Films like Crimson Tide, Hunt for Red October and U-571 have tried on their own ways to take their place as the definitive modern submarine movie, but Das Boot still stands as King, over 20 years after its release. I remember hearing about this film growing up, and as a lad of 10, wasn’t into foreign films, or war films, as I am now, which may not be saying much. In seeing it when the Director’s Cut first came out in 1997, many people snapped up the 5.1 soundtrack, and Director’s Commentar… which was on the flipper disc. In my first viewing, I became enamored by the experiences of German war correspondent Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer), as he watches the transformation of the baby faced crew of the U-Boat transform into unshaved, withdrawn men and the end of their journey in the 10 foot wide by 150 foot long submarine.
Jurgen Prochnow (Air Force One) is the Captain of the sub, who has become jaded from hearing the numerous failures of the sub, and while he does follow orders, and attempts to attack an Allied shipping convoy, the mission is almost one of survival. Doing what you can to stay sane, almost civil, during the time in cramped quarters. When his (and other) boats encounter the Allied ships, the chase is sonically powerful, with loud depth charges booming in the water, rattling the metal chassis of the sub, along with the contrasting quiet of the crew, hoping to avoid the ships above them. Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm) does an outstanding job of portraying the cramped quarters, the decaying morale of the crew, and all of the suspenseful elements up to, and including, their trip home.
When the Superbit line was first released, the President of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment said, “We believe that DVD enthusiasts will be thrilled with this exciting new concept.” Admittedly, I’ve largely stayed away from the line (except for The Fifth Element) due to the lack of extras. And I could be wrong, but it didn’t seem like Gattaca and Vertical Limit were movies I wanted to add to my collection.
And despite the dropped commentary from the initial release, I was assuming big things for the DTS track, and it delivered in a big way. The 2-disc set comes with the German DTS and 5.1, and a dubbed English 2.0 track. If you want to piss the neighbors off, crank up your sound system during the sub’s diving or surfacing. Or while the crew are on deck while the waves are crashing on them. Or when the depth charges go off. Early on in the movie, when the sub is diving to test its structural integrity, the moaning of the steel surrounds you, and the sounds of the water against the sub walls starts to feel almost constant in the rear speakers. A reference quality track, there’s no two ways around it, if you have a DTS decoder and a home theater system, it’s a must own.
What almost impressed me as much in the video transfer is how cleaned up the overall image is. With its 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, a new set of colors is opened up that perhaps one may have missed previously. More yellows and browns can be noticed, the ocean blues and greens are brighter, blacks are solid without any wavering, and there aren’t any edge enhancements to speak of.
As is the case with Superbit titles, this disc is without extras.
I’m a bit depressed that there wasn’t more to write on about the Superbit release of Das Boot, but its critical acclaim stands on its own, and the stepped up video quality is a pleasant surprise. If for nothing else, the DTS track alone makes it worth a purchase just to flex the muscles of your sound system.