The attack on Pearl Harbor and the days leading up to that fateful event are the subject of the 1970 effort. The narrative jumps back and forth between the Japanese and American perspectives as just enough things go both wrong and right and both sides (the ascendancy of the militant army faction over the reluctant navy in Japan, crucial intelligence always arriving just a bit too late to the right people in States) to make the surprise attack inevitable.
For anyone who has had to e…dure the unspeakable Pearl Harbor, this is a welcome antidote. Its approach is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Michael Bay’s. There is no romance story here. In fact, there are barely any characters – top-billed Joseph Cotten has about twenty words of dialogue and an equal number of seconds of screen-time, and the closest one gets to a character arc involved Admiral Yamamoto and his reluctant, despairing planning of the attack. What one has instead is a sense of people as chess pieces being moved about by a sadistic master playing solo. And rather than Bay’s ridiculous CGI, actual planes are used, with the result that even with the passage of years, the attack in this film is far more convincingly realized.
The sound comes in 2.0 and 4.1 versions. The latter isn’t too bad, for a 1970 film, but it could be improved upon. The score has a decent, if not overwhelming mix. There is some effective use of surround and nice placement of sound effects, but there are just as many instances of either odd placement (planes sounding as if they’re coming from the rear when they are not) or nothing at all. A middling effort, and identical with the previous release..
Get past the slightly grainy and speckled opening credits, and the print looks pretty damn good. There are still a few shots here and there that have some noticeable grain, but otherwise the image is very sharp and clean. The colours, contrasts, and blacks are very strong. The movie looks good, but, as with the audio, it doesn’t look any better than the previous release. So picture and sound are not enough of a reason to pick up this version if you already have the other.
The commentary, by film historian Stuart Galbraith IV in conversation with director Richard Fleischer, is first-rate – articulate and informative on so many levels – but it, too, was on the earlier DVD. The same goes for “Day of Infamy,” a solid 20-minute doc about the attack, and the theatrical trailer. All of these extras are on Disc 1. Disc 2 has the new stuff. The “History Through the Lens” episode on the film is a nice history of the film, dealing as well with the questions of accuracy in the film’s recreations. Meanwhile, the “Hollywood Backstories” episode concerns itself more specifically with the difficulties the production encountered. For more direct history, there are ten Movietone newsreels concerning the attack and its aftermath (including the Doolittle raids on Tokyo). There are two still galleries (behind-the-scenes and production) and trailers for the feature, The Longest Day and Patton. The menu is basic.
The new extras are pretty good stuff, but if you already own the film, I’m not sure that they warrant the second purchase. If you’ve been holding out until now, however, this is a first-rate package.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Day of Infamy” Documentary
- “History Through the Lens” Episode
- “Hollywood Backstories” Episode
- 10 Movietone Newsreels
- Still Galleries