Fans of Saving Private Ryan are hereby advised to look in to this 1950 effort, one of the original platoon films.
Richard Widmark is former school teacher (sound familiar?), now Lieutenant. He and his men (including such notables as Jack Palance, Robert Wagner, Karl Malden and Jack Webb) are part of a massive assault on a Japanese-held island. Stymied by Japanese rockets, the attack stalls. Widmark must lead a small group to capture Japanese prisoners in the hope of finding the location of…the rocket launchers before the primary assault must begin again (and perhaps be decimated).
Fox has remixed the soundtrack of this (and its companion releases) into 2.0 stereo. The result is mixed. On the one hand, the sound is very clean, with only very, very minor background hiss, and the stereo does add something to the battle scenes. The rocket bombardments, in particular, benefit from this track. On the other hand, EVERYTHING is now in surround sound, including the dialogue, which produces what is sometimes a rather disconcerting effect. For the purists, a mono soundtrack is also provided. And bear in mind that the film is over fifty years old – no amount of remixing is going to make the explosions sound like Armageddon.
The video is very nice indeed. There is some extremely minor print damage (a few speckles here and there, some flicker and flare towards the end of the film), but overall the picture is gorgeous. The Technicolor is glorious (check out the sunset in the opening shot). The night scenes are perfectly visible with no discernible picture enhancement. There were several moments where my jaw dropped at how beautiful the picture (in its original 1.33:1 format) looked. The layer transition is nicely timed with a blackout (always appreciated).
The menu is still and silent, and the extras are minimal: trailers for Halls of Montezuma and a half-dozen other war films.
This is a lot of fun, both in an of itself, and also for spotting younger versions of well-known actors. Additionally, Karl Malden’s morale-boosting speech bears uncanny resemblance to things we’re hearing on the news today.
Special Features List