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Walk In The Sun: The Definitive Restoration, A

MVD Entertainment Group // Unrated // February 8, 2022
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted March 31, 2022 | E-mail the Author
A Walk In The Sun:

The year is 2022, and a war is on in Eastern Europe, prompting fears that war might spread. So what better time to revisit A Walk In The Sun? The Lewis Milestone-directed World War II movie, based on Harry Brown's novel of the same name, debuted in 1945, as that conflict was drawing to a close. Though stagy and talky by today's standards, the ultimate effect of the movie is as potent and trenchant as ever.

A platoon of American soldiers lands in Italy with the mission to blow up a bridge. The plot is just that simple, however the story and the way it's told are not.

Warning! If you're the type who doesn't like black and white movies, or those framed in a full-screen 4 x 3 ratio, best move on! (And if so, why are you reading this?) That said, those cinematic constraints aren't the only things that make A Walk In The Sun a viewing challenge, albeit one that is absolutely worth sticking out. The opening credits feature a song that names and describes each cast-member, as their images scroll by in book form. It's a long list, too, so if you don't take notes, you're screwed. It's by any measure a pretty goofy conceit, but in its corn-pone, transient sincerity I think it makes an interesting point about the nature of being a soldier. After the intro, we're treated to several tightly-framed, expository shots of soldiers on a landing craft, musing or chatting in stilted, possibly nervous manner. The shots are composed down low in the craft; it feels very much like it was filmed on a sound stage, with stagehands splashing water about just off-screen. It doesn't feel real, a sentiment likely shared by the grunts about to storm the beach.

This artificiality continues apace as the G.I.s make their way into the countryside. Combat evidence is mostly limited to explosions in the distance, often masked by hummocks, so as to appear like special effects. What's on display are soldiers marching, talking about their lives, about life in the Army, about any meaning they might divulge from it all. Who are they? Actors such as Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, and many character actors too, they are. Their characters have their defining traits, but in truth they're all just grist for the mill, with a quirk or two so you can keep them straight as they smoke cigarettes and prepare to be shot. A key exchange: "Take over the squad!"
"Why me?"
"Why anyone else?"
"Fair enough!"
It's that type of war.

Actors struggle early on to make real the stilted language, but it becomes more real as the movie progresses, as do the characters themselves, as does the combat, if not the reasons - blow up a bridge, capture a farmhouse - those reasons are slightly abstract. By this point in A Walk In The Sun, it's all pretty real, like running directly into strafing fire from a machine gun, after which, if one survives, that cigarette tastes pretty damn good.

If you like war movies, and will grant an old one with a small budget and a few corny moments, the grace to methodically make its point, this 2-Disc Collector's Edition of A Walk In The Sun is Highly Recommended.



The DVD

Video:
A Walk In The Sun is presented by MVD Visual and Kit Parker Films, in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer of a 4K master from the UCLA Film and Television Archive 35mm photochemical restoration funded by The Film Foundation. Despite the only very occasional, hard-to-notice scratch or other tiny bit of damage, the film looks mostly gorgeous, with a great depth of field and a nicely organic, film-look, with subtle grain and good fine details. Many of the shots have a luscious, creamy look that isn't from overt smoothing so much as beautiful lighting and great structure. The occasional use of stock footage doesn't look nearly as good of course, but overall this is a great picture for an old movie.


Sound:
Audio comes your way in the form of an LPCM 2.0 Mono Track that has little to do but present dialog. There are occasional bursts of gunfire and the odd explosion here and there, plus a soundtrack that features a ballad sung by Kenneth Spencer, all of which sound a bit dull in comparison to the dialog, but that dialog is crisp, clean and clear.


Extras:
This 2-Disc Collector's Edition comes with a nice armament of extras, including a Commentary Track from American film scholar Alan K. Rode, which ranges nicely over appropriate subjects including production of the film, careers of participants, and details regarding actual WWII battles similar to those used to drive the narrative of the movie.
Disc 2 contains three hefty Featurettes starting with Zanuck Goes to War: The WWII Films of Fox, which at 48 minutes goes into great detail about the ethos of WWII films at the time, as well as those films specific to Fox Studios, Zanuck's philosophy, and more. It's a fascinating document. Living History: Norman Lloyd on Saboteur and A Walk in the Sun is a 41-minute festival interview with the author of the book ‘A Walk In The Sun', upon which the movie was based, conducted by Alan K. Rode, with the then 100-year-old scribe. The Battle Of San Pietro is a 38-minute vintage documentary, un-cut, which details the title battle while not shying away from its costs. Fourteen minutes of WWII Fox Movietone Newsreels recreate the feeling of watching the feature in a theater, and the Theatrical Trailer finishes things off.

Final Thoughts:
A Walk In The Sun (1945) isn't your typical war-time movie. With a smaller budget, it doesn't feature tons of stirring action, but what is there is all the more potent for its relative sparseness, offset by the work-a-day dialog of the typical G.I.s sent to accomplish a small mission that could bring the lives they want to return to, to a quick end. If you like war movies, and will grant an old one the grace to methodically make its point, this good-looking, nicely-packed 2-Disc Collector's Edition of A Walk In The Sun is Highly Recommended


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Highly Recommended

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