Saturday, January 08, 2011

Tonight's Movie: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Although I like William Holden, I'd never before seen THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. When 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.


Blogger Ed South said...

First, my dumb trivia: This was the first movie shown on HBO back in the early 70's!

Regarding Netflix streaming, are you aware of the RSS feeds at the bottom of the Netflix page. One of them will take you to a constantly updated list of what's been added to the Watch Instantly library.

I wish they would do a little preview show like TCM (or HBO used to) about what's new this month.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I didn't know about the RSS feed -- thanks, Ed, that's exactly the kind of helpful info I'm looking for. :) I've bookmarked it!

Best wishes,

9:17 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

fantastic movie.

Hope you are doing well Laura!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hey, Cathy, lovely to hear from you! Hope all is well with you and yours. :) :)

Best wishes,

4:20 PM  
Blogger Kori & Ken Pellman said...

I got hooked on this film ever since we analyzed it waaaay back in high school. It is one of the first nod-Disney "old" films that I liked to watch. -Ken

11:23 AM  

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