rate at least as much screen time. Robert Wise directed, with a trimness that reminds us he started out as an editor, and the pungent black-and-white cinematography is by Lucien Ballard. --Richard T. Jameson
Scorned by reviewers when it came out, Where Eagles Dare has acquired a cult following over the years for its unashamed and highly concentrated dose of commando death-dealing to legions of Nazi machine-gun fodder. In 1968 Clint Eastwood was just getting used to the notion that he might be a world-class movie star; Richard Burton, whose image had been shaped equally by classical theatre and his headline-making romance with Elizabeth Taylor, was eager to try his hand at the action genre. Author Alistair MacLean's novel The Guns of Navarone had inspired the film that started the 1960s vogue for World War II military capers, so he was prevailed upon to write the screenplay (his first). The central location, an impregnable Alpine stronghold locked in ice and snow, is surpassing cool, but the plot and action are ultra-mechanical, and the switcheroo gamesmanship of just who is the undercover double (triple?) agent on the mission becomes aggressively silly. --Richard T Jameson
"The Counterfeiters" is the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936.
David Lean's masterpiece based on Charles Dickins' timeless novel about Pip, a blacksmith's apprentice who suddenly comes into great fortunes.
HACKSAW RIDGE is the epic and inspiring true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield; The Amazing Spider-Man franchise) an army medic and conscientious objector who, during the bloodiest battle of World War II, saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. Also starring Sam Worthington (Avatar), Vince Vaughn (True Detective), Hugo Weaving (The Hobbit franchise) and Teresa Palmer (Triple 9).
Black comedy and suspenseful action inside a German POW camp during World War II--a setting that was later borrowed for the American TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes. The great director Billy Wilder adapted the hit stage play, applying his own wicked sense of humour to the apparently bleak subject matter. William Holden plays an antisocial grouse amid a gang of wisecracking though indomitable American prisoners. Because of his bitter cynicism, Holden is suspected by the others of being an informer to the Germans, an accusation he must deal with in his own crafty way. Holden, who had delivered a brilliant performance for Wilder in Sunset Blvd., won the 1953 Best Actor Oscar for Stalag 17. Very much his equal, however, is Otto Preminger, an accomplished director himself, who plays the strict, sneering camp commandant. --Robert Horton
Director William Wellman (The Big Heat) offered up this 1949 treatment of the Battle of the Bulge, which won Oscars for best screenplay and best cinematography. The film concentrates on the camaraderie and the divisions between the troops as they prepare for the big offensive. Told in a taut narrative, the men of the 101st, led by Van Johnson, wait out the winter in the Ardennes forest to confront the German army in what would be the last major offensive of World War II. The men are demoralised and trapped, with no hope of support from the Allies as they are forced to band together and defend their position. A classically assembled war drama that nevertheless manages to be both engrossing and entertaining, Battleground is a mainstay of the genre. --Robert Lane
The final part of Pasolini's Trilogy of Life series was two years in the making. The locations - Yemen Ethiopia Iran and Nepal - form a rich exotic backdrop to these tales of slaves and kings potions betrayals demons and most of all love and lovemaking in all its myriad forms. Engrossing mysterious profound and liberating this is an exquisitely dreamlike sensuous and adult interpretation of the original folk tales presented here in a beautiful new high definition restoration.
The relationship between two lovers is examined through the 9 concerts they attend together.
A model for dozens of action films to follow, this box-office hit from 1967 refined a die-hard formula that has become overly familiar, but it's rarely been handled better than it was in this action-packed World War II thriller. Lee Marvin is perfectly cast as a down-but-not-out army major who is offered a shot at personal and professional redemption. If he can successfully train and discipline a squad of army rejects, misfits, killers, prisoners, and psychopaths into a first-rate unit of specialised soldiers, they'll earn a second chance to make up for their woeful misdeeds. Of course, there's a catch: to obtain their pardons, Marvin's band of badmen must agree to a suicide mission that will parachute them into the danger zone of Nazi-occupied France. It's a hazardous path to glory, but the men have no other choice than to accept and regain their lost honor. What makes The Dirty Dozen special is its phenomenal cast including Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, Jim Brown, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez, Robert Ryan, and others. Cassavetes is the Oscar-nominated standout as one of Marvin's most rebellious yet heroic men, but it's the whole ensemble--combined with the hard-as-nails direction of Robert Aldrich--that makes this such a high-velocity crowd pleaser. The script by Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller (from the novel by E.M. Nathanson) is strong enough to support the all-star lineup with ample humour and military grit, so if you're in need of a mainline jolt of testosterone, The Dirty Dozen is the movie for you. --Jeff Shannon
In the tradition of such obsessively driven directors as Erich von Stroheim and Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola approached the production of Apocalypse Now as if it was his own epic mission into the heart of darkness. On location in the storm-ravaged Philippines, he quite literally went mad as the project threatened to devour him in a vortex of creative despair but from this insanity came one of the greatest films ever made. It began as a John Milius screenplay, transposing Joseph Conrad's classic story "Heart of Darkness" into the horrors of the Vietnam War, following a battle-weary Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on a secret upriver mission to find and execute the renegade Colonel Kurtz(Marlon Brando), who has reverted to a state of murderous and mystical insanity. The journey is fraught with danger involving war-time action on epic and intimate scales. One measure of the film's awesome visceral impact is the number of sequences, images and lines of dialogue that have literally burned themselves into our cinematic consciousness, from the Wagnerian strike of helicopter gunships on a Vietnamese village to the brutal murder of stowaways and the unflinching fearlessness of the surfing warrior Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), who speaks lovingly of "the smell of napalm in the morning." Like Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, this film is the product of genius cast into a pit of hell and emerging, phoenix-like, in triumph. Coppola's obsession (effectively detailed in the riveting documentary Hearts of Darkness, directed by Coppola's wife, Eleanor) informs every scene and every frame, and the result is a film for the ages. --Jeff Shannon
Stanley Kubrick's singular war saga packs a more visceral punch in 4K. Matthew Modine, Vincent D'Onofrio and R.Lee Ermey- as a drill instructor from hell- shine in this gripping chronicle of U.S. Marine recruits during the Vietnam War. Shifting from the raw brutality of basic training to the dehumanising effects of combat, Full Metal Jacket deftly combines nonstop action with scathing dark humour.
1977's A Bridge Too Far by director Richard Attenborough features an all-star cast in an epic rendering of a daring but ultimately disastrous raid behind enemy lines in Holland during the Second World War. A lengthy and exhaustive look at the mechanics of warfare and the price and futility of war, the film is almost too large for its aims but manages to be both picaresque and affecting, particularly in the performance of James Caan. The impressive cast includes Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery and Liv Ullmann among others. While not a classic war film, it nevertheless manages to be a consistently interesting and exciting adventure. --Robert Lane
The Enemy Below and Sink the Bismarck! form a double feature of semi-classic CinemaScope-era WWII naval dramas sailing from the Fox vault onto DVD for the first time. In The Enemy Below Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens are respectively captains of a US destroyer and a German U-boat whose vessels come into conflict in the South Atlantic. Both are good men with a job to do, the script noting Jurgens' distaste for Hitler and the Nazis and engaging our sympathy with the German sailors almost as much as the Americans. Made at the height of the Cold War of the 1950s, the film delivers a liberal message of cooperation wrapped inside some spectacular action scenes and a story that builds to a tense and exciting, moving finale. Sink the Bismarck! is a British film dating from three years later and adopts a more documentary style in recounting the race against time to track and destroy what was in 1941 the most powerful battleship then built, the Bismarck. Shot in gleaming black and white so as to make use of genuine WWII archive footage, the film is held together by the introduction of a fictional naval officer in overall command of the operation, played excellently by Kenneth More. To add some human warmth he is given a tentative romantic subplot with a WREN played by the luminous Dana Wynter. Though initially slow to gather steam, Sink the Bismarck! finally delivers an epic, thoroughly horrifying conclusion. On the DVD: The Enemy Below and Sink the Bismarck! come as a two-disc set with multiple language and subtitle options, including English for Hard of Hearing, but no extras other than the original trailers. These are presented at 16:9 and 2.35:1. Both are rather faded, but are fine examples of an era when watching the previews didn't guarantee a migraine. Both films are anamorphically enhanced in their original 2.35:1 CinemaScope, and, bar a little grain in some shots and the inevitably inferior archive footage, the picture quality is excellent. The Enemy Below boasts sturdy three-channel sound (left, front, right) while Sink the Bismarck! is in very well mixed stereo. --Gary S Dalkin
Thematically ambitious and emotionally complex, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers is an intimate epic with much to say about war and the nature of heroism in America. Based on the non-fiction bestseller by James Bradley (with Ron Powers), and adapted by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis (Jarhead screenwriter William Broyles Jr. wrote an earlier draft that was abandoned when Eastwood signed on to direct), this isn't so much a conventional war movie as it is a thought-provoking meditation on our collective need for heroes, even at the expense of those we deem heroic. In telling the story of the six men (five Marines, one Navy medic) who raised the American flag of victory on the battle-ravaged Japanese island of Iwo Jima on February 23rd, 1945, Eastwood takes us deep into the horror of war (in painstakingly authentic Iwo Jima battle scenes) while emphasizing how three of the surviving flag-raisers (played by Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe, and Jesse Bradford) became reluctant celebrities - and resentful pawns in a wartime publicity campaign - after their flag-raising was immortalized by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal in the most famous photograph in military history. As the surviving flag-raisers reluctantly play their public roles as "the heroes of Iwo Jima" during an exhausting (but clearly necessary) wartime bond rally tour, Flags of Our Fathers evolves into a pointed study of battlefield valor and misplaced idolatry, incorporating subtle comment on the bogus nature of celebrity, the trauma of battle, and the true meaning of heroism in wartime. Wisely avoiding any direct parallels to contemporary history, Eastwood allows us to draw our own conclusions about the Iwo Jima flag-raisers and how their postwar histories (both noble and tragic) simultaneously illustrate the hazards of exploited celebrity and society's genuine need for admirable role models during times of national crisis. Flags of Our Fathers defies the expectations of those seeking a more straightforward war-action drama, but it's richly satisfying, impeccably crafted film that manages to be genuinely patriotic (in celebrating the camaraderie of soldiers in battle) while dramatising the ultimate futility of war. Eastwood's follow-up film, Letters from Iwo Jima, examines the Iwo Jima conflict from the Japanese perspective. Critically hailed as an instant classic, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima is a masterwork of uncommon humanity and a harrowing, unforgettable indictment of the horrors of war. In an unprecedented demonstration of worldly citizenship, Eastwood (from a spare, tightly focused screenplay by first-time screenwriter Iris Yamashita) has crafted a truly Japanese film, with Japanese dialogue (with subtitles) and filmed in a contemplative Japanese style, serving as both complement and counterpoint to Eastwood's previously released companion film Flags of Our Fathers. Where the earlier film employed a complex non-linear structure and epic-scale production values to dramatise one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and its traumatic impact on American soldiers, Letters reveals the battle of Iwo Jima from the tunnel- and cave-dwelling perspective of the Japanese, hopelessly outnumbered, deprived of reinforcements, and doomed to die in inevitable defeat. While maintaining many of the traditions of the conventional war drama, Eastwood extends his sympathetic touch to humanise "the enemy," revealing the internal and external conflicts of soldiers and officers alike, forced by circumstance to sacrifice themselves or defend their honour against insurmountable odds. From the weary reluctance of a young recruit named Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) to the dignified yet desperately anguished strategy of Japanese commander Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by Oscar-nominated The Last Samurai costar Ken Watanabe), whose letters home inspired the film's title and present-day framing device, Letters from Iwo Jima (which conveys the bleakness of battle through a near-total absence of colour) steadfastly avoids the glorification of war while paying honorable tribute to ill-fated men who can only dream of the comforts of home. --Jeff Shannon
Ingmar Bergman's classic drama celebrates its 50th anniversary with this cinematic re-issue.
"Days Of Glory" chronicles the story of the forgotten Algerians who fought alongside the French in WW2.
Robert Shaw (Young Winston), Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Barbara Bach (Short Night of Glass Dolls) and Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal) star alongside Carl Weathers (Rocky), Richard Kiel (Moonraker) and Franco Nero (Django) in the star-studded high adventure, Force 10 from Navarone. Directed with an assured hand by Guy Hamilton (Battle of Britain), this rip-roaring adaptation of Alistair MacLean's follow-up to the classic The Guns of Navarone sees the elite cadre of commandos embark on a secret mission deep in the Yugoslavian wilderness, during the darkest days of World War II. Features: High Definition remasters The extended, 126-minute European version with 5.1 surround, stereo and mono options Box-set exclusive presentation of the alternative, 118-minute original theatrical cut with original mono audio Audio commentary with film historians Steve Mitchell and Steven Jay Rubin (2020) The BEHP Interview with Ron Goodwin (1999): archival video recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the celebrated composer in conversation with Linda Wood Tour de Force (2020): actor Angus MacInnes recalls his early film role From Å½abljak with Love (2020): the making of Force 10 from Navarone as told by construction manager Terry Apsey, stuntman Jim Dowdall, grip Dennis Fraser, chief hairdresser Colin Jamison, and chief make-up artist Peter Robb-King Christopher Challis: A Life Behind the Lens (2020): a tribute to the acclaimed cinematographer, featuring interviews with fellow directors of photography and camera crew Dennis Fraser, Oswald Morris, John Palmer and Sidney Samuelson, and archival footage of Challis including previously unseen material A Show of Force (2020): video comparison of the different versions of Force 10 from Navarone Super 8 version: cut-down home cinema presentation Two original theatrical trailers TV Spot Image gallery: publicity and promotional material New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with a new essay by Sheldon Hall, archival production reports including interviews with cast and crew members, an interview with actor Robert Shaw, recollections of the film's Yugoslavia shoot excerpted from the memoirs cinematographer Christopher Challis and screenwriter George Macdonald Fraser, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits Limited edition exclusive set of five replica production stills UK premiere on Blu-ray Limited edition of 3,000 copies
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