The Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge

Henry Fonda
Director: Ken Annakin Cast: Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda
, Robert Shaw
Robert Shaw
, Robert Ryan
Robert Ryan
Ken Annakin

DVD (Wide Screen)

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This Warner Home Video DVD release of Ken Annakin's Battle of the Bulge (1965) is encouraging when compared to previous versions. The movie has been horribly abused on television and home video over the decades, including a laserdisc edition that was transferred from a source that was missing several key scenes that were available in the television version. In this release, however, the overture, complete with Benjamin Frankel's superbly rousing atonal score, was present on the front end, and with good sound as well; the cut to the opening credits at two and a half minutes into the movie is against a real black background; the main title theme, with its German marching music (played with no little irony by what sounds like a muted flugelhorn), sounds just about right over the speakers; and, though the reds in the credit art bleed a little, it's nothing like they did in previous video showings. The picture quality is spectacular. The Ultra-Panavision photography looks almost like high-definition in this definitely non-HD playback, letterboxed to preserve the scope aspect ratio of the original theatrical release. Even in the wide shots, you can make out skin textures on the faces of the characters, and the picture is so sharp that the back-projection sequences haven't a prayer of looking real. The picture is so clear that for the first time since the movie's original release, one can appreciate Annakin's use of deep-focus photography in certain strategic shots, such as the scene 13 and a half minutes into movie, in the German general's quarters. This is a disc that is perfect for big-screen monitors, and with the right speaker system will be a superb demonstration disc. Unfortunately, at 42 minutes and 50 seconds in, there is a cut of a key scene, in which Robert Shaw's German army officer, faced with a woman of pleasure's (Barbara Werle) attempted seduction and teasing, savagely bites her lip in the middle of a kiss, wounding her before sending her away. The shot was in network showings of the movie during the 1960s and '70s, and seen on AMC in the 1980s, but it has been removed here, for reasons no apparent reason. Everything else that was missing from the laserdisc edition, or from various recent TV showings, is now back. That includes vital dialogue between Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson in the forward bunker, and between James MacArthur and George Montgomery at 65 minutes in, that this reviewer has never seen before. What's more, the new letterboxed digital transfer makes the scenes depicting the initial rout of the Americans finally make sense; even better, they are now allowed to build to the intended crescendo, like a symphonic movement. The intermission is present with its music, and what's even better is that on the return to the movie, it's possible to make out usable picture information in the realistic night scenes of the assault on Amblève. Also, the complete sequence depicting the German occupation of Amblève is now intact, for the first time in a high-end video format, and it is letterboxed. The climactic tank battle at last makes sense, and even the exit music is present in its entirety. The movie itself had serious problems from the get-go, in its conception and execution, which are delineated elsewhere (this is not the place to learn about the actual Battle of the Bulge, because too much of it relies on inaccurate history and bad scriptwriting), but it is the place to see one of the last old-style, unquestioning war movies, and one of the last big-budget pictures of its type and subject, oddly enough closing out a cycle that had begun with the Annakin-co-directed The Longest Day. Battle of the Bulge has been treated well in terms of disc design, with a seamless layer transition and a trio of bonus features. The strangest is the first, "The Filming of Battle of the Bulge," a ten-minute black-and-white documentary which opens with its focus on Von Lauchert, the surviving senior German general from the battle. Von Lauchert may have made certain that the German troops in the movie looked accurate, but the movie played so fast-and-loose with the real events that this documentary ends up looking a bit ludicrous in retrospect. Henry Fonda adds some well-intentioned but ineffectual narration, but what is curious is that in black-and-white, all of the scenes here look more realistic than the finished color Ultra-Panavision footage. Oddly enough, the documentary seems unsure whether it's about the movie or Von Lauchert. "History Recreated," with a British host, keeps its focus closer to the movie, and includes an interview with producer Milton Sperling, who gives a very vivid account of the making of the movie, which was shot in February of 1965 for release in December of that year; and Robert Shaw is interviewed as well, in what has to be the highlight of the entire disc, short of the presentation of the movie itself. Apart from some surprising observations about his character in the movie, Shaw also talks about a film dealing with William the Conqueror that he was supposed to make next (and never was made). The original trailer is also appended, which describes the battle of its subject as an example of boldness so great that "only Teutonic arrogance could have conceived it." The trailer runs too long and is too disjointed to really "sell" the movie honestly; it does include outtakes of certain dialogue scenes, however, and is interesting on that basis alone. The movie has been given a very generous 47 chapters, and there are optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/03/2005
UPC: 0085391108627
Original Release: 1965
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Home Video
Region Code: 1
Presentation: [Wide Screen]
Sound: [Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Time: 2:50:00
Sales rank: 4,811

Special Features

Closed Caption; New digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements; Two vintage featurettes: "The Filming of Battle of the Bulge" and "History Recreated"; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Henry Fonda Lt. Col. Kiley
Robert Shaw Colonel Hessler
Robert Ryan Gen. Grey
Dana Andrews Col. Pritchard
Telly Savalas Guffy
George Montgomery Sgt. Duquesne
Ty Hardin Schumacher
Anna Maria Pier Angeli Louise
Barbara Werle Elena
Charles Bronson Major Wolenski
Werner Peters Gen. Kohler
Hans-Christian Blech Conrad
James MacArthur Lt. Weaver
William Conrad Narrator
Donald Pickering Actor
Steve Rowland Bit part
Robert Woods Actor
Janet Brandt Actor
Carl Rapp Actor
Axel Anderson Actor
Ben Tatar Actor
Victor Brandt Actor
Richard Baxter Actor
John Clark Actor
Karl Otto Alberty Von Diepel

Technical Credits
Ken Annakin Director
Trevor Crole-Rees Makeup
Laure de Zarate Costumes/Costume Designer
Benjamin Frankel Score Composer
Bernard Gordon Screenwriter
Jack Hildyard Cinematographer
Eugène Lourié Art Director
Dudley Lovell Camera Operator
John Melson Screenwriter
Richard Parker Special Effects
Derek Parsons Editor
José Lopez Rodero Asst. Director
Gregorio Sacristan Production Manager
Jose Maria Sanchez Makeup
Milton Sperling Producer,Screenwriter
Alex C. Weldon Special Effects
Kit West Special Effects
Philip Yordan Producer,Screenwriter

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Overture [2:37]
2. Credits [2:56]
3. Aerial Reconnaissance [5:40]
4. Hidden Headquarters [4:25]
5. American Soldiers [2:52]
6. 50-Hour Plan [3:36]
7. Fresh Information [4:50]
8. How Sure? [3:44]
9. Panzerlied [3:52]
10. Guffy's Merchandise [2:29]
11. A Little Exercise [2:56]
12. Courtesan First Class [2:51]
13. Beef Between Colonels [6:01]
14. Starting the Clock [3:05]
15. Enemy Contact [4:33]
16. Kiley's Tiger [1:59]
17. Weak Resistance [4:01]
18. Out of Line [3:08]
19. As Hard As Our Tanks [4:02]
20. Where Hessler Is [1:45]
21. Securing the Bridge [4:20]
22. Heavy Bridge Toll [4:41]
23. Setbacks [3:24]
24. Slaughter in the Snow [3:00]
25. In Business and Love [:27]
26. Making a Stand [4:44]
27. Stopped in it's Tracks [3:26]
28. Bombardment Begins [2:37]
29. Chocolate Cake [3:23]
30. Intermission [2:49]
31. Taking Ambleve [2:27]
32. Fathers for Sons [5:30]
33. No Time for Trouble [4:21]
34. Their Weakness [3:18]
35. "Nuts." [4:12]
36. Stay Loose [2:27]
37. Our Victory Our Home [3:47]
38. Flying in Zero Visibility [3:22]
39. Traitor and Murderer [6:26]
40. Tank Showdown [4:02]
41. All Busted Up [5:03]
42. Stay Off My Tank [2:44]
43. Familiar Face [3:51]
44. Burn It! [2:50]
45. Walking Back to Germany [4:29]
46. Dedication and Cast List [2:17]
47. Exit Music [:47]

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