One of the greatest screen biographies ever produced, this monumental film runs nearly three hours, won seven Academy Awards, and gave George C. Scott the greatest role of his career. It was released in 1970 when protest against the Vietnam War still raged at home and abroad, and many critics and moviegoers struggled to reconcile current events with the movie's glorification of Gen. George S. Patton as a crazy-brave genius of World War II.
How could a movie so huge in scope and so fascinated by its subject be considered an anti-war film? The simple truth is that it's not--Patton is less about World War II than about the rise and fall of a man whose life was literally defined by war, and who felt lost and lonely without the grand-scale pursuit of an enemy. George C. Scott embodies his role so fully, so convincingly, that we can't help but be drawn to and fascinated by Patton as a man who is simultaneously bound for hell and glory. The film's opening monologue alone is a masterful display of acting and character analysis, and everything that follows is sheer brilliance on the part of Scott and director Franklin J. Schaffner.
Filmed on an epic scale at literally dozens of European locations, Patton does not embrace war as a noble pursuit, nor does it deny the reality of war as a breeding ground for heroes. Through the awesome achievement of Scott's performance and the film's grand ambition, Patton shows all the complexities of a man who accepted his role in life and (like Scott) played it to the hilt. --Jeff Shannon
DVD extras include a 50-minute documentary entitled A Tribute to Franklin J. Schaffner
. Originally produced in 1997 for the Patton
laserdisc release, the documentary covers the elementary background of the film, including many stills from the production. Schaffner (who died in 1989) and George C. Scott (who died in 1999) are heard only in interviews recorded for the film's 1970 release. The only new interviews are from less vital players: production head Richard D. Zanuck, cinematographer Fred Koenekamp, and composer Jerry Goldsmith. The absence of retrospective views from Scott and cowriter Francis Ford Coppola is unfortunate. The audio essay is not by a filmmaker, but Charles M. Province, the founder and president of the George S. Patton Jr. museum. His background on the man is impressive, but one misses a filmmaker's touch to the essay, or even the recollections of Scott himself. The high point of the documentary discusses the arguments over the legendary opening sequence. The short ends with a huge misstep--letting Oliver Stone go off on one his tirades about President Nixon and the influence that Patton
had on the Vietnam War. Even if Stone's observations are relevant, his assertions about George C. Scott are totally inappropriate. The DVD also contains an isolated track of Goldsmith's influential score. --Doug Thomas