On the DVD: The 200-minute "Director's Cut" version of the movie not only has several major scenes restored that were not in the theatrical release but also has been digitally remastered with significantly improved sound (new sound effects have been added) and anamorphic picture. (The six-hour TV version has yet to be released.) Here, the viewer can watch the movie in the original German, with or without subtitles, or in an English dubbed version that uses the voices of many of the original cast. On the utterly engrossing commentary track, director Wolfgang Petersen and star Jürgen Prochnow talk animatedly and in great detail about every aspect of making this epic story--from model shots using Barbie dolls to meeting the Captain of the original U-boat. This is one of the most consistently rewarding commentaries on disc. Also included is a five-minute featurette that promotes this new version. --Mark Walker
The production of 'Das Boot' on DVD is a fascinating tale in itself. The Director's commentary, in which Jurgen Procknow (who played the Captain) particpates, presents an interesting, and often amusing, insight into the production of a film that really launched the careers of many of those that were invloved. Of particular note is the filmakers' impromptu discussion on the reaction the film received in Germany when it was first shown. There were at the time certain conventions that needed to be observed in German cinema when dealing with the subject of WWII. 'Das Boot' did to some extent challenge these and this led to quite a disparity between the German public's reaction and those of the critics.
Technically the DVD production is superb. It seems that Wolfgang Petersen is certainly an enthuiast for the new digital medium. He and his team have re-cut the film, using the original negative as the source, to produce a 'film' version that Petersen appears to be very content with. The result is a 3-hour experience of superb visual quality. However, it does not end there. The entire sound track has been re-engineered for Dolby Digital 5.1 - and an English dubbed Dolby Surround mix is included as well. Only the original dialogue track and some music stems were retained. The effects, the music, and even the English language dub tracks have been re-recorded digitally for the DVD version. In many cases the dubbing was undertaken by the original cast. The sound mix and production are superb. The effect is to add a whole new dimension to the experience of 'Das Boot'.
The conclusion is that 'Das Boot' on DVD is a compelling advert for the medium itself, and really does highlight the medium's potentialities in both the technical and artistic areas.
If there is such a thing as a DVD 'Classic' yet then 'Das Boot' is a good candidate for the appellation.
Though this is a German crew whose duty is to sink Allied ships, American viewers will have no problem sympathizing with its members when the depth charges begin to fall. Early on, the almost anti-Nazi attitude of the U-boat's Offiziers is apparent. (This may have been a marketing ploy by the film's producers to increase worldwide appeal. However, of all the German military services during WWII, the Kriegsmarine is considered to have been the least Nazified.) In any case, when the sub is ordered to surreptitiously rendezvous with a cargo ship that was intentionally interned in a neutral port for the purpose of U-boat supply and replenishment, the more politically correct officers of the supply vessel invite the U-boat's officers aboard to partake of a lavish buffet. As the former "Sieg Heil!" and exclaim how tough war is, the latter's' disdain for their Kameraden is readily apparent.
The nightmare of undersea warfare is grippingly portrayed. After a very narrow escape for our heroes, we cheer when the sub limps back to port near the end of the movie. This relief soon turns to sorrow and horror at the film's ironic conclusion.
There is no female lead in this production, no romantic interludes, and nothing to soften the hard, gritty reality of men at war. It's definitely a Guy Flick, but none the less excellent for being such. It's most assuredly one of my All-Time Ten Best movies.
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