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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Hanover Street (1979)

Halloran: What about you?
Margaret: What about "what about me?"
Halloran: Who are you? Why are you?
Margaret: I'm a short man.

- Harrison Ford, Lesley-Anne Down

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: August 03, 2001

Stars: Harrison Ford, Lesley-Anne Down, Christopher Plummer
Other Stars: Alec McCowen, Michael Sacks, Richard Masur, Patsy Kensit
Director: Peter Hyams

MPAA Rating: PG for (Mild violence and sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:48m:43s
Release Date: July 31, 2001
UPC: 043396058316
Genre: war


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C DCC+ C+

DVD Review

In 1979, Harrison Ford played a member of the U.S. military in two films. The first is, of course, Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam nightmare, Apocalypse Now. The second is Peter Hyams' lesser-known World War II romance, Hanover Street. The difference between the two is that Apocalypse Now is a harrowing masterpiece of the ravages of war, whereas Hanover Street is a pedestrian affair that only uses war as a backdrop for an uninteresting love story.

In London, during World War II, Lt. David Halloran (Harrison Ford) meets Margaret Sellinger (Lesley-Anne Down) while waiting for a bus. They both miss their buses, so Halloran convinces Margaret to sit down for a cup of tea. They form a bond, but Margaret won't tell Halloran her name, because she is married. Stepping outside, they get caught in an air raid. Halloran saves Margaret, and he tells her to meet her on the same street in two weeks, when he's next on leave. Two weeks later, she shows up; they have sex and fall in love. Meanwhile, Margaret's husband Paul (Christopher Plummer) trains British intelligence agents. The last two agents they sent in behind enemy lines were killed within a few weeks of being dropped. Paul decides that there must be a double agent in London, and reports tell him that the Germans have a list of British double agents in the Gestapo headquarters in France. To prevent a leak, the British decide to use an American bomber to drop their agent in. At the last minute, because he wants to be a hero, Paul decides to go instead of the assigned agent. Of course, Halloran just happens to be the pilot of the bomber that takes Paul, and, of course, the plane gets shot down, leaving only Paul and Halloran together. Now they must use each other to survive - even though they both love the same woman!

There are innumerable problems with Hanover Street. First, the plot plays out like a bad soap opera that's missing a climax. Sure, Paul and Halloran get stuck behind enemy lines together, but nothing much comes of it. Not only that, Margaret is never fleshed out as a character, so we don't even care about her. By far the largest problem is the writing. Hyam says that he wanted to make an old time romantic World War II movie, but the script is preoccupied with grand romantic gestures too often at the expense of logic. For example, Paul decides to go behind enemy lines simply because he was sick of people calling him "pleasant." The scene where the plane is shot down plays out so similarly to the World War II sequence in Heavy Metal (despite the fact that Heavy Metal actually came out two years later) that looking at it now creates much more hilarity than it does dramatic tension. I half expected (and indeed, hoped for) the co-pilot to rise up out of his chair and force Halloran to fight it out with scores of the undead. Also, one of the characters, Cimino (Richard Masur), complains the entire time about being in a bomber. I have to ask: Why would you join the Air Force if you didn't like being in an airplane!?

There are several other problems, as well. Aside from the air raid sequence, most of the special effects look dreadful. Certain explosions involving cars are obviously done with miniatures, complete with immovable dummies inside the cars. Generally, if I was in a car that flipped over and was about to explode, I'd try to get out, or at least wave my arms. The music is also intolerable. It's just romantic sludge that sounds so generic you'd think it might be preprogrammed into a cheap electronic keyboard. Even Peter Hyams says in the commentary that the movie looks like a "woman film," which, he assures us, wasn't his intention. Looks like you failed, Peter. I've only touched on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the troubles this movie has. Considering that Hyams later did 2010 and End of Days, this is just another nail in his cinematic coffin.

The movie has two high points. They would be Harrison Ford and Christopher Plummer. Ford is good, even though he's written as a more romantic Han Solo-type, but without any good retorts. He has a natural charisma that is hard to deny, and makes the picture bearable. Christopher Plummer transcends his weakly written role and becomes the standout of the cast. While Ford has natural charisma, Plummer has a screen presence that is virtually unequaled. He steals every scene he's in. And considering this is a lesser film in his oeuvre, one can only imagine the heights he must be possible of reaching in a truly worthy role. It's a shame such a great performance had to be wasted on such a poor film.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Well, at least this transfer is anamorphically enhanced and in the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. That's about the best I can say. The transfer here is pretty bad. The whole movie looks very soft, with blurred edges, and some scenes even look slightly out of focus. Eventually you get used to the faded out look of the transfer, but the thought never left my mind that it could have been much sharper.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
4.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: One of the selling points of this disc is the 4.0 discrete surround sound. Now, I personally think that 4.0 or 4.1 discrete tracks are pretty cool (love the DTS on Big Trouble In Little China), but this one isn't. The only thing that makes full use of the surrounds is the horrendous score. The dialogue stems sound extremely dated, and the sound effects are laughable (especially the gunfire sounds, they make cap guns sound scary). Overall, the sound is better than the transfer, but not by much. Pass on this one, fellow surround sound afficiandos.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Random Hearts, The End Of The Affair, The Remains Of The Day
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter Hyams
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: n/a

Extras Review: The only real extra here is Peter Hyams' commentary. It's sad when a commentary is better than a movie, but here it is. Hyams is quite engaging and talkative throughout this track, talking about the origins of the film, the pre-production work, the way he wanted it to look, and more. If the movie had been half as entertaining as the commentary, Hyams might have had a modest success on his hands. As it is, Hyams tells us at the beginning of the track that he hardly ever watches his films after he makes them. After seeing Hanover Street, it's not hard to figure out why.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

This is bad. Filled with overly romantic notions of wartime heroics, Peter Hyams wrote several uninteresting characters with little or no common sense, put them on the screen, and forced unsuspecting reviewers like yours truly to waste two hours of their lives. Learn from my mistake and don't see Hanover Street.

 


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