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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

Battle Of Britain (1969)  

The Real Thing [Blu-ray]

This much loved and starry 1969 movie depicting the aerial campaign of Summer 1940 over the skies of Britain has finally come to bluray. It's beautiful to behold, following the restoration for an earlier The Battle Of Britain (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]. The movie portrays the battle for air supremacy from several points of view - the strategic decision makers, notably Laurence Olivier playing Sir Hugh Dowding, and on the German side - played by German actors speaking in German, which was unusual for the time. Also the pilots and ground crews, mostly on the British side (plus a few Czechs and Poles here and there..), and then in a few domestic situations related to the pilots. Although the movie is packed full of the stars of the day (Caine, Shaw, Plummer, Redgrave, Howard), it's the magnificent aerial combat scenes which take the breath away. Over 100 aircraft were gathered together for the movie, giving the movie a sense of realism that will likely never be equalled again.. even if a few model effects and superimposed explosions slightly lessen the effect in places. There's just nothing like the real thing. The direction by Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger [Blu-ray] [1964]) is superb in the air, even if it flags in the more domestic scenes, which feel a little too contrived in their representation of `the war' intruding into peoples personal lives. Ron Goodwin's score is eminently listenable, though the final aerial battle with part of Sir William Walton's original score makes for a wonderful almost poetic climax. Walton had penned the original score but the studios vetoed it as too short, and Goodwin was brought in instead for something more `peppy'. When the producer and Olivier protested, this one piece of music was kept. The film is in a nutshell, irresistible, and a treat in this format where the colour and crispness is for the most part astonishing. What is correspondingly hugely disappointing, is that the bluray I reviewed which is the currently available UK disc (as of 2013) is the most vanilla bluray disc I have ever seen. There's not even a main menu, far less alternative soundtrack, retrospective, Battle of Britain documentaries, making of, or that Walton soundtrack as an optional extra. Even the subtitles are relatively poor, missing some of the German lines and poorly translating others, while subtitling signs that are already in English. It's baffling why they would not include at least some of that extra material, and the loss makes this an almost 5 star movie but with zero stars for the extras.. does that average out at 3 stars? - I would say the 2 disc Special Edition previously released is a better buy, despite the freshness of the bluray picture.





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