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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > History > Gallipoli - Special Collector's Edition

Gallipoli - Special Collector's Edition


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Film: B+



The first time I encountered Gallipoli, Peter Weir's sweeping 1981 war epic about Australia's role in World War I generally and two runners who form a deep bond on the frontlines specifically, was during my sophomore year history class in high school.  The teacher fast-forwarded through some parts to keep it on time with the class, but the editing didn't remove the harrowing power of the film.


When watching the film in that class, Gallipoli was 15 years old.  Now, it's 25 years old and none of its emotional oomph is lost.


Mel Gibson and Mark Lee star in the film as two champion runners, Frank Dunne and Archy Hamilton, who go off to fight for Australia under the promise of adventure, excitement, and the chance to make a difference for the burgeoning nation.  And they find it as they travel the world, from their home to Egypt to, ultimately, Gallipoli.  But they also find the horrific realities of bloody, meaningless trench warfare.


The power of the story lies in the human connections and interactions director Weir forges between not just Frank and Archy but also the other men in their unit.  Weir is so effective at creating a bond between viewer and character that the ending shot, and what it means for everything we've seen up to that moment, is the visual equivalent of a hydrogen bomb on viewer's senses.  And that he lingers on that moment causes almost an overbearing and overload on viewers' ability to remain unaffected by the story of these men, this battle, and World War I.  Watching Gallipoli in high school had a profound impact -- an almost malaise-inspiring one -- in which I was unable to watch war movies or think about conflict the same way again.


Paramount, fittingly, revisited the film to give it a Special Collector's Edition DVD treatment.  Unfortunately, it seems to be an opportunity squandered.


The film looks and sounds better than ever.  Weir's expert direction and Russell Boyd's cinematography is rendered beautifully with a crisp and clean image in the anamorphic widescreen transfer.  Sonically, the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix sounds better than any other presentation up to now.  The film was not a multi-channel sound film in its original theatrical release, but monophonic.


Where the disc lags, though, is on the extras side.  There are two bonuses included, the original theatrical trailer and "Entrenched: The Making of 'Gallipoli'" six-part documentary.  The documentary is extraordinarily interesting from both a cinematic and historical standpoint.  The filmmakers, cast, and crew, by virtue of all being Australian, know a great deal about Gallipoli and the events and people surrounding it and it's importance to Australian history.  It also gets a lot of different voices and perspectives on the film, including that of Mel Gibson, and it creates a balanced, solid documentary on a film that surely deserves it.


But that's all that's here.  Hardly a complement of extras befitting "Special Collector's Edition" status.  It would have been nice to have a commentary or two and perhaps a more history-geared documentary or two regarding the battle and Australia's role in World War I.  They would've been especially welcome considering that so little is known about the subject in the States, generally, that the tagline for the movie was, "From a place you've never heard of, comes a story you'll never forget."


The film certainly delivers on the latter half of the ad; too bad this new DVD couldn't have changed the first part of it.



-   Dante A. Ciampaglia


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