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FILM MOVEMENT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Leslie Norman
Cast:
John Mills, Bernard Lee, Richard Attenborough
Writing Credits:
WP Lipscomb, David Divine

Synopsis:
British soldiers attempt to evacuate from the beaches of Dunkirk.

MPAA:
Rated NR.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio:
English PCM Monaural
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 136 min.
Price: $84.95
Release Date: 3/31/2020
Available Only as Part of “Their Finest Hour” 5-Film Collection

Bonus:
• Newsreel
Young Veteran Short
• Interview with Actor Sean Barrett
• John Mills Home Movie Footage
• Booklet


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RELATED REVIEWS


Dunkirk [Blu-Ray] (1958)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 28, 2020)

Almost 60 years before Christopher Nolan put his stamp on the subject, 1958’s Dunkirk examined the important World War II operation. As expected, the film takes us back to 1940 during the early days of the conflict.

As the German forces invade France, British units find themselves pushed back toward the English Channel. When Lieutenant Lumpkin (Kenneth Cope) dies in battle, Corporal “Tubby” Binns (John Mills) winds up in charge, and he does his best to deliver his men to safety.

In the meantime, England launches “Operation Dynamo”, an attempt to utilize civilian watercraft to save the trapped soldiers. These vessels try to make it to the French seaside city of Dunkirk to evacuate forces, a group that may include Corporal Binns and company.

Given the fame of the subject, surprisingly few movies about the Dunkirk evacuation have come into existence. Perhaps filmmakers feel a story about a retreat seems like too much of a downer, even if the operation in question became a massive success.

This means that although the 1958 and 2017 movies don’t exist as the sole entries on the subject, they stand as part of a small group. One assumes Nolan saw the 1958 flick before he made his, as it’d feel like cinematic malpractice otherwise, but the two films don’t seem much alike.

Actually, both share one trait: their split focus. The 2017 film seemed even more ambitious, as it focused on the evacuation from the air, sea and land, whereas 1958 sticks with sea and land.

2017 balanced those three domains pretty well, but 1958 struggles to blend the two competing narrative threads. In particular, 1958 tends to spend too much time in one domain to the exclusion of the other.

As such, we get so much of Corporal Binns and company that we forget about the seaborne civilians – until the two switch, and then the opposite concern emerges. While I feel glad the movie doesn’t flip between the two sides in a hyperactive manner, it still goes one way too long to the exclusion of the other.

I appreciate that 1958 offers a fairly unsentimental look at the subject. Sure, we get some echoes of the wartime spirit, a trend that seems inevitable given the era in which the film emerged.

After all, the 1958 flick hit screens 18 years after the actual events, and that left them active in the minds of most potential viewers. The temptation to make Dunkirk a heart-tugging piece of borderline propaganda must’ve been a factor.

Of course, the movie doesn’t just offer a dry recitation of events, so it attempts emotional issues. It manages these pretty well, though, and doesn’t turn the film into the cheesy melodrama it could’ve become.

A nice cast accentuates matters. In addition to future Oscar-winner John Mills, we find notables such as Bernard Lee and Richard Attenborough. They bring credibility to the project.

Although I don’t think the 1958 Dunkirk qualifies as a genre classic, it delivers a better than average war film. It gives us a good look at events and turns into a fairly winning tale.


The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Dunkirk appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a mostly good transfer.

Sharpness seemed largely positive. Much of the film offered nice clarity, with only the occasional soft shot on display.

I noticed no issues with shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain felt natural throughout the film.

Print flaws cropped up at times – and not just via the use of archival footage. Though the flick usually felt clean, I saw a few instances of specks and marks. These mainly appeared early in the film, though, so they became less of a concern as the story progressed.

Blacks seemed dark and deep, and contrast felt appropriate. Shadows showed good delineation as well. The print flaws nearly dinged the image enough to make it a “B-“, but I thought too much of the movie looked positive to award a grade below a “B”.

Though dated, the film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack seemed adequate. Speech tended to be somewhat brittle and tinny, but the lines remained intelligible and lacked too much edginess.

Music displayed moderate punch, while effects seemed decent, though they could show distortion at times. I thought the mix leaned toward the harsh side a little, but it usually came across acceptable well given its age.

A handful of extras appear here. A circa 1940 newsreel spans three minutes, 56 seconds and shows footage related to the Dunkirk evacuation. It becomes a useful view of real events.

Called Young Veteran, we find a vintage short. From 1940, it runs 22 minutes, 24 seconds and gives us a look at the British war effort in its early days, with some mention of Dunkirk. While it exists essentially as propaganda, it offers an intriguing snapshot of the era.

An Interview with Actor Sean Barrett goes for 22 minutes, 17 seconds and features his thoughts about his time on Dunkirk as well as related aspects of his career. Barrett brings an engaging collection of memories.

Finally, we get John Mills Home Movie Footage. This reel spans 10 minutes, one second and displays color, silent film from the sets. Though the absence of sound becomes a drawback, this still acts as a nice view of the production,

The package also includes a booklet. It presents basic notes about Dunkirk and the other four movies in the Their Finest Hour collection.

More than 60 years after its release, the 1958 Dunkirk seems destined to live in the shadow of its 2017 cousin. While not as good as Chris Nolan’s tale, the 1958 version nonetheless gives us a credible and engaging take on events. The Blu-ray comes with pretty good picture, adequate audio and a smattering of supplements. Expect a pretty solid war flick here.

Note that Dunkirk appears only as part of the five-film “Their Finest Hour” package. This set also includes Went the Day Well?, The Dam Busters, The Colditz Story and Ice Cold in Alex.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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