The Longest Day
, producer Darryl F Zanuck's epic account of June 6, 1944, is Hollywood's definitive D-Day movie. More modern accounts such as Saving Private Ryan
and the mini-series Band of Brothers
are more vividly realistic, but Zanuck's production is the only one to attempt the daunting task of covering that fateful day from all perspectives. From the German high command and front line officers to the French Resistance and all the key Allied participants, the screenplay by Cornelius Ryan, based on his own authoritative book
, is as factually accurate a depiction of events as possible. Zanuck picked three different directors to handle the German, French and Allied sequences respectively and the result should have been a grittily realistic semi-documentary work of unparalleled authenticity. That it is not is due to the unfortunate decision to populate the movie with an apparently endless parade of stars: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery and Kenneth Moore to name a few all pop up from time to time; while Roddy McDowall and Richard Burton, on leave from the set of Cleopatra
, also get cameos. The end result is an uneasy mix of verisimilitude and Hollywood star-power. Add to that the need for every character to provide almost endless explanatory exposition and the film falls a little flat for too much of its running time. The set-piece battles are still spectacular, however, and if the landings on Omaha beach lack the graphic gore of Private Ryan
they nonetheless show the sheer scale and audacity of the invasion. Despite its top-heavy cast, The Longest Day
is still the best D-Day movie ever made.
On the DVD: The black and white print is in excellent condition, as is the remixed Dolby 5.0. Made in 1969, the 50-minute supplementary documentary "D-Day Revisited" has producer Zanuck revisiting key locations in Normandy, chatting to the locals in rather stiff French and providing a personal narrative of the events of June 6, 1944 intercut with scenes from his film. The sight of the elderly Zanuck standing on Omaha Beach or beside the headstone of an unknown soldier is easily as poignant as the bookend scenes of Saving Private Ryan, but without the Spielbergian sentiment. --Mark Walker
Documentary "D-Day Revisited"
Original Theatrical Trailer
Language: English 5.0
Subtitles: Czech, Danish, English, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian,
Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and English
for the hearing impaired.