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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"How can a perfectly ordinary, good-natured guy who wouldn't slap a mosquito sit up in anairplane and bomb a thousand sleeping strangers down below?"
DVD ReviewAnzio is a strangely cynical war movie made in an age that produced some of the most memorable and genre-defining war films in history. At first glance, it appears almost impossible for this to be anything less than an epic what with an amazing, first-rate cast and a talented director. Unfortunately, it would seem that Edward Dmytryk wasn't sure whether he was making an anti-war movie, an action film, or an historical epic, and Anzio is an uncomfortable merger of all three.
Anzio is set during the infamous Allied invasion of Anzio, Italy during World War II. Planned as a surprise, the operation is not looked upon favorably by most military personnel who considered it too dangerous; clashing head on with what could be one of the largest masses of German troops. The story primarily follows Dick Ennis (Robert Mitchum), a fictional war correspondent who, despite not having to, decides to follow troops into Italy. Although most of the men respect and admire Ennis, they don't really understand why anyone with the ability to leave the war wouldn't take it. As a journalist, Ennis doesn't have to put himself in harms way the way he does. When the crucial time comes, the Anzio operation is a massive success without a single casualty; the Allies did indeed surprise the Germans and the Anzio front is undefended. Unfortunately, the military commanders fail to take the opportunity to move quickly onto Rome and, as a result, give the Germans enough time to move full forces into the area to stop the Allied progress.
The result is a vicious and extraordinarily bloody battle, one of the worst in WWII history, as some of the best German troops face off with Allied forces trapped on the Anzio shores. Ennis and his soldier friend Corporal Rabinoff (Peter Falk) find themselves one of only a handful of men left surviving from their division, and are left to fend for themselves and the film focuses on their combat efforts. While, in theory, this sounds like a solid basis for a war story, the execution is unusually haphazard. First, the film begins on a rather lighthearted note with lots of comedy, a lounge-song opening, and an extremely anti-war sentiment coming largely from the Dick Ennis character who is tired of witnessing carnage, but goes on covering it anyway. The story radically shift gears, though, once the Anzio mission begins, taking on a serious war film tone, but again, things shift shortly afterward into a sort of gritty, action film attitude.
This constant change in tone makes it hard to invest emotionally in the film. Should I care about the characters or should I ignore them and focus on the historical aspects; or, are we supposed to just get into the carnage and battle sequences? Another difficult issue is the particular characters, some of whom don't seem very realistic. Rabinoff seems to have virtually no military discipline, yet is seemingly allowed to get away with it no matter what. He continually violates rules, orders, and just about everything else, in a sort of "hero who doesn't follow the rules" way, but it doesn't fit with the rest of the film. Robert Mitchum makes a fine character, but his dialogue is often ruined with too many casual observances on how bad war is, especially in the heat of events. For such a hater of violence, it makes no sense for him to be reporting the war from inside the trenches. Especially awkward is the sheer amount of actors basically "ripped" from other great WWII films. Many faces from The Longest Day can be spotted, along with other character actors who have played soldiers, generals, and whatnot FAR too often.
While I've spent time pointing out the glaring flaws, I must say Anzio is notterrible. It is an interesting war drama, but it really isn't a historical drama, nor a terribly serious statement about anything. It's in the field of classic war films, but on one of the lower rungs to be sure. Director Edward Dmytryk handles the action sequences with a certain level of talent, especially obvious in the tight editing, but it isn't enough to lift up the lukewarm storyline. Robert Mitchum is charming, as always, but this is not one of his better roles.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The transfer is mostly extremely solid, with an amazingly clean source print. Barely a nick or scratch is to be seen anywhere, despite the age of the film. There are no significant artifacts or other digital flaws, and the image is very clear and highly detailed. Colors looks very good and the rich, widescreen cinematography feels very natural and balanced. Unfortunately, image quality does take a slight downward notch in grading for some rather obvious over-sharpening and edge-enhancement. It doesn't effect the greater portion of the film, but in some circumstances, there is some mildly annoying ringing around sharp-lined objects causing moire effects on lesser televisions.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a basic Pro-Logic Mono track which is fairly uneventful. It's perfectlyaudible and carries itself well, but the lack of any stereo dimension makes some of the louder, action portions of the film seem a bit flat. On the plus side, however, the track seems to carry a lot of bass making it feel slightly more expansive than it actually is.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Korean, Thai, Portuguese, Chinese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Other than an original theatrical trailer, there are no supplemental features. Presentation is standard with a small keepcase insert featuring chapter listings.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsDecent as a basic war film, but mediocre as anything else, Anzio is definitely a rental for most, but seemingly a solid buy for fans.
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