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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Desert Fox (1951)

"It's too late for me. I'm seventy now—too old to fight, too old to challenge authority, however evil. But not too old, however, to wish you and your friends the best of luck in their extremely interesting enterprise."
- Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (Leo G. Carroll)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: November 26, 2003

Stars: James Mason, Jessica Tandy
Other Stars: Cedric Hardwicke, Luther Adler, Everett Sloane, Leo G. Carroll
Director: Henry Hathaway

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for mild war violence and language
Run Time: 01h:28m:54s
Release Date: May 20, 2003
UPC: 024543071990
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-D-C- C+

DVD Review

American films dealing with the events that transpired at the hands of the German army during World War II by and large were aimed at the atrocities that occurred during the span of nearly a decade. A rare look past the horrors is the Henry Hathaway film, The Desert Fox, a look at Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who remains possibly one of the most gifted military strategists that has ever lived. The story of his achievements, as well as his death at the hands of the army for which he fought, make The Desert Fox a fascinating and involving motion picture.

Beginning in the early 1940s in Africa, the story follows Rommel's (Mason) career, starting with his retreat from a large battle with the British to his ultimate relocation to a hospital in Germany where he would be visited by Dr. Karl Strolin (Cedric Hardwicke). Stroiln's visit would become a turning point in the life of Rommel, as Strolin was an anti-Hitler conspirator who attempted to recruit Rommel in his plan to overthrow Hitler by assassination. Through a series of meetings, Rommel would eventually give in and his life would be forever altered.

It was a daring move for Fox to produce a film based on the life of a German military leader in 1951, but through an understanding script and a terrific performance by James Mason, The Desert Fox never once feels like it is taking sides. Instead, the film does a meticulous job of showing the trials and tribulations of Rommel during his final years, while also injecting some truly tense and suspenseful sequences. The film is more focused on character, though, than action, which is evident in the scenes in which Rommel is shown as a family man with his wife (Tandy)and young son.

Much has been made since the release of The Desert Fox about the liberties taken wit the sequence of events that led to the death of Rommel at the hands of Adolf Hitler. While we may never know the accuracy of the script, I feel safe in saying that while the events that transpire make for good filmmaking, the historical accuracy is far from being a concern. The film is the story of the life of Erwin Rommel and his principles of standing up against Adolf Hitler, and in turn, whether they be true or no,t it certainly makes for a very well made, emotional picture.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame transfer for The Desert Fox is a true victim of age, as the print is badly damaged, with horrible grain present in nearly every sequence. Sharpness and detail are poorly done, so poorly in fact that, at times, I had to remind myself I was watching a DVD and not an aged VHS tape. This is a very disappointing transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: D-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishno

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in the original mono sound format, the track suffers from poor dialogue re-creation in the center speaker. The sound is tinny and lacks the richness needed for a film released on DVD.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The original theatrical trailer, as well as one in Spanish, is offered.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

The performance by Mason makes The Desert Fox a film worth recommending, but the DVD is of such poor quality that it is at best worth a rental.


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