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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Franklin J. Schaffner
Cast:
George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael Strong, Frank Latimore, Morgan Paull, Karl Michael Vogler, Pat Zurica, James Edwards, Lawrence Dobkin, David Bauer, John Barrie
Writing Credits:
Ladislas Farago (book, "Patton: Ordeal and Triumph"), Omar N. Bradley (book, "A Soldier's Story"), Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North

Synopsis:
A critically acclaimed film that won a total of eight 1970 Academy Awards (including Best Picture), Patton is a riveting portrait of one of the 20th century's greatest military geniuses. One of its Oscars went to George C. Scott for his triumphant portrayal of George Patton, the only Allied general truly feared by the Nazis. Charismatic and flamboyant, Patton designed his own uniforms, sported ivory-handled six-shooters, and believed he was a warrior in past lives. He outmaneuvered Rommel in Africa, and after D-Day led his troops in an unstoppable campaign across Europe. But he was rebellious as well as brilliant. As Patton shows insight and poignancy, his own volatile personality was one enemy he could never defeat.

Box Office:
Budget
$12 million.
Domestic Gross
$61.700 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.0
English Dolby 2.0
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 171 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 11/2/1999

Bonus:
• “The Making of Patton” Documentary
• Jerry Goldsmith’s Complete Musical Score
• Audio Essay On the Historical Patton
• Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Patton (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 23, 2006)

November 1999 was an impressive month for war movies on DVD. That month saw releases of Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now and The Thin Red Line. All three films were flawed. Ryan suffered from occasional hokeyness and a first act that may have been too overwhelming for the rest of the movie to keep up. Apocalypse Now was stuck with a terrible, almost-unwatchable third act - "the horror" indeed!. Finally, The Thin Red Line is quite possibly the dullest film about World War II ever made.

Two semi-classics and one pretentious dud - that should be enough war material, right? Nope, and I haven't even gotten to the best yet: 1970's terrific Patton, as complex, entertaining, and epic a war film as you're likely to find.

I used to have a serious bias against "older films" and even though Patton isn't all that old, I pretty much plopped any film I couldn't remember from its theatrical run into that category. (I was three when Patton hit the screens.) Patton was one of the first movies to show me what narrow-minded bonehead I was. (Lawrence of Arabia sealed the deal.) I always envisioned these older movies as being stilted, dull affairs, but those two films clearly demonstrated how wrong I was.

Lawrence of Arabia is maybe the best historical film ever made but Patton isn't far behind. While Lawrence is the better film, I think Patton qualifies as the superior biography simply because I feel it remains truer to its subject. Lawrence clearly takes many licenses with the facts, whereas Patton sticks closer to reality.

George C. Scott's career-defining performance as General Patton remains key to the success of this film. Scott had many successes before and after Patton, but it remains the role for which he will be best remembered. He won - and famously refused - his sole Oscar for it, and it's an absolutely perfect performance. He completely loses himself in the part and he's able to draw a solid picture of the man. Scott's work in this film stands out not just for 1970 but for all film acting; it's one of those performances that will always be held up as a model.

Also very good is Karl Malden as General Omar Bradley. To be frank, I always found Malden's Bradley to be just a little too genial and sweet, something that I couldn't help but feel was influenced by the fact that the real Bradley served as a consultant for the film. I'm not saying that Bradley wasn't really a good guy, but I simply get the feeling that some rough edges may have been smoothed out because of his involvement. It's much easier to be blunt with historical characters when they're dead.

Nonetheless, the Bradley character works well to illustrate the foibles of Patton and neatly shows the different ways that things could be done by officers. Bradley's simple, folksy way contrasts neatly with the harsh egotism of Patton, and the differences heighten our awareness of Patton's flaws, so while Bradley does seem a bit too soft, this method nonetheless works well in the interest of the story.

Franklin Schaffner directs the film in a fairly workmanlike manner. He lacks much flair, but he tells the story efficiently, effectively and without unnecessary sentimentality. Some of the battle scenes fall a little flat - a relatively early engagement in North Africa seems to drag – but since the film really isn't about fighting, that's not a significant problem.

While it'd be nice if Schaffner could portray war in the visceral and kinetic manner Steven Spielberg demonstrated in Saving Private Ryan, I'm happy to note that he is able to avoid Spielberg's overwrought sentimentality and his tendency to telegraph all of his points. Schaffner occasionally betrays some bias during the movie, but Patton really appears remarkably free of any particular ideological taint. It's a film that can easily be claimed for either hawks or doves. Individual interpretations of Patton as a man and as a warrior are wide open.

Take the "slapping" scene, for example. Does this depict a cruel, insensitive man who views his underlings as nothing but pawns in his struggles for power or does it show a man with a strong sense of morality, purpose, and conviction? Neither side is right or wrong. It's all in the interpretation, something that happens frequently in this film.

More than 35 years after its release, Patton remains a classic. The movie boasts excellent production value along with a stellar performance from its lead. War movies don’t get much better than this.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Patton appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not without flaws, the picture mostly satisfied.

The picture offered good detail most of the time. Occasional wide shots suffered from some ill-definition, largely due to the presence of moderate edge enhancement. Those haloes usually stayed in check, but they sometimes became awfully prominent. However, the majority of the flick was crisp and concise. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, and source flaws were reasonably minor. I saw a few specks, marks, streaks and spots, but nothing too intrusive appeared.

Colors also were positive. Since it's a military film, various shades of green, brown and tan dominated, and bland though those may be, the picture displayed them with nice clarity and accuracy. Black levels appeared rich and dark, and shadow detail seemed clean and clear. The edge enhancement and smattering of source flaws were the main problems here, but they weren’t significant enough to knock this transfer below a “B”.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix also satisfied. The soundstage demonstrated surprising width and depth for such an old film. The stereo imaging of the front three channels appeared especially strong. Sounds were nicely placed within that area and they also panned well across the speakers. We even got a lot of accurately localized speech.

The surrounds were used sparingly but somewhat effectively. They provided a decent level of ambiance though they rarely attempted more than that. This was fine with me, especially since the front spectrum was so vivid and well-defined.

Audio quality seemed perfectly solid for a movie from 1970. Speech demonstrated moderate of edginess, but the lines were intelligible and reasonably natural. Effects also suffered from some distortion, as explosions and gunfire occasionally became rough. I didn’t think these issues were a real problem, though, as the elements were acceptably accurate. The score appeared pretty clean and smooth, and it featured nice dynamics. A layer of hiss occurred throughout the movie. Ultimately, the sound mix of Patton was quite good for its age.

This DVD of Patton actually is an adaptation of a nice laserdisc release from 1997. An unusual form of audio commentary appears here. It's actually an audio essay from Patton historian Charles M. Province, the founder of the Patton Historical Society. In their entirety, his comments occupy about the first 80 minutes of the film with one brief break late in the period.

While it's not quite a substitute for a true audio commentary about the film, Province's remarks are quite interesting and informative. He adds a lot of data that isn't covered by the film in that he tells us about Patton's life prior to WWII. Province also clarifies some of the events that are depicted in the film and tells us what really happened, though this doesn't happen much; it seems that the movie was pretty accurate.

While I'm sure he worked from notes, it doesn't appear that Province is just reading his comments, which adds a nicely informal quality to his statements. The track offers some solid perspective on the "historical" Patton and whets one's appetite for a full biography.

The DVD also contains a good 50-minute documentary called Patton: A Tribute to Franklin J. Schaffner. This piece effectively covers a fair amount of information about the making of the film, though the title is somewhat misleading. It makes it sound as though the program will be a biography of Schaffner, whereas it spends virtually no time discussing his life other than as it related to "Patton". The piece provides modern interviews with cinematographer Fred Kroenekamp and composer Jerry Goldsmith. Their comments are combined with 1970 remarks from Schaffner, actor George C. Scott and others and are mixed in with production stills, on set "behind the scenes" footage, and finished film clips.

Overall it's a solid though too brief documentary. A film of this scope could have used more time than 50 minutes, but for what we get, it's well presented. Much valuable information about the film's creation is depicted and it maintains a generally entertaining pace.

Fans of film scores will be delighted to learn that Goldsmith's entire score is presented here in stereo. Is it just me, or does it seem surprising that the score for a nearly three hour movie only takes up 36 and a half minutes? I guess that's because Goldsmith repeats so many motifs.

More music can be heard immediately following the end of the isolated score per se when we hear outtakes from the actual recording session. This is vaguely cool but ultimately a little dull. It's just additional variations on that echoed "da-da-da" theme we hear so frequently in the movie.

More interesting are the four radio ads that follow the alternate musical takes. These are fairly entertaining, especially the first one, which is an unintentionally amusing attempt to sell this "man's movie" to the gals in the audience.

Additional promotional materials are included in the form of trailers. One theatrical trailer for Patton appears, as do promos for Tora Tora Tora and The Longest Day. I find it mildly disappointing that more Patton trailers were not included, since it's clear they exist. Also absent are the newsreel clips of the real Patton that appeared on the first widescreen LD release but not the 1997 reissue). I have no idea why these fascinating clips didn't make the cut.

Finally, the DVD offers a nice booklet that features an informative timeline for Patton's life. This replicates the liner notes of the last LD release. As with Province's comments, this doesn't substitute for a full biography, but it adds a nice taste of history to the package.

As it stands, Patton is one of the all-time great films, and Fox's DVD release provides us with a nice edition of it. The picture and the sound are generally positive, and the DVD includes a few very nice supplements. Patton is a highly recommended movie that falls into the category of a "must have" DVD.

To rate this film visit the Cinema Classics Collection review of PATTON

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