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The Longest Day (DVD)

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Genre: War & Western - War / Theatrical Release: 1962 / Director: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, Darryl F. Zanuck / Actors: Eddie Albert, Paul Anka ... / DVD released 31 May, 2004 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Box set, Black & White, PAL, Special Edition, Widescreen

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    6 Reviews
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      12.07.2010 10:55
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      Don't miss it.

      If you have any interest in World War Two, you ought to understand the Normandy landings of 1944, where allied forces finally invaded Germany. They are an incredibly significant part of our past, because if they hadn't worked, we may have lost the war. I'm a bit of a history junkie, but even if you're not, this story is fascinating. The Longest Day is a film made in 1962 about the one day when the allies finally landed on the Normandy coast, and sets up the story for the rest of the war.

      This is an interesting film because we don't have a group of main characters, and certainly not one main character. We explore the experiences of many groups of people before, during and after the landings. This ranges from French resistance fighters and American commanders to German strategists, trying to work out where and when the allies will invade. At first, this gives the film a slightly confusing air, since you don't know who to sympathise with. However, every scene is so well acted that the tension is immense.

      THE STORY

      Most of the plot is setting up for the landings themselves. This includes watching the incredible fear and apprehension in the allied camps as they wait to see whether the rumours are true about the plans being for tonight, and if the weather will be good enough, and how long they have to spend all their money.

      We also see the French resistance listening for special messages on the radio which will tell them to blow up the telegraph wires or blow up a troop-carrying train.

      Much of the action in the first part of the film is of parachutists preparing to land in Normandy after they've created a diversion of dummy soldiers being dropped somewhere else, and of allies gliding into France to secure the invasion route. One unit, scarily, has to gain control of, and hold, a bridge which is vital to the allies' route into Caen.

      The German commander who works out the "war games" is an amazingly interesting character. He decides where he thinks the allies will attack and when. Obviously, he reasons, they ought to cross the shortest part of the channel on a fine day. However, he believes that that's too obvious. He was right, as things went, but he had persuaded himself that Eisenhower didn't have the guts to do something so unexpected. Therefore we see the Germans almost completely unprepared for the attack, and that leads us to the awe-inspiring moment when the German look-out says "I'll just have one more look", and eventually sees 5000 ships on the horizon "headed straight for me!"

      Then there are the landings themselves, which are terrifying due to how far out the soldiers landed. There were mines all over the beaches, so they had to jump into the sea and wade onto the coast, incredibly exposed, and being shot out by German machine guns. Saving Private Ryan makes this seem like quite a blood bath, and it may have been, but the Longest Day isn't quite so gory, although the tension is still there, especially as the camera shots are wide enough to show many thousands of soldiers wading out of the landing craft and into oblivion. However, you can see that the violence is not entirely authentic in that the film is only rated PG, so it has been quite sanitised, but not in an obvious way.

      You may be surprised by how soon it ends: you want to see the allies win the war! But the film is literally just about 'the longest day', when we landed, so you won't see much more than that! I think it's a good thing that the story is not wallowing in our victory so much as exploring the British strategy (and the lack of German strategy!) without being boring in the least.

      The screenplay is something to be admired furthermore, because it truly allows us to understand all of the fears of every man in the story. In addition, there is a refreshing feature in the foreign scripting. Too often, German characters just speak English with a phoney German accent in war films, but in the Longest Day, the French speak French and the Germans speak German, with amazing fluency. Of course, this is because the actors are German and French, but the foreign script has not been skipped over. It's lengthy and developed, and the subtitles don't tell us everything. I think that makes it deeply authentic, and truly an international film, due to the actors.

      THE ACTING

      This is something really of note, because this film famously has a universally all-star cast. Considering how many characters there are, this is quite impressive. It feels like every famous actor of the sixties is featured somewhere, and you get an idea of how big that is by considering that I didn't even notice that Sean Connery was in it. As well as him, there are stars including Richard Burton, John Wayne, Peter Lawford, Norman Rossington, Kenneth Moore and Henry Fonda, to name but a few. This makes every scene feel important, because every line is dealt with deliberation and skill.

      OVERALL OPINION

      In comparison to other WWII films, this one has more of an international feel, as I mentioned before. In the German scenes, it really feels like a German film: there is no slow talking to aid our understanding. The viewer sympathises with every angle, and the German soldiers are portrayed as ordinary people, which is refreshing. Hitler is asleep for most of the film, and the rest of the German army are not portrayed as evil, or anything but militarily experts really.

      Another feature is the development and tension. We are used to war films having a great deal of action in them, but this one sets up for the action with a great deal more conversation and strategy discussion. So by the time we've got there, tension is very high, and this makes the film exciting.

      However, it does take a LONG time to get there, and at first, the film may seem unbearably slow. But that just takes a bit of getting used to, and once you realise it's not slow, just tense, it gets a lot more enjoyable. But the length of the film is still a disadvantage, perhaps. It's nearly three hours long, so you probably won't want to watch it all in one sitting. But the fantastic cast, production and development do merit a long play time, and you won't be bored. When you're two hours through, you won't be thinking: "it should be over by now", because it FEELS like it needs that long.

      The Longest Day was made in 1962, so some of the features are not as up to date as we're used to. Often, you can tell at a glance that people are stuck on to a beach background, but that just adds to the charm. Despite that, it won the oscar for best special effects, and rightly so because the landings, explosions, gunfire, and sheer number of extras swarming onto the coast must have taken a lot of work to perfect, and the finished product does look spectacular. The film is in black and white too, which I know some people can't cope with, but remember that this is when black and white was at its best, so you don't lose any quality with that. In fact, there is a colour version available, but the film-makers decided that black and white looked better, so don't be complaining.

      The length of the film also allows for imaginative scripting. Despite the terrible things going on and the amazing fear on both sides, there is still room for humour. Whether it be the US parachutist practising his French: "bonjour, mademoiselle, j'ai suis...Americain!" or the French farmer who's overjoyed to see the allies land and bomb his house.

      One possible weakness is that this film simply glorifies our kick-ass army, and that none of the allies are portrayed as bad people. However, neither are the Germans, to be fair, and you get the impression that all of these people are caught up in a conflict they don't deserve. Furthermore, the bravery of the allied troops should not be diminished, particularly not so soon after the war ended. Any film which helps us to understand war better, and remember what the allied troops did for us, is well worth watching, and this is enjoyable on top of that. You'll want to sit there with a map of the French coast so you can find out where all the beaches are, and with imdb on so you can work out what you've seen Norman Rossington in before! But with humour, action, and fantastic dialogue, there are few better war films out there.

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        13.05.2010 10:49
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        An epic war film that really puts D Day in perspective.

        This is surely one of the most prolific films in history, and at the time had the largest budget of any film, and the majority of Hollywood's biggest stars. From A list stars such as Henry Fonda, John Wayne and Robert Mitchum to actors who were just in the beginning of their careers, such as Sean Connery and Richard Burton and George Segal and many others.

        The film starts on the eve of D-Day, June 5th. The Allied soldiers have all been waiting patiently for the past 2 days because the weather has been so bad that the invasion couldn't go ahead. The soldiers are all becoming more and more impatient, as are the commanders, including Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr (Henry Fonda), Brigadier General Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum) and Lt Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort. They are all in charge of different troops, and are all beginning to get annoyed at having to wait for so long.

        Meanwhile, the Germans are planning for the inevitable invasion. Oberstleutnant Ocker (Peter Van Eyck) and General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt (Curd Jurgens) are planning for the attack, though they think that it is going to come from Calais.

        Finally, on June 6th, The Allies are given the order to attack, and the invasion begins. The Parachute infantry led by Vandervoort are flown in while the infantry led by Cota and Roosevelt Jr sail to the Normandy beaches.

        The Germans soon learn of the attack and begin to respond.

        The film then focuses entirely on the D-Day landings from the point of view of many different characters, leading to the eventual break out on the beach and a thrilling finale.

        This is an epic war film. Everyone who was anyone was in this film, with some of the world's best character actors. And anyone who is now anyone today is in it as well. The acting is superb, as is the direction and the stunning action sequences. Though it can be a little theatrical at times, the tension as they approach the beach is brilliant, and once they are in France, the idea of the soldiers being very much alone is very well conveyed.

        It's impossible to choose which actor really steals this, but John Wayne does perform an exceptional turn in this. In fairness, it's some of the younger lesser known actors of that time who perform brilliant turns. Sean Connery does have a memorable role in this, as does British actor Kenneth More.

        The action scenes in this are exceptional, especially those on the beach and those in the small towns. Nothing is left to chance, and the action was as real as the director could make it for its time. Genuinely a superb film.

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        13.01.2006 11:55
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        Great WW2 film even though it is in B&W.

        Technical Information:

        Duration: 168 minutes
        Certificate: PG
        Classification: WAR

        Cast (just the most famous):

        Richard Burton .... Flight Officer David Campbell
        Sean Connery .... Pvt. Flanagan
        Henry Fonda .... Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
        Robert Mitchum .... Brig. Gen. Norman Cota
        Rod Steiger .... Destroyer commander
        Robert Wagner .... U.S. Army Ranger
        John Wayne .... Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort

        About the Film:

        Now this film is one of a classic war films. It covers the events leading up to and shortly after the Invasion of Normandy during the second world war.

        The film covers this event from a number of angles, each of which you follow as part of the overall story.

        You follow the events leading up to and after the war from the German Army point of view - therefore you follow the story from the German Bunkers and High Command as they wonder where the Allies will invade and shows the blunders like Rommel who left to go home to Germany to be with his wife and the refusal to wake Adolf Hitler from his sleep to allow the German Army Tanks to advance to the Front.

        You have the story from the French Resistance as they wait to hear over the radio when they should start blowing up railway junctions etc. There are some very amusing quotes which go over the airways to annouce the timing of the invasion and / or confuse the Germans. One of these is: John has a large moustache.

        And of course you follow the story of the British / American / French / Canadian / Australian / etc Forces. You have some excellent characters who you follow , like John Wayne as
        an American Colonel and Henry Fonda as the son of the American President who desperately wants to be included in the invasion as well as Sean Connery who plays a Private soldier (He was filming one of the Bond movies at the same time as this film supposedly).

        The film can be broken down into three parts, the first the build up to the Invasion, where you follow the Germans as they try to guess where the invasion will be, the Allies as they plan the invasion and wait to hear whether it will even go ahead.

        This then continues with the actual invasion of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword (the five beaches in Normandy for those who don't know). The invasion covers the actual beach landings as well as the Parachute attacks into the various towns and the capturing of various strategic bridges. The paratroopers perspective shows the confusion of the whole attack really well as the U.S. airborn divisions land all over the countryside and were seperated from their groups as well as landing directly into the middle of one town.

        You then follow the story slightly after the actual invasion as the troops move away from the beaches, etc.

        Trivia:

        Did you know that the Longest Day was filmed in both black and white and colour? They decided to release the film in Black and White because it looked more authentic, however you can get the film in colour still (although it does not look as good).

        This fim is the Winner of two Oscars, namely Special Effects and Cinematography.

        Quotes:

        1st Quote:
        Flight Officer David Campbell: He's dead. I'm crippled. You're lost. Do you suppose it's always like that? I mean war.

        2nd Quote:
        Lt. Col. Ocker:

        [Pluskat is currently inside a bunker and has just seen the Allies Warships and has realized the Normandy invasion has begun and is warning Ocker, who is skeptical]

        And just where, my dear Pluskat, are those ships?

        Maj. Werner Pluskat: Coming straight for me!

        My Opinion:

        Firstly this is in my opinion one of the greatest, best, brilliant most enjoyable war films that has ever been filmed (and Yes I do include Saving Private Ryan in that).

        I personally have always found that this film really captures the realities and confusion of this very significant day really well. For example they highlight the filth and smell of the Landing Crafts for the soldiers who are waiting to depart, as well as the German Armies problems deciding where the Allies would attack.


        POSSIBLE DRAWBACKS:

        Now as I have mentioned above in Trivia, this fim was made in Black and White and Colour, but usually it is only shown in Black and White. Therefore if you hate Black and White films, then either search very hard for the colour version, or else DO NOT WATCH this film. As it is 3 hours long, you will not enjoy it if you hate B&W flms.

        Another possible drawback is simply the length of the film. It will take you 3 hours to watch the complete film which is a long time to concentrate. Personally I think that you need this length to portray the story from each side, however if you hate long films, then possibly stay away from here.

        Another point to highlight is that this is an old movie. There is therefore no gore or extreme violence like in Saving Private Ryan. This does not detract from the film at all however but in my opinion makes it nice and clean for a large range of audience (include younger children).

        One potential drawback is that the film does not really have a clear ending as the story has not finished. You take the fight so far but then it kinda ends. This is understandable as the fight to liberate europe still has to continue, but at times it does seem quite abrupt a finish to me.

        ADVANTAGES:

        Ok, enough about potential drawbacks, lets talk about why this film is so good.

        Firstly you have some absolute stars in this film. I have listed some of the key cast at the top and it reads like a WHO's WHO of the film industry at this time. They all do truly have some excellent roles and watch out for a number of other stars who are in this film but not credited as they have just bit part roles.

        One other thing that I like about this film is that it is originally included with different languages in the film. Therefore the Germans speak German in parts, etc. There are therefore subtitles in the film at parts. I like this added realism but understand that this could be irritating for some. Make your own mind up. I am not convinced that every version includes the different languages but check it out.

        I have already talked about the violence side etc, but it is worth mentioning how epic like this film is with hundreds of extras included for the beach invasion scenes. I think that they have done an excellent job portraying a classic event.

        I also like the way this film has been directed and put together. You move very easily between the different key players within the film and you can follow the story very easily.

        I cannot recommend this film any higher and would recommend this to anyone who likes war films. It is very entertaining, enjoyable, well directed and well worth watching.

        Verdict: 5 out of 5

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          04.06.2001 00:54
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          This must be one of the greatest war films that has ever been made and certainly one of the biggest and the longest. There is a star studded cast including Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Kenneth More and Henry Fonda. The cast for this film is enormous and depicts the story of the Normandy D-Day landings from both sides of the war. All of the German army speaks in German (with sub-titles) so it is obvious whether it is the allies or the enemy that you are watching at any time. All of the acting in this film is superb and although there is a lot of killing it is not a bloody or gory film. The three hour duration allows the film to develop a number of sub-plots, each showing a different aspect of the attack and how these all weave together to give the overall picture. The use of maps by both the British and German officers very cleverly keeps the audience aware of what is happening and where. It also helps to clarify the different roles that each section had, such the Americans, the British, the Special Forces and the French Resistance. There is some terrific filming, especially of the beach landings, with large numbers of ships and men. This film was made long before computer enhancement so we know that when we can see 50 ships in a shot that for the filming they were all there! This is definitely a big money production and this was justified in producing such a superb film. The film does not glorify or purify war, but spends a lot of effort showing that planning, tactics and luck each play a major role in warfare and even in the Second World War it was realised that communications were at the heart of any big operation. I have watched this film on many occasions and I particularly like how the characters of the officers (in all of the armies) are developed to show their individual style and manner, whilst all working towards a common aim. This film is superbly made and
          although it is long it is gripping throughout and one I can highly recommend to anyone who enjoys watching war films.

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            03.11.2000 21:40
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            The longest Day is in my opinion one of the best war films ever made. This is Darryl F Zanuck's film, he produced it, and he was one of the five directors. This film had no less than 50 of the greatest stars of that era appearing in it. What's more it was the last film to be made in black and white. This film is actually a massive reconstruction of the events leading to and what happened on the 6th June 1944, when the Allied forces invaded Nazi Europe. The film sticks very closely to the known facts, the film also makes use of photographs and newsreels to relate to countless stories of individual heroism and tragedy. Remember what you are seeing is real. To add realism into the film the Nazi's speak their own language; you are provided with sub-titles, which allow you to understand what the Germans are saying. The first half of the film deals with the events leading up to D-Day, basically this part of the film is just a warm-up, I will warn you it's a lengthy warm-up 1 hour and a half to be exact. When the action scenes do come, it's a remarkable sight. A lot of the credit goes out to the directors for handling this. You are transported from the main D-Day operation to the smaller scenes smoothly and efficiently. The D-Day scene allows you to see some excellent performances from Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne and Curt Jurgens. This film has a running time of over three hours, but there is never a dull moment in sight. The film deals with everybody who had a part in the war. One of my most memorable scenes is just before the invasion. Every morning a fat German on a mule goes to collect milk. On one particular morning, he is looking out over the cliff, out towards sea. The sea is jam packed with ships, everywhere he looks there are ships. At the sight, the German goes berserk; he is shouting and screaming at the sight before him. There is a house nearby wit
            h is blasted by a bomb. The film then shows a little French man jumping up and down; he even opens a bottle of wine to celebrate. He is excited because he knows he will be free. You then see the fat German riding away. This is just a very small proportion of the film. It's the type of film you have to watch yourself to understand it's true meaning fully. I would recommend this film to anyone; you don't have to be into war films to enjoy it.

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              20.10.2000 21:32
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              What a movie, what a cast. This reasonably accurate look at D-Day and the invasion of Europe serves up history from the perspective of Allied troops, German soldiers and French citizenry. While it is a rather sanitized version of the mayhem that occurs in war—-people get killed cleanly, with virtually no blood; no one loses a limb--it does an excellent job of laying out the events as everyone prepares for the inevitable Allied attack. And while the bulk of this black-and-white film of the landing itself focuses on the Americans and Omaha Beach, the actions of varied forces, from British troopers to the French resistance are depicted in detail. What makes this movie especially worthwhile is the time and effort devoted to what led up to the invasion: the planning, the fears about the weather, the worries about keeping troops on alert for too long before sending them on and so on. The film does a good job of showing at least some of the errors that occurred: paratroopers miss their landing zone and come down in the midst of German soldiers who slaughter them as they land; soldiers leap from landing vehicles into water far too deep for them; at great cost, soldiers scale a cliff to attack a gun emplacement, only to find it abandoned. Here are some of them: Richard Burton, Sean Connery in a brief scene on the beach, Henry Fonda, Eddie Albert, John Wayne, Jeff Hunter, Paul Anka, Curt Jurgens, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Edmund O’Brien, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Robert Wagner, Stuart Whitman, Robert Mitchum. This movie is just about three hours long, and I wouldn’t suggest cutting it a bit. It does have its goofy moments, such as a scene with a British beachmaster whose job it is to keep the troops moving forward; he’s meant to be the British Eccentric, rather concerned about his little dog all the time he’s insulting and cajoling the troops to mo
              ve along. And what would a movie about British soldiers be without the inevitable scene of a bagpiper marching forward into harm’s way through swirling dirt, fog or general debris? Burton gets to deliver one of the two great lines of the movie: “The thing that's always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Wayne has the other: “You can't give the enemy a break. Send him to hell.” And one of the neatest little bits of the movie is virtually unacknowledged, the repeating of the first few notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—da da da DAH--on a tympani. It represents the Morse Code symbol for V, Churchill’s V for Victory.

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            • Product Details

              The Longest Day is Hollywood's definitive D-day movie. More modern accounts such as Saving Private Ryan are more vividly realistic, but producer Darryl F Zanuck's epic 1962 account is the only one to attempt the daunting task of covering that fateful day from all perspectives. From the German high command and front-line officers to the French Resistance and all the key Allied participants, the screenplay by Cornelius Ryan, based on his own authoritative book, is as factually accurate as possible. The endless parade of stars (John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, and Richard Burton, to name a few) makes for an uneasy mix of verisimilitude and Hollywood star-power, however, and the film falls a little flat for too much of its three-hour running time. But the set-piece battles are still spectacular, and if the landings on Omaha Beach lack the graphic gore of Private Ryan they nonetheless show the sheer scale and audacity of the invasion. --Mark Walker