Artisan // 1949 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // July 30th, 1999
Who can you turn to with your future on the line?
This is one of the best World War II movies ever made, and it is given the respect it deserves in this DVD release.
Republic Pictures originally released this DVD on July 14, 1998. It has since been acquired by Artisan, which has yet to reissue it. I suspect it will be re-issued by Artisan in the not too distant future. I acquired this copy through Artisan and it is still encased in Republic's Silver Screen Classics packaging.
Sands Of Iwo Jima is completely carried and held together by the presence of John Wayne. Now, I must tell you that I have never before been a fan of The Duke, but this picture may have changed my mind. I am not a big fan of either war movies or westerns, but I am willing to give both more of a chance after seeing this picture. All the great things said about this picture over the years were richly deserved.
Wayne was nominated for a Best Acting Oscar for his performance of Sergeant John M. Stryker. But Broderick Crawford beat him with his performance in All the King's Men. This film was also nominated for Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Recording, and Best Writing.
Sergeant Stryker leads a group of men through a few battles leading up to the battle of Iwo Jima. Along the way, we are all taught a few lessons about war and mistakes and personal battles at the front. The plot may get a bit sappy at times (this film was made with the support of the US Marine Corps after all) but overall, this movie is outstanding.
The video here is outstanding too. The folks over at Republic really did a nice job restoring this film prior to its release on DVD. The film is in black and white, but don't let that fool you. We have seen some pretty terrific black and white transfers here at the Verdict, and I would count this among them. Edges are clean and clear throughout and the contrast level is just right. Most importantly, shades of gray are clearly delineated and not a speck of grain is present. This transfer really is top notch, especially considering the age of the film.
The audio is also very good. The mono track suffers from very little hiss, which is outstanding considering the age of the track. The film is filled with plenty of explosions during the war sequences and will give your speakers a nice little workout. One tricky element the filmmakers faced was integrating actual film footage from World War II with sequences shot at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego involving the actors. This was done in a pretty realistic fashion, even though they are quite easy to pick out.
I would have liked to see more extras here. The disc includes an original theatrical trailer and a behind the scenes featurette hosted by Leonard Maltin, but I would have liked to see some talent bios and maybe even a commentary track or two. This film deserves no less.
This is a terrific movie, which should be seen be every film buff even those of you who, like me, can't remember Vietnam, not to mention World War II. That said, I would have liked to see more extras in this release. Nevertheless, this is as good as we're going to get for many years to come, if not ever. Buy this disc today.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1949
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* THX Certified
* Theatrical Trailer