Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 24th, 2005
The Battle of Britain was a famous turning point in the World War Two theatre. The movie, Battle of Britain, was brought to your home theatre a few years ago. This single disc edition, with very few features, seemingly cried out for more. Now we have it in Battle of Britain: Collectors Edition, 2 discs of military goodness.
The film itself has spectacle. The planes used for this film helped create an air force equal to a medium sized country. No CGI here. The director is Guy Hamilton (b…st known for early James Bond films). Battle of Britain is one of those large all star cast war movies (think of A Bridge Too Far) that was made popular in the late 60′s/early 70′s. This movie is all Brits however (with a sprinLing of Germans). Michael Caine, Ralph Richardson, Robert Shaw, Laurence Olivier, and many others take part in the action. The film has a few flaws. There are some phony photography shots and the dramatic construction is a bit sloppy. Thereâ€™s an attempt at a romantic sub-plot (featuring Christopher Plummer and Susannah York), and thankfully itâ€™s not as damn annoying as the love plots in Pearl Harbor. But I quibble.
The flying sequences sound great in the Dolby Digital 5.1. Itâ€™s a clichÃ© to say that the audio mix â€œputs you right thereâ€. But I will say it anyway. It does put you there. The â€œrat-a-tat-tatâ€™sâ€ and explosions could put a serious dent into your speakers. The remastering job did the best it could do with the material. The audio mix is very strong. Don’t listen to this in Mono.
Again, working from old source material, the video remastering is excellent. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer has a few grains and specks here and there. But, for the most part, this transfer is as clean as a houndâ€™s tooth. Colors are not over digitized. The picture looks natural. Blacks are not extremely rich, but thatâ€™s a small qualm. Flesh tones and other colors are consistent. Like the sound mix, the video transfer is quality stuff.
First up is a commentary by director Guy Hamilton, aerial sequence director Bernard Williams, and historian Paul Arnett. This is a dry British commentary with a lot of “dry spots”. Not the greatest commentary I’ve ever heard, but a lot of cool factoids.
There is also a track which features the original William Walton score. This is an interesting feature because it shows the difference between the two scores. I kinda prefer the Walton score. It has a little more pomp and circumstance. The Ron Goodwin score seems a little hokey to me. This track is worth a listen.
There are four documentary featurettes on this disc:
â€œThe Battle for the Battle of Britainâ€ is, roughly, an hour long. Itâ€™s fun because it was made in the late 60â€™s. Narrated by a very young Michael Caine, he talks about historical importance of the â€œrealâ€ Battle of Britain. I love the scene where Caine stands outside a pub and talks about how â€œswinginâ€™â€ London wouldnâ€™t be so swinginâ€™ if it wasnâ€™t for the heroism of the British air force. The featurette takes us from real life Londoners remembering the Battle to the on set making-of. One for the time capsule. The video quality isnâ€™t the best, but thatâ€™s part of the charm.
â€œAuthenticity in the Airâ€ is 20 minutes long and details how the flying effects were conceived and filmed. To sum up, a camera was placed in a brightly colored psychadelic plane, and the other planes few in formation for their scenes. Quite interesting. Well worth a look if youâ€™re a plane nut. Itâ€™s also interesting from a filmmaking point of view.
â€œA Film for the Fewâ€ is 20 minutes and uses contemporary interviews to talk about the impact of the film today. The director, Guy Hamilton, does most of the speaking. His comments also address issues of the cast and some of the technical difficulties in making the film. Standard featurette material, but with some â€œhistorical importanceâ€.
â€œRecollections of an RAF Squadron Leaderâ€ is ten minutes long and is a semi-fascinating interview with Basil Stapleton. The style of featurette is a little bland, but Stapleton does have a good story to tell.
The other features on Disc 2 include â€œImages from the Skyâ€, an animated photo gallery. Worth checking out. Some cool shots. There are also trailers for this film and other â€œclassicâ€ World War II films.
Winston Churchill once said about the Battle of Britain: â€œNever in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so fewâ€. The Battle is a watershed moment in the history of 20th century England. The film, Battle of Britain does justice to the men and women who fought there. The problem with the film, dramatically, is the nature of the battle itself. Thereâ€™s no swift, climactic event like Pearl Harbor. The Battle continues over an extended period of time. The result is not the tightest constructed film. However, the performances are uniformly fine and thereâ€™s no doubt as to the filmâ€™s spectacle. The airplanes are the real stars of this film. This is a good old fashioned “classic”, and for World War II movie junkies, Battle of Britain: Collectorâ€™s Edition is a must own.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Alternate Score
- “Battle for the Battle of Britain” featurette
- “Authenticity in the Air” featurette
- “A Film for the Few” featurette
- “Recollections of an RAF Squadron Leader” featurette
- “Images from the Sky” Photo Gallery