[box cover]

The Longest Day

Movie-lovers worldwide heaped praise on Saving Private Ryan in 1998 for its brutal, realistic portrayal of infantry combat, but such praise has caused some people to think that Ryan is the most definitive film ever made about the 1944 Normandy invasion. Such is not the case. With only one 20-minute segment on the invasion — and that segment only occurring on Omaha Beach — Ryan is hardly a comprehensive account of the largest one-day military operation in history, nor was it meant to be. Rather, 1962's The Longest Day is the granddaddy of all D-Day flicks, serving up three hours of detailed storytelling, along with an all-star cast, that makes for both magnificent entertainment and a brief history lesson on a few hours that changed the course of the 20th century. Based on Cornelius Ryan's nonfiction book of the same name, four separate directors helmed different segments of The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Gerd Oswald, and Bernhard Wicki) under the auspices of legendary producer Darryl F. Zanuck (who reportedly also directed a few scenes). All the key points of the offensive are here, including the midnight British glider-landings behind enemy lines, the thousands of paratroopers dropped into France's pre-dawn darkness to occupy strategic targets, the daring climb to capture Pointe du Hoc, and the combination of German overconfidence and confusion that turned the tide of the Allied sneak-attack (including the crucial failure by the Nazi brass to relocate their Panzer divisions to Normandy from Calais). The landings themselves — on the Omaha, Utah, Juno, and Gold beaches — are masterfully filmed, and while they lack the conspicuous gore of Spielberg's counterpart, they are nonetheless engaging. The monumental cast includes John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Eddie Albert, Richard Beymer, Red Buttons, Werner Hinz, Peter Lawford, Curd Jurgens, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd, Robert Ryan, Sal Mineo, Roddy McDowall, and pinup boys Paul Anka and Fabian for good measure. Good transfer from an attractive black-and-white source print that has great low-contrast detail and is only showing some minor wear, DD 5.0 (no woofer) or Dolby Surround 2.0, trailers for The Longest Day, Patton, and Tora! Tora! Tora!. An essential disc for war buffs everywhere.

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