PictureThere are a variety of aspect ratios and transfers with this dirty dozen, but of the few that I have been able to look at, the results are as follows -
Ice Cold In Alex benefits from an excellent transfer. A very highly detailed print makes the vast African desert as clear as can be; really showing up the characters trundling across it in that little ambulance with a stark clarity and definition that belies the age of the film. Sparse tufts of grass really stand out and the distant horizon is finely etched across the blistering landscape. Close-ups of sweaty faces, grubby buttons, belts and equipment offer exquisite detail and the picture is robust, stable and remarkably free from grain or damage. Excellent.
Cross Of Iron appears in a very decent 1.85:1 transfer that supplies a wealth of detail to the battle carnage - lots of splashy blood and crisp imagery of flying bodies and explosions in other words - despite suffering from one or two instances of contrast glare on faces. Colour is good, considering that the palette is predominantly muddy browns and greys and the image is pretty handy at capturing the fast action and the complex combat sequences.
The Colditz Story comes in with a 1.66:1 image that suffers a fair bit from age and damage - there are a lot of speckles, fades, fine grain and dirt flying about the screen. The disc also suffers from some edge enhancement and the poorly defined look of an early TV broadcast.
Once The Cruel Sea opens out from a cropped title card into its original full-screen 1.33:1 ratio, it presents an image that, whilst respectably stable, concedes to plentiful, though almost always minimal, print damage in the form of nicks, scratches, pops and grain.
The Dam Busters has another 1.33:1 image and, like its earlier standalone release, is quite clear of much intrusive damage or evidence of age. Close-ups are clear and the flying sequences are well-held and atmospheric with good black levels and a fair degree of detail within the cockpits and the R&D labs and the flying scenes are reasonably handled, too.
The bitrate graph is taken from Ice Cold In Alex.
SoundThere really isn't that much that can be said about the audio transfers for this little lot. With DD 2-channel mono being the order of the day, you can forget about any wrap-around effects or any attempt at widening-up the soundfield but, on the plus side, these original tracks seem to be unaltered and free from hiss or drop-out. The exception with the discs that I have been able to view being The Colditz Story, that seems to have a problem with its sound during the opening theme of the score where it comes across with a terrible rising and falling warble that just can't be right. However, all the films I received, including this one, have clear and distinct dialogue, a fair to good reproduction of the action - gunfire, shouting, screaming, explosions and aircraft engines roaring - and sound clean and well-produced. Nothing fancy, then, but nothing to complain about either.
ExtrasSadly, there are no extra features contained on ay of these discs.
VerdictTo be honest, I can't really imagine anyone forking out for the full set of these movies. If you are fan of classic war-flicks, chances are that will already have some of them from their earlier releases - which may have also had their theatrical trailers on them. This set is bare bones and quite expensive, so I would suggest opting for one of the individual volumes. Either way, in full or in part, The Complete War Collection would make an ideal gift for the chocks-away, patriotic battle-buff in your life come Christmas. People like my dad, for instance. Although military historian that he is, he just tends to pick fault in them anyway.
These films are a great and true testament to the indomitable spirit of the era ... although Cross Of Iron shouldn't really be amongst this lot and, alone, is responsible for the 18 certificate.
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