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Apocalypse 45

Kino // Unrated // September 7, 2021
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted December 7, 2021 | E-mail the Author
Apocalypse ‘45:

Apocalypse ‘45 gathers wartime footage from the United States involvement in World War II, restores it, and presents it to you with the voice-overs of 24 who served in that war, recounting their actions, thoughts, and the impact the war had on them. It's a stunning, dispassionate, reverent, apolitical, and questioning document of singular power.

The document commences around the time of the attack at Pearl Harbor, hitting the high and low points thereafter, including Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and of course the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The novice to WWII history (myself included) will find much to learn in this documentary, though the emphasis is not on detailed strategy and tactics as it is on what the soldiers experienced.

The two components presented here do, however, weave a layered tapestry, and as much as Apocalypse ‘45 might seem like a hands-off affair, it has a point of view. The mostly never-before-seen footage is stunning; cleaned up without heavy application of DNR, color corrected, and stabilized. It's war photographer footage that places the viewer front and center in the battles. As such it's also harrowing and often very gruesome, never hesitating to show the human toll of carnage. It's also somewhat shamefully thrilling, with dynamic air battles, and curiously detached, as high-flying bombers blanket cities and towns with destruction represented by seemingly tiny flashes and plumes of smoke.

The soldiers themselves, quite a collection, reminisce about their involvement, bringing both a human scale and understanding to what is shown. At approximately 75-year's remove, their recollections are both amazingly sharp and tinged with a lifetime of processing. Without their words, the film would be a clinical affair, either a grim celebration or disturbing condemnation, depending on the viewer's own preconceptions. With the thoughts and words of the men who filled foxholes with flame, tossed grenades into bunkers, and were made to view the Japanese soldiers as demons, a message emerges. Though their actions were heroic, they were just doing what they were told, and what they thought was right. Stark images of Japanese civilians suffering burns from atomic attack combine with soldier's ruminations on the role of governments in the creation and continuation of war to condemn the toll.

In the end we're left with hundreds of thousands dead, and the ever-painful memories of those who were made to do the killing. Apocalypse ‘45 serves as a difficult reminder of tremendous value, and is Highly Recommended.


The DVD

Video:
Apocalypse ‘45 on this Blu-ray disc is brought to us by Kino Lorber in a 1.78:1 ratio at 1080p. The footage is amazing, though it hasn't been heavily layered with DNR, so their is still plenty of understandable grain present, and details are sometimes what would be called ‘soft', though often are much sharper than one would expect. Any damage or speckling has been wrangled to the point where it is a mere afterthought. Since this is 75-year old footage shot on battlefields, I'll allow it! Colors are plenty naturalistic, at that, and this is overall an amazing document.


Sound:
Audio tracks are either 5.1 Surround Sound or 2.0 Stereo. Both admirably present the sounds of war, with a bit more oomph and envelopment present in the 5.1 track, obviously. The soundtrack and dialog are mixed appropriately, with the soldiers' stories standing out from the sonic environment nicely, even if the words of the men themselves are sometimes hard to understand due to age and accent.


Extras:
Some of the footage presented in Apocalypse ‘45 is culled from the three short subjects presented here in their full form as extras. First up is Ford At Pearl, 23 minutes of newly discovered behind-the-scenes color footage of director John Ford working on his early ‘40s war documentaries. To The Shores Of Iwo Jima is another 20-minute documentary, shot in the thick of it and released in 1945, and here newly restored. The Last Bomb, also newly restored, from 1945, is a 36-minute documentary regarding the atomic bomb. The Theatrical Trailer and 10 minutes of Restoration Comparisons will let you know what an amazing job Apocalypse ‘45 director Erik Nelson's team did with the footage. 3 minutes of an Alternate Credits roll give you another take on the sobering and sentimental credits to the film, comparing war-time pictures of the soldiers with their 95-year-old selves.


Final Thoughts:
Apocalypse ‘45 gathers wartime footage from the United States involvement in World War II, restores it, and presents it to you with the voice-overs of 24 who served in that war, recounting their actions, thoughts, and the impact the war had on them. It's a stunning, dispassionate, reverent, apolitical, and questioning document of singular power. It serves as a difficult reminder of tremendous value, and is Highly Recommended.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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C O N T E N T

V I D E O

A U D I O

E X T R A S

R E P L A Y

A D V I C E
Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
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