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4.6 out of 5 stars308
4.6 out of 5 stars
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The first time I saw "The Longest Day" in a movie theater they got a couple of the reels mixed up. The only way I knew this was that every time a major figure shows up in the film we are told their name, rank and unit. This mistake did not hurt the film all that much because this sprawling story of the D-Day invasion sixty years ago today was so huge and complex that it had four directors: Ken Annakin (British scenes), Andrew Marton (American scenes) Bernhard Wicki (German scenes), and the uncredited Darryl F. Zanuck. Granted, the realism of the opening scenes of "Saving Private Ryan" make the storming of Omaha Beach in this 1962 film look like a walk on the beach in comparison, but "The Longest Day" remains along with "Battleground" one of the most realistic portrayals of what it was like for the infantry in World War II from what we will know have to call the old school Hollywood and which ended with "A Bridge Too Far" in 1977.
Based on Cornelius Ryan's celebrated book of the same title, "The Longest Day" is almost three hours long and has one of the largest all star casts every assembled (42 international stars according to the poster), albeit with big names like John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchem, Richard Burton, and Rod Steiger playing supporting roles because, to tell the truth, there is nothing else to play in this film. If you are telling the story of D-Day, no single figure is going to emerge as the star, which is the point (Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, played by an uncredited Henry Grace, has one scene). Sean Connery was about to become famous as James Bond in "Dr. No," and familiar faces include Red Buttons, Curt Jürgens, Edmond O'Brien, Kenneth More, Robert Ryan, Robert Wagner, Eddie Albert, Roddy McDowell, Peter Lawford, George Segal, Gert Fröbe, and Jeffrey Hunter. The idea of throwing in teen idols like Paul Anka, Fabian, Sal Mineo and Tommy Sands makes sense because a generation earlier they would have been storming the beaches of Normandy. However, you might have a hard time picking up the likes of Richard Dawson and Bernard Fox in the crowd. Several minor players in the film were involved in D-Day, and the piper playing as Lord Lovat's commandos storm ashore is the man himself, Bill Millin. The key thing is that the story being told is so big that it gobbles up all the stars.
The film shows events on both sides of the English Channel both before and during D-Day. On the side of the Allies there is the bad weather, troops tired from being on constant alert for several days, and the sheer size and importance of what is about to happen. Meanwhile the Germans are confident the Allies will attack at Calais and certainly wait for better weather, which explains why the key commanders are away from the front. One of the strengths of this film is that it also tells the story from the German's side. Not only do we get necessary exposition and explication concerning German troop movements before and during June 6, 1944, but there is also the human element of Maj. Werner Pluskat (Hans Christian Blech), the guy sitting on the Atlantic Wall who looks out one morning and suddenly sees the Allied invasion fleet when the fog lifts and we hear the "da da da daaah" of Beethoven's 5th (it is also Morse Code for "V," used to denote "Victory" by the Allies). It is Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (Werner Hinz) himself who calls the coming battle "the longest day." There are also the efforts of the French Resistance ("Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor") and French troops in helping to free their own country as well as the British efforts, so this is not just the Americans versus the Germans.
There are several sequences that stand out, most notably the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne landing directly into Ste. Mère-Eglise and being butchered by German troops. The shots of a a terrified and helpless Red Buttons stuck on a church steeple are probably the most memorable in the film, as is the reaction of John Wayne's colonel when he sees the carnage and orders the bodies be cut down. The assault on the cliffs at Omaha also stands out, with Mitchem sending a series of men off to their deaths trying to blow a hole open to get the troops off the beach. Again, there is not the bloody carnage of Spielerg's "Saving Private Ryan," but the scene still retains an emotional power even by contemporary war movie standards.
"The Longest Day" was the most expensive black & white film ever made until "Schindler's List" in 1993 and in both instances not using color works; after all, our "memory" of World War II is based on black & white images. The DVD has some solid extras, with "Hollywood Backstory: The Longest Day" providing a 25-minute documentary on the making of the film, focusing primarily on Zanuck and a 50-minute documentary on "D-Day Revisited," while offers the rather strange sight of Zanuck telling strangers about D-Day and providing historical commentary mixed with clips from the film. In addition to the trailer for "The Longest Day" you get those for "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (certainly a comparable film), "Patton," and "The Thin Red Line."
Certainly "The Longest Day" is one of the best World War II films, even if now have to talk about it as representing the old school of that genre. At some point, given the success of "Saving Private Ryan" and the early chapters of "Band of Brothers," I would expect that someone is going to again try and do the macro view of D-Day. But clearly the next time around it is going to take a mini-series or limited series format to come up with something grander than this 1962 film.
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on 12 March 2002
This is without doubt, one of the most accurate and exciting depictions of the Normandy landings ever made. For once it's nice to see that it wasn't just the Americans that won the war !! This film follows the fortunes of several different units landing at Normandy, and then heading in-land in order to overrun enemy positions. It shows the carnage on the beaches, the mass parachute landings, and even shows other important units progress too, such as the French Resistance and the Germans responses to it all. A brilliant film with more famous faces than you'd even see at the Oscars !! The biggest names being John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, and Henry Fonda.
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on 5 June 2003
By taking time to view events from both sides, and particularly having dialogue in English, German and French, this is a wonderful, none-heroic film.
Compared to say 'Full Metal Jacket' where the action lives with a few faces and the raw, inhuman reality of war, 'Longest Day' gives you the vista of rain-soaked military camps, fleets of many ships, countless troops assaulting a beach, alongside the frantic efforts of the German command to react to the day.
Many small scenes make this a very human film.
The German commander complaining about his storm-damaged roses;
a German officer scanning the channel from his bunker - 'Good God - the invasion - its coming!' - with a look of utter horror on his face, and countless ship-shaped specks on the sea behind him; the french nuns marching through the middle of a war-torn street; the American soldier complaining that he's not fired a shot the whole day - 'every time I get somewhere, everyone's gone!'.
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on 10 July 2000
In my oppinion, 'the longest day' is the most classic of all war time movies. Told from all sides of the battle, this movie brilliantly details the important events leading up to the greatest campaign of our history, D-DAY. Unfairly criticized for its 'gung ho' type of script, 'the longest day' pays tribute to those men who served and died for our freedom in Normandy.
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on 28 September 2008
This may not be the only film journalling the D-day landings at Normandy and the events leading up to them, but it is by far the best. Shot in black and white for effect, all aspects of the operation are covered, from the placement of dummy units, designed to deceive the germans into believing Calais was the target, to the tension leading up to the big day, made worse by inclement weather conditions.
What makes this film special is that it doesn't just tell one side of the story, it alternates all the way through, mostly focusing on the allied actions while giving a reasonable account of what the germans were doing.
This adds to the excitement when the landings take place, both air and seaborne. Historically accurate, with adequate free licence to keep it interesting.
The cast is more or less a whos who of mainly male actors of the sixties, who give some wonderful performances.
As you would expect from a sixties film, even though war is a savage business, its clean enough to be watched by adults and young children alike, the foul language and graphic detail that modern day films are written round weren't required back then (we had imaginations).
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on 19 June 2001
How can you possibly tell the story of D-Day in a single film? I don't mean just showing a squad of American soldiers looking for a lost buddy. You have to show the build up(which lasts an hour). Then you have to show all the major battles or as many as you can. The five main beaches and any subsidiary battles:- Pegasus Bridge, Point Du Hoc, Oiustreham, etc. Shame about the British paratrooper attack on the Merville Battery but practically everything else is here.
The action scenes are quite stunning - with thousands of extras, but Ryan is the benchmark now. Ouistreham and the luftwaffe attack still look spectacular but some of the "theatrical deaths" are laughable. Colonel Thompson (Mitchem's mate) looks like he is attempting a back flip when given the chop. No exploding heads or blown off limbs here.
Lest we be overly worried about the violence we have various cringe-making scenes such as padre looking for his case, lost doctor and the unfortunate Sean Connery who I don't think annoys as much as he does in this film. Not his fault poor chap and a terrible waste of talent.
Time constraints mean that characterisation is virtually impossible although the actor playing Group Captain Stagg superbly portrays the amount of pressure he must have been under in limited screen time,given it was hisdecision which ultimately influences Eisenhower. Also watch out for a cameo from Gert Frobe(Goldfinger)taking rations to the beach gunners. Other stars come and go on a conveyor belt, although Robert Mitchum gets the lion's share.
Despite showing some of its forty years it still remains a great document on D-Day. The D.V.D. is the original black and white although there is now a stunning colourised version as well. Picture is 2.35: Anomorphic with subtitles for French and German, a dubbed version also exists - see trailer. Audio is however disappointing with very little happening in the rear speakers. No 5.1 makeover here unfortunately.
Best news is that this is the most complete version I've seen. The usual missing scenes such as French Amiral Janard, Jeffrey Hunter (Dear John) and French pilot scene (blink and you'll miss it) are all here. Still missing is Sean Connery's first scene in discussing Irish neutrality and eating stew. Check out one scene on the trailer as an American officer announces the invasion to the press. Never seen this one before.
Extras,extras - don't get excited - we have a two disc set with a cheesey but informative documentary. That's it.
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on 16 July 2007
Fantastic movie, I saw it as a kid when it was first released and loved it. I have both b&w and colorized versions. Both are good.
It is quite accurate in its depiction of what actually happened on the 6th June 1944, and strangely enough for a largely American funded film, it does show that the Brits and the Canadians were there as well (it's interesting to note that there were more British & Commonwealth troops in the landing than Americans! - The Brits & Canadians had three beaches, the Americans only two.)
The use of the bangalore torpedo to allow the Americans to break out of Omaha Beach is shown here (as well as in "The Big Red One" and Saving Private Ryan")
It's also interesting to note that it's Richard Todd who plays Major John Howard the CO of the glider-landed British 6th Airbourne at Pegasus Bridge, vital to keep the German Panzer off the beaches - Todd actually was an officer in the attack and capture of the bridge, and helped fight off the German counter-attacks until relieved by Lord Lovatts commandos.
Amongst the greatest war movies ever made.
Buy and enjoy
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on 12 February 2009
i bought this film yesterday and had not seen it before ,but i was really suprised how much i enjoyed it.its easy to see where saving private ryan came from so many scenes are similar ,the action sequences are great in this film but obviously not gory like in saving private ryan .
it takes about an hour showing the build up to the conflict from both sides then its all action ,a brilliant addition to any film collection.
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on 5 June 2001
The Longest Day retells the action that erupted on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day landing. Based on the novel by Cornelius Ryan, this is a veritable who's who of Hollywood, with producer Darryl F Zanuck taking every 'man's man' actor of the time and placing them in all the right heroic roles.
Considering it's almost 40 years old, this is just about the perfect war movie. Strenuously faithful to the actual events of the landing, the movie places no simplistic tags of good and evil on either the Allied or the enemy forces (and thankfully it's a movie in which Germans actually speak in German, and are played by German actors); instead, it merely chronicles two sides struggling for their own ultimate goals, and does so superbly. Just as there is no side to root for, there's no one central character, but a cast of dozens, each with their own story to tell, and told in breathtaking, captivating style.
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"The Longest Day" is held in real affection as WW II classic and rightly so. However, fans of this 1962 movie should note that the 'US' BLU RAY on 20th Century Fox is REGION A LOCKED so won't play on our machines unless they're chipped to be 'all regions' (which few are).

Stick to the UK and European issues (REGION B) - they're cheap - a looker on the format - and an all-star reminded of a moment in history we took back democracy from facist filth...
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