On the eve of D-Day itself, soldiers from both the United States and England pace the deck of their ship in anxious anticipation of the coming battle. Their commander, Col. Wynter (Richard Todd), shares a word with one of his officers, Capt. Parker (Robert Taylor); both are worried about surviving the next few hours. But as the scene dissolves into flashbacks for first one, then the other man, the viewer learns that their common destination is not the most important thing that connects them: both are in love with the same woman, a British Red Cross worker named Valerie Russell (Dana Wynter).
It's a setup that should be tragic and heartrending: a tragic love triangle in the midst of a terrible war. Yet note the word "should": in fact, D-Day the Sixth of June tries very hard to create a beautiful story of love and sacrifice, but it doesn't quite work. The film's entire effect depends on the viewer caring deeply about the fate of its main characters, yet these characters never emerge as people we can be interested in and concerned about.
Richard Todd is marginally sympathetic as the British commander Winter, but Robert Taylor never manages to evoke much interest in his role as the U.S. Captain Parker. Parker falls in love with the same woman as Winter, the lovely Valerie (Dana Wynter). The film evidently wants us to be saddened by the tragedy of this love triangle that must end in tragedy one way or another: Valerie will have to choose one of her lovers, leaving the other broken-hearted... assuming that either of them emerge alive from the murderous assault that was the invasion of Normandy.
That's all well and good as a tragic romance, except that it's exceedingly difficult to care about the characters. Dana Wynter is adequate in presenting Valerie as a woman who is drawn into her second love affair almost against her will, through loneliness and fear, but Taylor's portrayal of Parker presents him, to my eye, as a worthless womanizer. We are told right at the start that Parker is married, and never is it even hinted that it's an unhappy marriage or one that's breaking up, yet he happily pursues Valerie as if he were a bachelor. Sure, it's wartime and normal relationships are under a great deal of stress, but the fact that he's married never seems to give him pause in his romance with Valerie... much less, of course, the fact that she's romantically involved with someone else. Perhaps with a stronger script, or more heartfelt performances, the film might have overcome the unsympathetic presentation of the characters, but as it is, I never cared a bit about what happened to them one way or another.
Another oddity is the apparent propagandistic element in the film, which seems to be "reconciliation of the United States and Great Britain." Great chunks of rather forced dialogue are devoted to exploring and deflating apparent stereotypes of Americans and English, with Dana Wynter even delivering a lengthy speech about the national pride of the English causing them to be resentful of the incoming U.S. troops.
If you don't have much interest in the characters, D-Day the Sixth of June is of marginal interest in general. The narrative is somewhat oddly structured, with two long but asymmetrical flashbacks making up the bulk of the film. The actual D-Day assault is handled reasonably well; while it's no Saving Private Ryan, it manages to convey some sense of the anxiety and fear of the soldiers beforehand, and of the danger and death involved in the landing.
D-Day the Sixth of June is presented in anamorphic widescreen at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image is impressive for a 1956 film; you'd hardly know it was almost fifty years old. The print is extremely clean and noise-free; I noticed a few scratches in the print, but overall it looked to be in very good condition. There's a hint of edge enhancement visible in the image, but fortunately it doesn't distort the picture very much. Colors are clear and accurate-looking; the film's palette is mostly olive, gray, and brown due to the preponderance of army uniforms, but when other colors are used, they are bright and vibrant.
The soundtrack for the film is presented in Dolby 4.0, which amounts to a 5.1 track missing both the effects channel and the center channel. The sound is generally quite clear and clean, but the spatial quality of the soundtrack is a bit odd, due to the absence of the center channel.
The D-Day DVD includes a set of trailers for other films in the Fox War Classics line.
D-Day the Sixth of June isn't a terrible movie, per se, but it's a rather uninteresting one. It can be tough to predict how any given viewer will relate to the characters in a film; though I didn't end up being engaged at all by the story of D-Day the Sixth of June, if the characters strike the right note for a different viewer, the film as a whole will be more enjoyable. For that reason, if you're interested in the movie, I'd recommend renting the DVD before you buy it.