One hell of a war picture.
Fox does the unexpected with a special release of Patton on DVD, containing an anamorphic transfer and extra content, all at no extra price. Patton is a classic that fans cannot afford to miss on DVD.
When I first planned out my DVD shopping list for the month of November I hesitantly put Patton on my list. Sure, I loved the film but my faith in Fox as a DVD studio had been seriously damaged by just about every release they have done (save the Alien films). Naturally, other than the film itself, there seemed to be nothing special to make me feel compelled to purchase this DVD. After the disc was released, with absolutely no pre-release buzz, word began to leak out on the Internet about Fox and an anamorphic transfer of Patton. How could this be? I investigated further—not only was Patton anamorphic but it had a good deal of extra content, forcing it to be a two disc set, at no extra cost! Had Warner released Patton in this fashion, at a $29.99 MSRP, I would have no trouble believing it…but this is Fox! The same Fox that releases no-frills, nonanamorphic discs at $34.99 MSRP, for films that have recently been released theatrically ($29.99 for older films). The same Fox that released There's Something About Mary as a "Special Edition" with a 60-second outtake reel and a recycled music video. In the face of all this information I just had to purchase Patton based on the mere fact it is one of Fox's few good releases—even though I love the film by itself.
Best picture Academy Award winner in 1971, Patton is the story of America's greatest military leader during his campaigns throughout Africa, Italy, France, and Germany during World War II. The late George C. Scott plays the role of General George Patton to perfection—a role he later won the best actor Academy Award for, but turned down the honor because he felt it was wrong to judge one actor's performance over another's. To describe Patton as a film is extremely difficult. Yes, Patton is a war movie as it takes place during World War II, but, moreover, Patton is the character study of one man, George Patton. As a film Patton does not openly glorify or condemn the General (subversively you can detect the feeling of sympathy and respect for Patton) but attempts to present an accurate picture of a man who, in many respects, defeated the Italians and Germans in the second world war. Patton is a no-nonsense kind of a guy who will not hesitate to share his feelings openly with anyone. Naturally, Patton's strong convictions cause him to get in a great deal of trouble, politically (which Patton concedes is not where he excels as a General), and almost cost him his career in the military. Patton also takes many risks and liberties with his men and others during the war just to keep up his self-image. Nonetheless, it cannot be disputed that Patton was the single person most responsible for ending the Second World War in Europe and Africa. And that's what Americans want—a winner.
Although he was quite an eccentric individual, George Patton was possibly the last in a long line of men that were true warriors. Men like Patton knew how to win and would stop at nothing to achieve their goals, whether they were authorized to do so or not. George C. Scott certainly deserved his Oscar for his role in Patton and his performance will be remembered in film history for a long time as one of the best ever.
Patton runs 171 minutes and is spread over a dual layer DVD in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The THX certified transfer, especially for a 30 year old film, looks great in anamorphic. Typically, because of the age of the film, the colors seem a bit washed and faded (otherwise old looking) but the image itself is extremely sharp and detailed. The print has also been significantly cleaned up with few nicks, scratches, or any constant grain on the transfer. Fox has also issued a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix with their release of Patton. Again, for a 30-year-old film, the audio track is decent but certainly nothing like some of the mixes coming out of today's films. Most of the track is focused on the forward, and center, soundstage with occasional surround and bass expansion. The highlight of the audio track is Jerry Goldsmith's soaring and patriotic score for the film.
Usually when I write about Fox and extra content I have to bring out my sarcastic side, but not today. Fox has transcended their arrogant selves and released a great disc full of extra content. An extra disc is included, at no extra price, which contains a 50 (!) minute documentary on the making of Patton (also labeled as "A Tribute to Franklin J. Schaffner"). Also on the second disc is Jerry Goldsmith's complete musical score for the film. On the disc with the film, you can access a running commentary (labeled as a audio essay) from a historian talking about Patton. The commentary runs only for 80 minutes of the film, not the entire 171 minute running time. The essay also does not directly correlate to on-screen action (like a traditional commentary). And, as always, you get a theatrical trailer for Patton as well as other WWII film favorites (available from Fox on DVD) Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Longest Day. Enclosed in the DVD case is a booklet with a timeline of Patton's life and achievements. Finally there are two small information screens for the film with cast credits. The documentary, audio commentary, and Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack are more than enough features for me to consider this disc set a special edition.
Frankly, Fox could have gotten away with charging more for Patton and labeling it a special edition, but I'm glad they didn't. It's a good standard for them to set for all DVD releases.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Not much to complain about, especially in light of the low price tag for this disc set. Again, due to the pure fact that the film is 30 years old the video transfer and audio do not quite hold up to the standards of currently released films. However, it is nice to know that Fox went out of their way to get a 5.1 mix for the film, and made the effort to clean the film print.
Accessing the second disc's features is a tad bit confusing as well. When you select either the complete score or documentary option, both go to a screen with information about the documentary—even though the score has nothing to do with the documentary. Selecting "Play Movie" on the screen for the score, which is the same as the screen as the documentary, will play the complete Jerry Goldsmith score, however on-screen you will see the video from the documentary. It's a bit ambiguous and I don't know if Fox intended to do this or not, but since you can still hear the score I have no major gripe.
Patton is a superb release coming from one of the most unlikely studios. If Buena Vista could only do something like this I wouldn't have much to complain about in my reviews. Lets just hope this is an indication of more good things to come from Fox.
Film and disc acquitted of all charges. Fox is placed on parole for prior DVD violations since they have proven to the parole committee, with this new release, they are making an effort to correct their crimes.
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