LONGEST DAY, THE: DVD
June 6, 1944: D-Day. Three million men, 11,000 planes and 4,000 ships set off at dawn from
Englandís south coast, bound for Normandy. Their objective: to free France from Nazi
occupation. As paratroopers drop inland to cut off German reinforcements, foot soldiers
storm the beaches, taking heavy casualties in the process. It will be the longest of days,
and for many it will be their last.
Review by Stuart Whitmore:
Ah 1962! When epics really were epic. Heaven only knows how much a film like The Longest
Day, with its "48 International Stars," scores of locations, troika of directors
and massed battle scenes would cost to make today. Even with digital trickery now
available to reduce the costs, the accountants would probably pull the pin before the film
got out of the planning stage.
In The Longest Day we have a film so big it can take a legend of French wartime cinema
like Jean-Louis Barrault and give him a bit part as a vicar. The film needs such massive
bones for it carries the weight of history on its epaulettes. The Longest Day claims to be
an hour-by-hour account of the way D-Day unfolded. No shortcuts are taken to speed things
along, and there is no massaging of the truth to make things easier for the audience to
follow. Major participants on both sides are identified by name rank and number, and each
is given their due. At times the film feels more like a re-enactment than a drama.
Itís wordy, worthy and for the first 45 minutes pretty damn dull. Thereís so
much detail to convey to viewers that even high-ranking cast members like John Wayne,
Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum are assigned exposition duties.
Once the invasion gets underway, things pick up markedly. Cornelius Ryan, adapting from
his own book, still fills the script with redundant lines from the "Look,
theyíre coming!" school of screenwriting, but increasingly the events are
allowed to speak for themselves. The filmís finest moments require no speeches at
all: The near-silent horror of an American paratrooper, hung up on a church spire,
witnessing his unit being massacred as they mistakenly drop into an enemy-occupied town
square; the elation of a French peasant, howling with glee at the sight of the advancing
armada even as shells rain down upon his home. But it is the noisy storming of the beaches
that form the filmís centrepiece. Steven Spielbergís Saving Private Ryan may
have managed to better convey the horror of the Normandy landings, but nothing matches The
Longest Day for sheer scale and Boys Own bravado. The high-contrast cinematography was a
deserved Oscar winner.
The main special feature is a 50-minute documentary shot by producer Darryl F. Zanuck
(a veteran of both World Wars) to mark the 25th anniversary of the D-Day
landings. Intercutting scenes from the movie with footage of the spritely Zanuck wandering
around Normandy, itís a quaint but welcome addition to the film. The
super-producerís passion for his subject is undeniable and itís nice to see the
region and its people at peace after the three-hour sensory bombardment of the main
feature. The docoís ending, a retreating aerial shot of Zanuck surrounded by
thousands of white crosses in a military graveyard, is enough to reduce the most gung-ho
warmonger to tears.
Published January 24, 2002
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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia
LONGEST DAY, THE (Special Edition) (PG)
CAST: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Richard
Todd, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Werner Hinz; Gert FrŲbe, Sean Connery, Paul Anka, Kenneth
More, Jean-Louis Barrault, Arletty, Roddy McDowall
DIRECTORS: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki
RUNNING TIME: 171 minutes
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: November 15, 2001
SPECIAL FEATURES: Widescreen feature presentation in (original) black and white
version; D-Day Revisited documentary; Theatrical trailer; Language: English 5.0.
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch, English for the hearing