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A&E Home Video presents
Heroes of Iwo Jima (2001)

"For the first 72 hours, there was a casualty every three-quarters of a minute. This outdoes Normandy, every other place that's ever been landed. It was a killing field."
- Iwo Jima veteran Greeley Wells

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 12, 2001

Stars: Gene Hackman, Joe Rosenthal, Charles Lindberg, John Bradley, James Bradley
Director: Lauren Lexton

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (intense war-related violence and gore)
Run Time: 01h:33m:27s
Release Date: October 30, 2001
UPC: 733961703368
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A+A-B+ D

DVD Review

AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's immortal photo of the flagraising on the island of Iwo Jima immediately captured the imagination of the nation. In the years since, it has become a symbol of the Marine Corps as well as of bravery and patriotism. This program, based on the best-selling book Flags of Our Fathers, by James Bradley, uses the stories of the men who raised the flag on this godforsaken island to tell the story of the battle, its importance and the its effect on the men who fought there.

Iwo Jima was an unremarkable little eight-square mile patch of volcanic island in the Pacific. However, in order to launch an attack on Japan, the island had to be neutralized and taken since it had the only airfield between American bases on Guam and Saipan and the four large Japanese islands themselves. As part of the Japanese homeland, the island was also of huge symbolic importance. The Japanese troops on the island, realizing that they would not survive a full-scale assault, determined to take as many of the enemy with them as possible. This was possible through the use of extensive tunnels that honeycombed the entire island, as deep as five stories below the surface. The plan was simple: let the Americans land without opposition. Then, when they were crowded on the beach, slaughter them.

This wasn't a John Wayne movie; it was war at its most bitter and brutal. Thanks to unprecedented media coverage, the program includes intensely graphic motion picture film actually shot during the battle. This features truly horrific material such as a young GI physically trying to stuff his guts back in, men dismembered by grenades and every manner of atrocity one can imagine.

Yet among the carnage was a symbol of hope: on the fifth day of the battle a US flag was raised on Mt. Suribachi and the image was captured on film. There were actually two flag raisings, of which the second was source of the famous photo. The careers and deaths of the participants in both flag raisings are included. Even after the flag was raised, however, the fighting continued intensely for another month. While the focus is heavy on the photo and the flagraisings (including motion picture footage of the second raising), there is plenty of coverage of the battle proper. Running time is significantly shorter than the 100 minutes claimed on the cover.

A few 1980s' interviews of flagraisers are central, as are material with Charles Lindberg, the one surviving flagraiser and photographer Joe Rosenthal. But the bulk of the story is carried by interviews with other Iwo Jima veterans. This production, like the book on which it is based, is a moving and highly effective tribute to the men who fought and served. Notably, the flagraisers didn't consider themselves heroes and were highly reluctant to discuss their experiences on this island; tragic Pima Indian Ira Hayes even threatened another man with death if he disclosed the fact that Hayes was one of the flagraisers. This stands in stark contrast to the relatives of those involved in the first flagraising, who seem resentful about the lack of attention that their relatives' flagraising garnered. Given the experience of the men in the Rosenthal photo who survived Iwo Jima, they should cherish their relative anonymity.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture is quite good indeed. The current interview material and Gene Hackman's narration are all properly sharp and crisp with excellent color and black levels. The film shot on Iwo Jima is surprisingly good. The color is slightly faded in some sections, but overall, considering the circumstances under which it was shot, the pictures are phenomenal.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is quite pleasing. Narration and interview segments come through cleanly and without any distortion. Music is clear and rich. Very little hiss is audible. The 2.0 audio in Dolby Pro Logic decoding presents an effective surround of music and battle sounds. For a television program, this is first rate sound.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Timeline of the battle of Iwo Jima
Extras Review: The sole extra is a timeline of the battle of Iwo Jima; this was rather lacking in detail and could have been done much better. Chaptering is adequate, but that's it.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A graphic, intense and absorbing depiction of the US Marine Corps' finest moment, given an excellent transfer. Though light on extras, this program is highly recommended.


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