Battle of Britain
Guy Hamilton's Battle Of Britain (1969) was the first major failure for producer Harry Saltzman, who had enjoyed success for most of the 1960's between the James Bond movies (co-produced with Albert R. Broccoli) and the three Michael Caine-starring "Harry Palmer" spy movies. This disc is the best presentation that the movie has had since its year of release -- there was a letterboxed laserdisc edition released around 1990 that looked decent, but the new transfer runs circles around that laser set in clarity and detail as well as brightness and color. The fields of France as depicted here never looked greener, nor have the details of the planes ever seemed more enticing to the eye -- and when the action takes to the air, the viewer does almost get the feeling of being aloft, the picture is that sharp. The 2.35-to-1 letterboxed image captures the original Panavision picture and the black area below has been used to support the subtitling for the sequences involving the Germans in conversation. Daylight scenes or darker interior shots, there's a vast amount of picture information here to take in, and this is the kind of disc that could swing lingering skeptics over to the format. The audio is mastered well also, particularly the climactic "Battle In The Air" sequence, where the music is essential. None of this alters the fact that the movie is incredibly dull and slow-moving for much of its length. The 132 minute running time seems excessive, and director Guy Hamilton takes forever to get where he is going -- the fact that the 20 chapters are adequate to that running time is indicative of the pacing problems with the picture. Additionally, there is no annotation to speak of -- not even a paper insert with a list of chapters. The makers have left out some obvious supplementary material that could have been included -- Battle of Britain, like most other major United Artists productions of the period, was the subject of a 15-minute featurette that used to appear regularly on New York television (usually to fill time after baseball games that ran short or long), detailing the movie's production with extensive behind-the-scenes footage. Its inclusion would have made up for the lack of even the most basic essay about the film's history. The low price makes this disc attractive -- it retails for less than a third of what the laserdisc used to cost -- but the flaws in the original film, coupled with the perfunctory treatment of the disc extras negate some of that appeal. In terms of actual play, the disc opens automatically to a very simple two-layer menu with the "Play" option in the default position. The only bonus feature is the original five-minute trailer.