A great war movie. One of the best I have ever seen.
It sometimes gets confusing keeping on top of all the action and characters.
Having recently watched Tora! Tora! Tora! I didn't know what to expect from The Longest Day. After all, how many faithful reconstructions can we see about the events related to World War II by the same producer? When one considers the scope of the war it begins to make sense why there are so many movies about it. Sure, it makes for interesting cinema and it has built in action, however, when one realizes the stakes that World War II represented for all the Allied powers, I think it stands to reason why Darryl Zanuck was so fascinated by it.
Simply put, The Longest Day chronicles that period leading up to and during Eisenhower's call for the Allied forces to make a run on Nazi inhabited France. So big was this film that, like Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Longest Day also had a multitude of directors. Ken Annakin handled the British exterior scenes, Andrew Marton did the American exteriors, Bernhard Wicki handled the German portions and Zanuck even helmed some parts in an uncredited capacity.
There are two tracks on here. One is with historian Mary Corey and on a separate track we have Ken Annakin. Corey's commentary is very interesting because she provides a historical, yet insightful (to film people) recounting of this movie. She doesn't talk about the production so much as the layers of subtext that we are seeing on screen. Sadly, I found that Ken Annakin didn't talk nearly enough and when he did it was somewhat incoherent. Truthfully, I didn't watch his track for longer than ten minutes.
"A Day to Remember"
I am very happy that they have this conversation on here because it is with Ken Annakin and he seems much more alert. He discusses working with Darryl Zanuck and the importance of the picture. He also says something interesting about the film, how even though it was packed with many great actors, it did really well because of the subject matter more than anything else.
"Longest Day: A Salute to Courage"
Burt Reynolds narrates this overall look at the making of The Longest Day. It took them eight months to make this film and that seems short compared to what they ended up putting on screen. Also, considering the turmoil that Zanuck had gone through in his personal life, to come back with a film of this scope and size really says something about who he was as a person.
AMC Backstory: The Longest Day
The "AMC Backstory" documentary sets itself apart because it certainly isn't a puff piece on this film. It looks at how the budget really pushed Twentieth Century Fox to the limit and delves a but further into the personal life of Darryl Zanuck. Sadly, I think that a lot of this featurette is redundant when compared with the other supplemental features that came with this two disc set.
Darryl Zanuck hosts this featurette that was made in 1968. He walks us through the film and explains how the battles were recreated. We are shown excerpts from The Longest Day, mixed with color footage he shot of the areas where the scenes in the movie are taking place. My favorite part is how serious Zanuck is as he sits at his desk in sunglasses explaining what we are going to see. This man invented being a mogul.
Darryl F. Zanuck: A Dream Fulfilled
Wrongly titled Richard Zanuck on The Longest Day on the DVD case, we treated to a very thoughtful Richard Zanuck as he talks about his dad. He discusses why D-Day was so important to his father, how the black and white look of the film scared the studios who wanted everything in color and how The Longest Day ultimately helped Fox rebound when they were in financial straits.
There are four sections that make up the Photo Galleries. They are "Production," "Behind the Scenes," "Concept Art" and "Marketing" materials. The photos themselves are a mix of color and black and white images. What really grabbed me were the "Concept Art" drawings because they looked like something out of a graphic novel. The fact that they seemed like they were drawn with the actors in mind only enhances their look.
2.35:1 - Anamorphic Widescreen. As much as I understand the need to mix real footage from the Newsreels with footage from the movie, and that Zanuck wanted to make this film look like a documentary, I think they could have done without any the stock footage. I think that there was too much of a disparity between the news images and the film images, and when presented together it sadly made The Longest Day look cheap. Considering that they spent $10 million and made $50 million in 1962, I know that cheap wasn't their intention.
Dolby Digital. English 4.0 Dolby Surround. Spanish and French Mono. Subtitled in English and Spanish. Close Captioned. I will be completely honest, this film could have been silent and I don't think it would lose any of it's power. This is isn't to say that the audio isn't important, but other than the different soundtracks employed for the different segments, nothing about the sound stood out to me. If anything, The Longest Day is really a film about memorable images because once these soldiers land in France there really is no turning back.
The picture of a soldier's helmet as it lays on the beach after the Allies have advanced, is the only image needed for this black and white cover. The back features small images of all the main cast members, a well written description of The Longest Day, a "Special Features" listing, a cast list and technical specs. Both discs that make up this set are nicely stored inside a double amaray case.
Like Tora! Tora! Tora! this film is a very in-depth look at a bunch of battles. The biggest difference is that so much more ground is covered in terms of the scope of the operation. In fact, even thinking about the size of the military involvement (and the amount of casualties all throughout World War II), it is almost hard to really put together just what an amazing operation this was. Now, to attempt to create even a portion of that and to do it while establishing all these different characters (I haven't even touched on the all the names in the cast) makes Zanuck's achievement that much more awe inspiring.
If you like War movies then I suggest sitting back and taking a few days to digest not only The Longest Day but most of the attendant bonus materials.
The Longest Day was released September 25, 1962.