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Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, 1981’s DAS BOOT ($36) is not only one of the best submarine movies ever made, it is also one of the best WWII movies ever made, as the film explores the human condition under the pressures of war and the pressures of long-term confinement. Opening in 1941, DAS BOOT tells the story of the German submarine U-96, which leaves France and heads off to join the war effort. The submarine is commanded by Captain Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow), who is cynical about the war, openly expresses his anti-Nazi sentiments and complains most of his crew are mere boys. Much of the Captain’s cynicism stems from having seen too much action and the fact that the tide has begun to turn against German in the Atlantic, with the British navy getting an upper hand against the dwindling number of U-boats. Tedium and confinement take their toll on the crew as they wait for orders, but eventually, they do engage British forces, with less than stellar results. Ultimately, the German command saddles the U-boat with seemingly impossible orders, but the captain and crew make the best of the hand they have been dealt. Although a riveting war movie, DAS BOOT is also an intense character study, which is made even more so by its two hundred nine minute long Director’s Cut, which Petersen pared down from six hours of material found in the television miniseries version of the production.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made DAS BOOT available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Both the Director’s Cut and one hundred fifty minute Theatrical Version are presented on separate platters in this two disc set. Both 1080p presentations are solid representations early how eighties cinematography and film stocks should look in high definition. Additionally, I will have to say the Director’s Cut holds up well, despite being mastered onto a single disc. Jost Vacano’s Academy Award nominated cinematography looks quite good, with the slightly smoky grittiness of the submarine interiors adding to the film’s overall atmosphere. Never quite as sharp or highly polished as a new movie, DAS BOOT displays respectable levels of fine detail and texturing. Colors don’t have a high level of saturation but naturally convey the drab interiors of the submersible. Blacks and whites usually appear reasonably accurate. Contrast is smooth and shadow detail is all it needs to be. Grain appears throughout the course of the film and can be a heavy in places, but it gives the presentation a decidedly film-like quality.

DAS BOOT is presented on Blu-ray Disc with German and English 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Director’s Cut, while the Theatrical Version is 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. DAS BOOT is another film produced during the Dolby Surround era, so there are some limitations to the sound, despite a lossless encoded. The Director’s Cut features good sound effects placement, although isn’t as cohesive as a modern soundtrack. Surrounds are well implemented at key moments, but sound slightly dated. The lossless encode certainly boosts the fidelity of the soundtracks is negated by the way movies were recorded and mixed three decades ago. Some effects sound more than a bit canned and lack weight, but for the most part, the key set pieces are highly effective. The bass channel is decent enough, but doesn’t have a ground-shaking rumble one hears today. Dialogue is cleanly rendered. A French 5.1 Dolby Digital channel track is also present on the Director’s Cut. Subtitles are available in English, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Hindi, Norwegian and Swedish on the Director’s Cut and in English and French on the Theatrical Version.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Wolfgang Petersen, actor Jürgen Prochnow and Producer Ortwin Freyermuth on the Director’s Cut. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Historic Material [Behind The Scenes (sixty minutes), The Battle Of The Atlantic (forty minutes)], The Perfect Boat- The Director's Cut (thirteen minutes), Maria's Take (nine minutes), Captain's Tour- Inside The Boat (eight minutes) and Wolfgang Petersen- Back to the Boat (forty four minutes).

DAS BOOT is one of the greatest war movies ever made because it depicts the ordinary men, who do all the fighting and dying wars. The Blu-ray presentation is pretty solid and looks just the way a movie from the early 1980s should look. Highly recommended.


Das Boot (Two-Disc Collector's Set) [Blu-ray] (1997)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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