Columbia Classics recently offered to send me a copy of their new Collector's Edition DVD, I immediately agreed. What a wonderful opportunity to see the film for the first time in a beautiful print!
The set is truly impressive. It features the Blu-ray edition of the film, but fortunately for me -- since I don't have a Blu-ray player -- it also includes the standard DVD edition of the film. The DVD print is absolutely beautiful.
The standard DVD has extras including the documentary THE MAKING OF THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (2000) and a short which opens with William Holden giving an introduction in Doheny Memorial Library at the University of Southern California. There are additional extras available only on the Blu-ray disc.
Both DVD discs are held in a book which also contains a reproduction of the film's original souvenir program and a set of miniature reproduction lobby cards. All the way around, this is a first-class presentation. There's more info at the Bridge on the River Kwai site.
As for the film itself, I appreciated what it accomplished on both a grand scale -- the sheer epic nature of the film -- and more intimately, with the outstanding performances. In all honesty, though, this turned out not to be my favorite kind of movie. Although in general I'm quite a fan of World War II films -- particularly those about the homefront or set during the London Blitz -- I had difficulty with the continuously oppressive nature of the story, which is filled with the omnipresent threat of torture and death.
As many film fans are already aware, the movie is about a Japanese prisoner of war camp in 1943. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) is tortured by Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) for roughly the first hour of the movie for insisting on sticking to the Geneva Convention protocol that says officers are not to work while they are POWs. Eventually Saito and Nicholson reach an understanding and Nicholson leads his men building a bridge as commanded by Col. Saito.
More to my liking was the portion of the story about the American navy man, Shears (William Holden), who escapes from the camp and later returns with a commando team determined to destroy the bridge. I especially enjoyed the lighthearted repartee between Shears and Major Warden (Jack Hawkins), who recruits Shears for the commando mission.
The film has beautiful characterizations and some marvelous action scenes, and obviously it has been appreciated by many critics and film fans over the decades who didn't share my discomfort with the overall plotline. If this is your kind of movie, they don't come any better, and this is the DVD set to buy.
The movie was directed by David Lean. It runs 2 hours and 41 minutes.
This DVD set has also been reviewed at True Classics and by Sazball at Classic Film and TV Cafe.