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Overlord (Criterion Collection)

Brian Stirner , Davyd Harries , Stuart Cooper    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

Price: CDN$ 42.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Special features practically outdo the film June 26 2007
By Richard E. Hourula - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"Overlord" is a curious film that blends archival footage into a fictional account of a typical British soldier preparing for the D-Day invasion. While I found "Overlord" lacking as a narrative, it was a worthy cinematic experiment and should be of particular interest to anyone interested in World War II.

Made in England in 1975 with the help of the Imperial War Museum, "Overlord" was not released in the United States until 2006. This long overdue DVD release helps atone somewhat for the film's long absence from North American markets.

"Overlord" is a short sometimes choppy story that manages as well as might be expected to integrate actual footage of Nazis and Allied troops in action including bombing raids and their devastating results. While the focus of the story is on one soldier's enlistment in the British Army and training for D-Day, it is an at times powerful meditation on war's effect on individuals. "Overlord" specifically examines the mindset of soldiers preparing for battle especially as they face the reality of their own mortality.

The real triumph of the DVD is the bonus features. On one such feature two representatives of the Imperial War Museum speak about the making of the film, specifically the archival footage. Another is a tribute to war photographers that was made in 1943. "Germany Calling" produced by the British government's propaganda arm during the war, is a very funny spoof of the Nazis.

As is always the case with Criterion films, the DVD is pricey (they don't do anything on the cheap) but as is also always the case with Criterion, the movie and all features are presented in pristine condition.

"Overlord" is an important edition to the many outstanding films on World War II, bold in its ambition and significant for its use of actual footage. And in this DVD release, the bonus features are not just add ons.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A smaller and smaller part of a bigger and bigger machine...." (3.5 stars) June 2 2007
By Clare Quilty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
One young British soldier, who celebrates his 20th birthday while training for the impending D-Day invasion, writes a letter to his parents and tells them that as time passes, he feels like a smaller and smaller part of a bigger and bigger machine.

Being a small component of a massive device is the central idea behind Stuart Cooper's "Overlord," an odd, hazy, child's-fever-dream of a movie that uses staged black-and-white scenes interspersed with actual archival footage from World War II.

We follow Tom (Brian Stirner) through a drab, dispiriting round of basic training; his experiences are interspersed with separate scenes of battle, of invasion and aftermath to illustrate events going on "meanwhile" all around him, events leading up to Normandy.

The movie is a truly unique visual experience. John Alcott shot the storyline scenes (just before he began work on "Barry Lyndon") and the movie has a look not unlike "The Elephant Man," or its thematic brother, "Johnny Got His Gun."

Though the incorporation of actual footage is very smooth, I never had any trouble distinguishing what came from the 40s and what was shot in the 70s. That didn't ruin the experience for me: Look at the hauntingly beautiful scenes involving bombers flying above the cloudline at night, or a harrowing training sequence in which a rowboat ditches its passengers onto rocks (Cooper reveals in his commentary that one or two men actually died during the exercise).

With its short, spare narrative and its stark conclusion, "Overlord" almost feels like a short story of a movie, but that doesn't downplay its impact or importance. This is a little-known movie worth reviving and it gets a fine Criterion presentation here. The commentary with Copper and Sterner is particularly good; it's worth listening to to hear how they did it even if you don't particularly connect with the film.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXTRAORDINARY Jan. 31 2007
By Robin Simmons - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This incredible film is a dreamlike recreation that mixes real vintage footage with original film as it follows an ordinary young British bloke from his military induction to D Day.

Wonderfully evocative on every level. The photography is extraordinary. Powerful images shimmer next to the sublime. The very human dilemma of how to make sense of life and war has never been told better. A great film.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OVERLORD CRITERION A MUST SEE!!!!.. May 11 2007
By Josh Shapero - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
WOW!...Another amazing hidden gem from the folks at criterion..if you are a an avid fan of Criterion, and the amazing films they bring to viewer's attention, you owe it to yourself to buy and watch Overlord. An amazing film, the story line is shot in an amazing way, mixed with real world war 2 stock footage...the film plays like a dream. A war film directed by David Lynch!....The composition of each shot, angle is carfefuly thought out by the filmakers...It is a haunting film, and stayed with me for days!....check it out!, one of the best dvd's of the year!.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visually striking, but NOT a war film in the usual sense Jan. 28 2009
By John Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
As with any film that Criterion chooses to put out, "Overlord" is well worth watching. If you're coming to this film as I did, however, not knowing anything about it, you may be surprised to find that this is NOT a retelling of D-Day in the style of "The Longest Day" or "Saving Private Ryan." Other than a few shots of air raids from the archives, there is no combat whatsoever depicted in this film, and it ends just as the Allies are first hitting the beaches on that day. I think it was a bit misleading to entitle the film "Overlord" and then have "D-Day, June 6, 1944" emblazoned across the cover, since nearly all of the film takes place BEFORE D-Day. Overlord (the Allies' code-name for the invasion) here seems to be used in a more metaphorical sense, since the only overlord in this film would seem to be war itself, an overarching unseen presence which first deprives men of their individuality and freedom, and then destroys them physically. As others have written, this film consists of two elements: archive footage from the Imperial War Museum, and the story of a young British Everyman who is called up and undergoes training in preparation for D-Day. The archive film is quite impressive; I've spent many hours watching WWII film and a lot of this material, which is quite interesting, was new to me. Other than some air raid film, however, most of it depicts the massive preparations that had to be carried out in order to prepare for the invasion. As for the new parts of the film, they are visually quite interesting, particularly since it was filmed by John Alcott, a veteran of four of Kubrick's greatest films. It looks distinctive and yet meshes well with the archive footage...in a few instances, it's hard to tell which is which. But I do have to agree with others here that the story itself, such as it is, falls flat. The story of the naive young recruit who has to undergo a rite of passage into the ranks of the military, and who frets about his possible fate in combat, has been done so many times, both before and since "Overlord," in both books and films, that the plot aspect ends up being riddled with well-filmed but uninteresting cliches. So, I give this film five stars for its visuals, but only one star for its plot, and that averages out to three. One last note: as usual with Criterion, the extras are quite good on this disc and help to justify its cost. There are several short documentaries which discuss the origins of the archive footage that is used, plus some dramatic readings by the principal actor of excerpts from actual diaries kept by British D-Day veterans.
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