This German epic about the battle for Stalingrad arrives on Blu-ray
Stalingrad Movie Review
As the might of the German army steamrollered across Europe in every direction, they hit an impasse at the city of Stalingrad.Determined Russian soldiers outnumbered them and were fighting on their home turf, not to mention for their leader's namesake city. Whilst the inclement weather put the Germans at a serious disadvantage. Stalingrad – not to be confused with 2013’s Russian 3D spectacle of the same name – is a harrowing portrait of this decisive German defeat, positing some very real, very normal, and even quite sympathetic German soldiers at the heart of the drama as they find themselves ordered to the Russian front only to find themselves little more than cannon fodder in a battle that simply could not be won. Trudging into hell, it’s not long before the unit find themselves fighting the odds against an enemy who are even more determined not to give up. Repeatedly forced to compromise on their own morals, they eventually end up being punished for their disobedience, and trudging the snowy outreaches looking for mines, left to be picked off by the harsh weather, or sent on further suicide missions at the behest of an oblivious Fuhrer.Winning awards for its cinematography and editing, this brutal 1993 war movie is an unflinching look at the horrors of war; painting its bloody portrait complete with epic battles, impressive incendiaries, tense tank battles, lost limbs, suicide-runs, bloodied white flags, impossible orders, desperate sacrifices, lost innocence and shattered humanity. Although it was reportedly rewritten from its original draft due to being that little bit too close to the truth for the producers’ sensibilities, what remains is still a largely effective anti-war production. It may lack the budget and sheen of modern efforts; it may have little in the way of known star power (a young Thomas Kretschmann gives us a focal point); and it may be brimming with lip-sync issues inherent to the non-German speaking cast involvement, but it is still a strong and powerful effort which, once again reinforces the fact that there are simply no winners in war, and that Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War.
Stalingrad Blu-ray Picture QualityArrow’s 20th Anniversary Edition of Stalingrad may well sport the same transfer that was available on the preceding US release, but that’s far from a bad thing; it’s a solid job which, whilst never making it a particularly obvious demo piece, does deliver this 1993 feature with aplomb. The movie comes complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
With some impressive cinematography, Stalingrad still looks good in spite of its age and relatively limited budget.
Detail showcases fine lines and strong clarity, with good observations of facial features on close-up, some evidence of skin texturing, and battered clothing weaves. Fine object detail may be far from perfect, but it’s solid nonetheless, and at times very good. The colour scheme is largely dictated by the locations, which are wonderfully chosen (Finland standing in for the snowy outreaches of Russia) and utterly captivating: the disused factories dominated by rusty browns, dilapidated greys, gloomy skies and dirt all around; the latter-end snow sequences bleached out in impenetrable whites, yet with no signs of blooming, and decent clarity remaining at both ends of the spectrum.
For a remaster there doesn’t appear to be any underlying print damage, nor any overt digital defects as a consequence of the cleaning work that they’ve done, although the image appears largely grain-free, which may well be a point of concern for some videophiles. Still, with no inherent side-effects coming as a result of the DNR application – everybody doesn’t suddenly look all waxy, Predator-style – there’s little evident here to complain about. It’s all in all a very good presentation.
Stalingrad Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying audio track is a LPCM 2.0 mix in the film’s original German (and Russian) language. There’s no sign of the US’s English dub, but that can only be regarded as a good thing. Dialogue here is clearly and coherently presented across the fronts and centre channels, although it doesn’t take a close eye to realise that there’s plenty of bad lip-sync going on – many of the key cast members are German, but plenty are not, and plenty of the Russian-speakers have been dubbed too.
You get to enjoy the original language German track of the film here, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no dubbing.
Effects are surprisingly potent, given the limitations of the 2-channel offering, with the array doing its best to deliver palpable atmosphere and – at least in terms of the bigger skirmishes – often succeeding. Aircraft, tanks, and artillery all deliver the goods, whilst troops spray bullets at one another seemingly without end. The score adds some pathos to the mix, and overall it’s a decent enough representation of the source material given the restrictions of its format.
Stalingrad Blu-ray ExtrasAll we get is a 5-minute EPK Making-of Featurette, which is especially pitiful when you consider the ‘20th Anniversary Edition’ labelling.
Stalingrad Blu-ray VerdictA powerful reflection upon the futility of war, Stalingrad boasts impressive visions of brutal warfare but remains memorable more in the inner turmoil and twisted fates endured by these lost souls. This UK Region B-locked Blu-ray provides us with strong video and a solid accompanying audio track. Fans of the film will lap up this release; that is, if they haven’t already dipped into US waters to get the earlier version.
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