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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 80:35)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • French: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • German - Hearing Impaired: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    French, Spanish, Italian, English - Hearing Impaired, German - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer

The Young Lions

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 160 mins . M . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The Young Lions is a war film with a difference. Set in Nazi occupied Europe, Africa and the U.S.A., the film is based on the Irwin Shaw novel of the same name. It follows the lives of three soldiers, two Americans and a German, whose paths are destined to cross. It is best described as an anti-war film, focusing more on the dilemmas of war than who has the biggest bombs.

Lt. Christian Diestl (Marlon Brando) is a German officer who finds himself increasingly disillusioned by the war and in particular the Nazi party line. He is reminded regularly that a German officer is superior to an Allied officer for he knows how to follow orders, even when those orders seem foolish or senseless. Captain Hardenberg (Maximillian Schell) is particularly fond of reminding Diestl that if he doesn't follow orders, he will shoot him personally (as opposed to impersonally?). That’s the way to command respect. The longer the war runs, the more these two characters come to know each other, and the more they come to regard the other as weak of character.

Across the 'pond', Noah Ackermann (Montgomery Clift) and Broadway big shot Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin) are enlisted/conscripted upon America's entry into the war. Ackermann is a rather shy and socially challenged Jew who has just fallen in love, while Whiteacre is a cocky entrepreneur, showman and self-confessed coward. Basic training turns out to be a nightmare for the two 'friends', but both survive in their own way. Their paths temporarily diverge when Ackermann is arrested for going AWOL, but he decides to straighten up and fly right with the realisation that he can't beat the system.

We all know how the war ended, but The Young Lions does not spend too much time getting into the details of who won what battle and when, rather it allows us to see the growth and change in the main characters. As the weakening German position becomes ever more apparent to Diestl, he finds greater disgust and less justification for his involvement. He is positively revolted by the German efforts to hide their tracks as the enemy close in, and in a fit of anger, smashes his rifle. His anger is fuelled not from losing the war, but from an awareness of the cost and how little is achieved. The film's final moments come in a rush, and the three men's paths cross abruptly and violently.

Director Edward Dmytryk probably thought this three-hour epic would cement his place in movie history. It certainly had the cast, but at almost three hours is a little too long. It is never dull, and it does allow plenty of time to plot the paths of the main characters, however it may have been a little tighter with some trimming. Still, what we have is an intriguing look at the more human side of war. Brando is excellent and shows why he is a screen legend. He certainly has that magical something that sets some actors apart, and is an imposing screen presence. Clift does well as the quiet and introverted Ackermann, and Dean Martin, well he's just Dean Martin. He even gets to half warble a tune at the piano, but I swear he was just about to go into a Lewis and Martin routine at one point. The supporting cast is also effective.

Those who like their war films to have a bit more human drama that action (bombs, guns and bad German accents) should be well pleased. With a big name cast and based on a best-selling novel, it should be a winner, and The Young Lions is certainly that.

  Video
Contract

What is it about war films in black and white that gives them that matinee feel? Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 16:9 enhanced, this 1958 black and white classic scrubs up pretty well. Blacks are black, whites are white and there is no overexposure or flare and glare. The picture is good and solid, with some mild posterisation that is quite unimportant. Shadow detail is good and strong, bar one scene towards the end of the film that gets a little dark, but it is still acceptable. There is no evidence of noise.

There are minor film artefacts in some scenes, while others are spotless. These are mostly white flecks that pop up and disappear as quickly. Some scenes also have some black marks and the odd faint vertical line or two, but for a 160-minute film, it's really quite good. There is some stock war footage used that is of noticeably inferior quality, but so be it. There is also some evidence of grain in some outdoor scenes, but is quite mild.

The layer change is placed at 80:35 and slips by almost unnoticed.

  Audio
Contract

The fine video is not quite matched by the audio I'm afraid and whoever supervised the transfer should have another listen. The Dolby Digital stereo mix is loud enough, well synchronised and clear, but there is an awful lot of separation that gets a little distracting. Just because a person is to the left or right of centre on screen does not mean that their voice has to come from as far left or right as is possible. Agh, it is so distracting! There are also times when the sound seems to dip in clarity a little if the actor is facing away from the viewer, and they appear to be almost shouting when they turn back to camera. At least the panning of sounds is not quite as exaggerated.

The frequency range is limited, but there is enough rumble in the few explosive scenes to keep most viewers happy.

If English is not your thing, you could opt for the Dolby Digital stereo track in French, Italian, German or Spanish. The other option is to read the subtitles in English for the hearing impaired, Dutch, French, Italian, German for the hearing impaired or Spanish.

  Extras
Contract

The only extra feature included is the Theatrical Trailer for The Young Lions lasting almost three minutes. It has all the usual stuff like big captions, action, and lots of kissing!? It is also 2.35:1 but not enhanced, and contains more dirt and marks than the feature.

  Overall  
Contract

While modern war films blow The Young Lions out of the water for big action, special effects and gore, there is an indefinable charm to many of these old black and white epics. Perhaps it is because they are less violent and less gory, or maybe it is because many of them star the legends of the golden years of Hollywood? Whatever it is, it means that films such as this will always have an audience.


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      And I quote...
    "Brando shines in this classic war drama…"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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