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.
on 14 October 2015
THE LONGEST DAY  [Limited Edition Steelbook] [Blu-ray] Never So Timely! Never So Great! 45 International Stars!
‘The Longest Day’ is a vivid re-creation of the June 6, 1944 Allied invasion of France, which marked the beginning of the end of Nazi domination in Europe. Featuring a stellar international cast, and told from the perspectives of both sides, this fascinating look at one of history’s biggest battles ranks as one of Hollywood’s truly Great War films.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1962 Academy Awards®: Won: Best Cinematography for Jean Bourgoin and Walter Wottitz. Won: Best Special Effects for Robert MacDonald and Jacques Maumont. Nominated: Best Art Direction for Ted Haworth, Léon Barsacq, Vincent Korda and Gabriel Béchir. Nominated: Best Editing for Samuel E. Beetley. Nominated: Best Picture.
Cast: Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Richard Beymer, Hans Christian Blech, Bourvil, Richard Burton, Wolfgang Büttner, Red Buttons, Pauline Carton, Sean Connery, Ray Danton, Irina Demick, Fred Dur, Fabian, Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Steve Forrest, Gert Fröbe, Leo Genn, John Gregson, Paul Hartmann, Werner Hinz, Donald Houston, Jeffrey Hunter, Karl John, Curd Jürgens, Alexander Knox, Peter Lawford, Fernand Ledoux, Christian Marquand, Dewey Martin, Roddy McDowall, Michael Medwin, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Kenneth More, Richard Münch, Edmond O'Brien, Leslie Phillips, Wolfgang Preiss, Ron Randell, Madeleine Renaud, Georges Rivière, Norman Rossington, Robert Ryan, Tommy Sands, George Segal, Jean Servais, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd, Tom Tryon, Peter van Eyck, Robert Wagner, Richard Wattis, Stuart Whitman, Georges Wilson, John Wayne, Frank Finlay, Harry Fowler, William Hoehne Jr., John Meillon and Siân Phillips
Directors: Andrew Marton (American exteriors), Bernhard Wicki (German episodes), Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited), Gerd Oswald (parachuting scenes in Sainte-Mère-Église) and Ken Annakin (British and French exteriors)
Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck and Elmo Williams
Screenplay: Cornelius Ryan, David Pursall, Jack Seddon, James Jones and Romain Gary
Composer: Maurice Jarre
Cinematography: Jean Bourgoin and Walter Wottitz
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [Cinemascope]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, German: 5.1 DTS-HD and French 5.1 DTS-HD
Subtitles: English SDH, German, Begleilender Text, French, Insert French, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norway and Swedish
Running Time: 178 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 2
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Sometimes a great filmmaker's best intentions can be swamped by the dictates of the marketplace. 20th-Century-Fox producer Darryl F. Zanuck hoped that ‘The Longest Day’ , a blow-by-blow account of the Allied invasion on D-Day, would be an anti-Hollywood war film, a picture that would, once and for all, show audiences what war is really like. But Darryl F. Zanuck, who may well have been viewing the picture as his swan song, knew that an undertaking of this size was a risky business proposition to say the least. So he hedged his bets by casting as many name stars as he could get his hands on, thus nixing any opportunity he may have had to fully immerse viewers in a realistic, documentary portrayal of the events and the ultimate price of victory.
Everyone from John Wayne to Henry Fonda to Robert Mitchum to Eddie Albert gets a few moments of screen time, with teen idols like Paul Anka, Tommy Sands, and Fabian thrown into the mix to attract the younger viewers. Darryl F. Zanuck was operating on such a grand scale; he needed no less than four directors to shoot the film, with numerous assistants working the perimeter. The final product, though often memorable, seems more like an exposition-laced military manoeuvre than an actual narrative. Regardless of what's going on and there's always something going on and it's not hard to imagine Darryl F. Zanuck standing beside the camera, heatedly chomping his cigar while he writes his OSCAR® acceptance speech. Much more to Darryl F. Zanuck's liking was a young French actress, Irina Demick, who was one of the few women to appear in a substantial role in the film. Brigitte Bardot and Marina Vlady had originally been approached for the part but turned it down. Irina Demick not only won the role, but also became Darryl F. Zanuck's mistress during the production.
All of the massive organisation of that most salient invasion of World War Two, and all the hardship and bloodiness of it, all the courage and sacrifice involved, are strongly and stalwartly suggested in the mighty mosaic of episodes and battle-action details that are packed into this film. From the climactic concentration of Allied forces along the English coast, ready to launch the invasion in early June, 1944, to a few sample incidents at nightfall on D-Day, June 6, the immensity and sweep of the great battle to crack the Nazi's hold on France are portrayed.
There's the highly suspenseful moment when General Eisenhower has to make the fateful decision as to whether the invasion will go or have to be postponed. There's the nervousness and impatience of officers waiting the word, the restlessness and time-killing pastimes of soldiers poised to go. And then there's the breathless excitement of the Pathfinders being sent by air to parachute into Normandy at midnight to light the way for the following Para troopers; the tension and terror of the airborne strike of Canadians to secure the critical Orne River Pegasus Bridge; the violence and confusion of the experiences of elements of the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Division before dawn around Sainte-Mère-Église.
As daylight comes, there is the thunder of the first landing craft piling in on the fortress-fringed Normandy beaches, the bloody battles along the fire-raked strands of the Utah and Omaha sectors, fought by the Americans, and the assaults upon Sword, June and Gold by the British and Canadians. There's the smashing fight of French commandos to capture the seaside town of Ouistreham and the terrible climb by American Rangers up the sheer cliffs of Point-du-Hoc. And there's a lot about French Resistance people fighting behind the main assaults. Nor are the Germans neglected. Indeed, the picture begins with the cameras glimpsing their activities and anxieties behind the Atlantic Wall. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is here to state the tension of German uncertainty and to cue in the picture's main title with his famous prediction as to the actual "the longest day." And then, all the way through, the bickering and bungling’s of the German general, from Gerd von Rundstedt down, are interlarded, historically and dramatically.
No character stands out particularly as more significant or heroic than anyone else. John Wayne is notably rugged as Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort, the dogged officer of the 82d who hobbled through D-Day on a broken ankle, using a rifle as a crutch. Robert Mitchum is tough as General Norman Cota, who led his men of the 29th Division onto Omaha Beach and then off it after a day of deadly pounding by forcing a breach of the Vierville-sur-Mer roadblock. Red Buttons is very effective as paratrooper John Steele, who watched the pitiful slaughter of many of his buddies in the town square of Sainte-Mère- Église while hanging from the church steeple in the harness of his parachute. Richard Beymer does well as a young soldier who wanders dazedly through the whole thing, never connecting with his outfit and never firing a shot. And dozens of other actors are convincing and identifiable in roles that call for infrequent appearances or only single shots in the film.
It's difficult to pinpoint the real "star" of ‘The Longest Day’ film, but Robert Mitchum would have to rank high on the list. As Major General Norman Cota, Sr., of the United States Army, the Allied commander of the Twenty-ninth Infantry Division, he somehow manages to convey the gravity of the situation without coming across like a movie star wearing an Army suit. Many of the other faces are so familiar such as John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Richard Burton that it's hard to convince yourself that these actors represent real people caught up in earth-shattering events.
Intelligently made, and the picture has been photographed in Black-and-White to give a virtual newsreel authenticity to the vivid, realistic battle-scenes. And the illusory aspect of reality has been achieved in other respects, notably in the use of their own languages by the Germans and the French, with English subtitles appended to translate what they say. The total effect of the picture is that of a huge documentary report, adorned and coloured by personal details that are thrilling, amusing, ironic, and sad. It makes no conclusive observation, other than the obvious one that war is hell and that D-Day was a gallant, costly triumph for the Allied forces, not for any one man. It is not hard to think of a picture, aimed and constructed as this one was, doing any more or any better or leaving one feeling any more exposed to the horror of war than this one does.
This sort of production is always a breeding ground for oddball occurrences and trivia, and ‘The Longest Day’ is no different. Perhaps it's best to simply list some of the more interesting titbits:
Roddy McDowall only appears in the film because he was in Italy, pulling his hair out over the endless delays on ‘Cleopatra’ . He begged Darryl F. Zanuck to cast him in ‘The Longest Da’y simply because he wanted a chance to actually act for a while!
Richard Todd [Major John Howard] actually fought at Normandy on D-Day while a member of the British Air Force. He entered the fray, as did hundreds of other men, via a highly dangerous parachute drop.
The real-life American soldiers who Darryl F. Zanuck hired to storm Omaha Beach in the picture were reluctant to enter the water because it was too cold, but they finally relented when a disgusted Robert Mitchum jumped in first.
The producers had to make certain that members of a nearby nudist colony didn't wander onto the beach during the "invasion."
Sean Connery, who of course, would make his name playing James Bond, and appears in ‘The Longest Day’ film opposite Gert Frobe and Curd Jurgens, two future James Bond villains.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was interested in playing himself in ‘The Longest Day,’ but it was determined that he simply looked too old to pull it off! Forget World War Two, several years in the White House will do that to you.
Perhaps the most important piece of information, as far as Darryl F. Zanuck was concerned, was that ‘The Longest Day’ cost $10,000,000 to make and a totally astronomical amount at the time in 1962. But it earned back every penny, and then some. In Hollywood terms, anyway, that's called winning the battle.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘The Longest Day’ storms onto Blu-ray format with an awesome and impressive Black-and-White 1080p encoded image, with an equally impressive 2.35:1 [Cinemascope] aspect ratio. If this is what classic Black-and-White films, especially War Films are going to look like on Blu-ray, I enthusiastically recommend that the studios bring them on and congratulate 20 the Century Fox for producing something so totally stunning and awesome at the same time. The 1080p image is remarkably sharp with excellent detail on the 2 All Region Blu-ray discs. Even though this is a classic Black-and-White images, there is still excellent separation of shades, and black levels are strikingly solid. There is also some wonderful cinematography in this film; especially with a long, continuous and panning shot of a running gun battle is mesmerising, and one of my favourite parts of this brilliant war films scenes, ever. The downside of the increased Blu-ray clarity is that it's far easier to notice the special effects, such as the placement of these actors, pre-digitally, over a background shot elsewhere at another time and the clarity even benefits the action scenes. Note that the original subtitles were replaced with more aesthetically pleasing text during the remastering process and appear overtop of the image.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound presentation on ‘The Longest Day’ this Blu-ray disc, is a totally awesome solid one. Surround sounds manage to be in use a good bit of the time, delivering both ambiance and action. They aren't always active, especially in a few spots where we would expect them to be in some scenes. The militaristic, percussion-heavy music sounds wonderfully powerful and engaging, as do the opening credits featuring Beethoven's Fifth symphony. As planes strafe troops or drop bombs during the film's landing sequences about two hours in, you'll feel the impact of the munitions and almost constantly hear echoes and the distant sounds of gunfire and explosions. It's a nice effect, and a chilling one. This lossless soundtrack is obviously the best I've ever heard this film, and easily surpasses the totally inferior DVD disc I owned for some time, but I have now dumped into the total oblivion of ghastly 480i inferior images.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Historical Commentary with Mary Corey: This first historical audio commentary with Mary Corey, who is a post-World War II professor of intellectual and cultural history at UCLA. Corey discusses the importance and nuances of the musical cues of the film, points out some historical inaccuracies, like the hair of the bicycle girl at the beginning of the film, and also provides some really fascinating trivia about ‘The Longest day’ film, where we are informed that at the time in 1962, that it was the most expensive Black-and-White film ever made. Mary Corey, brings that lecture hall sense to the track, which I really like to listen to and it is totally enthralling and fascinating to listen to.
Audio Commentary: History Commentary with Ken Annakin: This second fascinating historical audio commentary, features co-director Ken Annakin, and the only living director to have worked on ‘The Longest Day’ film. Ken Annakin discusses and informs us the origins of the film, and especially covering much of what is discussed in the other supplement extras, but this track remains totally fascinating to listen to. Ken Annakin has plenty of amusing and interesting stories to inform us, but never allowing us to become totally bored with listening to him speak about ‘The Longest Day’ film and filling us in some gaps about what input the other co-directors put into making their part in the film, and Ken Annakin also discusses both the German and American actors, but unfortunately does not just focus on Ken’s segments in the film sadly.
Special Feature: A Day to Remember: A Conversation with Ken Annakin the Director  [1080p] [1.77:1] [17:52] This special feature is a discussion with one of the film's directors, Ken Annakin, who recounts his memories about the making of the film. Screenplay by Adam Hauck. Produced by Adam Hauck and George Cawood. Music by Kristian Dunn. Cinematography by Michael Osment and Sovonto Green.
Special Feature: The Longest Day: A Salute to Courage  [480i] [1.33:1] [43:46] This is a The History Channel TV Special entitled ‘History Through The Lens.’ In this special documentary that looks at the importance of the true battle and how the real story far outweighs the brilliance of the film based around it. In this documentary it examines the contributions of Cornelius Ryan, the author of the 1959 ‘The Longest Day book of the same name as this 1962 film, and the project. This is a solid documentary that anyone who enjoys war films, classic films, or history of the Second World War. Contributors to this special tribute to the film ‘The Longest Day’ are Victoria Ryan Bida, Douglas E. McCabe, Darryl F. Zanuck (archive footage), Darrilyn Zanuck DePineda, Elmo Williams, Red Buttons, Richard Todd, Ken Annakin, Rudy Behlmer, Lawrence H. Suid, Paul R. Sands, Robert M. Murphy, Leonard Lommel, Rudy Meyer, William Friedman, Noel A. Dube, Richard D. Zanuck and Irina Demick (archive footage). Narrated by Burt Reynolds. Produced by Erika Schroeder, Kevin Burns, Micah Joyce, Michael D. Stevens, Rick Davis, Scott Hartford and Susan Werbe.
Special Feature: Backstory – The Longest Day  [480i] [1.33:1] [25:08] This is a made for TV “Back Story” Special. In this fascinating documentary feature, it focuses on the life and times of Darryl F. Zanuck and the importance The Longest Day played in his life and career, as well as the painstaking lengths the filmmakers went through to make the most authentic D-Day film imaginable. Contributors to this special tribute to the film ‘The Longest Day’ are Darrilyn Zanuck DePineda, Darryl F. Zanuck (archive footage), David Brown, Rudy Behlmer, Robert Wagner, Mel Gussow, Ken Annakin, Roddy McDowall (archive footage), Red Buttons, Richard D. Zanuck, Irina Demick (archive footage) and Édith Piaf (archive footage). Narrated by Rino Romano. Directed by Michele Farinola and Mimi Freedman. Screenplay by Jon Hofferman. Produced by Kevin Burns, Michele Farinola and Mimi Freedman. 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. Prometheus Entertainment. AMC Original Production.
Special Feature: D-Day Revisited  [1080i] [1.33:1] [51:50] This is a D-Day special with a personal insight by Daryl F. Zanuck the Producer of ‘The Longest Day.’ Here we get to see Darryl F. Zanuck personally revisits the places where 'The Longest Day' had been filmed, with excerpts from the film, and also features footage from the film along with behind-the-scenes colour footage filmed by Darryl F. Zanuck himself, and Darryl F. Zanuck also does a special tribute in telling the story of D-Day itself. Produced by Christian Ferry. Cinematography by Henri Decaë and Walter Wottitz. 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.
Special Feature: Darryl F. Zanuck: A Dream Fulfilled  [1080i] [1.77:1] [3:58] In this special short feature, we have Richard D. Zanuck, recounts a few highlights from his father's career that revolve around the film ‘The Longest Day.’ Produced by Adam Hauck. Music by Kristian Dunn. Cinematography by Michael Osment.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.33:1] [3:08] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘The Longest Day.’ What a shame they could not have found the original trailer with a 1080p image quality and especially in the 2.35:1 [Cinemascope] aspect ratio. Very strange.
WWW.FOX.CO.UK This particular information asks you to log onto their web site to find out “An Exclusive Insider’s Look” for Exclusive Previews; Behind-The-Scenes news and Hot New Releases on DVD and Blu-ray.
WWW.FOXINTERNATIONAL.COM This particular information asks you to log onto their web site to find out “An Exclusive Insider’s Look” for Exclusive Previews; Behind-The-Scenes news and Hot New Releases on DVD and Blu-ray.
Finally, this I one of the finest Second World War films of all time, and ‘The Longest Day’ remains a total crowd pleaser and first-rate war epic of all time. It has the combining of intelligence and definitely the thinking man's war film. ‘The Longest Day’ stands proudly near the top of the list of the all-time greatest war films, and this comes from one of the genre's biggest fans. 20th Century Fox has once again gone above and beyond the call of duty, providing fans a glorious transfer that feels larger than life and looks fantastic, too. The audio quality is a marked improvement over any version I've heard before, and the supplemental materials are exhaustive and interesting. As far as classic Second World War films on Blu-ray go, they don't get a whole lot better than this, and ‘The Longest Day’ comes with brilliant pedigree and an honour to add this to my Blu-ray Collection and especially it is now in the brilliant designed Limited Edition SteelBook. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom