Video: The picture was presented in 1080p 2.55:1. Compared to the old DVD, the Blu-ray image is cleaner and very noticeably sharper throughout (the evidence is apparent right away in the opening credits which before were problematic), but more importantly, colour fidelity is now superb and image detail really impresses. Blacks are inky and skin tone was accurate. A modest amount of grain is present which imparts a film-like look to the image. (4.5/5)
Audio: The DTS-HD 5.1 MA is also wonderful. Dialogue is clear. The soundtrack by Malcolm Arnold, who won the Oscar for Best Music Score, is very rousing and uplifting. You can whistle along when the tune Colonel Bogey was played. (4/5)
Bridge On The River Kwai won 7 Academy Awards in 1957: Best Picture (producer: Sam Spiegel), Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Sir Alec Guiness), Best Cinematography (Jack Hildeyard), Best Film Editing (Peter Taylor), Best Music Score (Malcolm Arnold) and Best Screenplay (Pierre Boulle, Carl Forman, and Michael Wilson). It is of interest to note that Carl Forman and Michael Wilson were blacklisted at the time, and received no screen credit. They were posthumously awarded the Oscars in 1984. Pierre Boulle was not present at the awards ceremony, and Kim Novak accepted the award on his behalf. This was the breakthrough movie for Sir David Lean. Apparently, he was flat broke at the time the movie was made. He had to ask for an advance in order to fix his teeth!
Sony has packaged its Blu-ray release in a thick digibook format with the Blu-ray disc inside the front cover and an updated DVD version inside the back cover. The book is encased in a solid slip-case that gives a professional look to the enterprise. The 32-page digibook focuses on production information and publicity material reproductions, mainly culled from the original 1957 souvenir book. A nice set of 12 lobby card reproductions is also included in a pocket at the end of the book.
For a film 53 years old, the video and audio were properly restored. With all the additional goodies stated above in this Collector's Edition, the price was very reasonable. On Blu-ray, all of its glories are intact, and is highly recommended.
One of the best ever-war movies, or at least one of the best ever Alec Guiness. What he does is done superbly. SS Hayakawa does real justice to the Japanese Samurai put between a rock and a hard place. Jack Hawkins plays the pukka sahib Brit Colonel and gives one of his greater performances. All told a winner of a movie that I have seen several times. Now that we own it we will see it even more times. Definitely five stars.
on January 9, 2004
Like many people, I saw the BOTRK on television first, back in the media-challenged 1960's. Even through the pan and scan and low-res color of those ancient TV's, Lean's film riveted me to the screen. It wasn't until the late 1980's and hi-end VHS releases of films came out that I finally saw the widescreen version, and saw what I'd been missing for years. Lean was one of the few directors who could fill the widescreen and create drama without cutting a film to pieces in an attempt to generate excitement.
Alec Guiness etched himself into the ages with his performance as the pathological Col. Nicholson who abides by the letter of the law to the point of utter lunacy. When he and Sessue Hayakawa face off one sees the immovable object meeting the irressistable force. The whole attempt at breaking Nicholson plays like a prison/chain-gang film from the 1930's, but there is more at stake here - Nicholson's view is that order should be prevail regardless of circumstances, while Saito's view is that circumstances dictate order. The class and racial issues emenate from this conflict like waves of radioactivity.
William Holden appears in this film as a means of getting American finance - but he is nonetheless effective as the shirker, fraud, hero and cynic(his character from Sunset Boulevard onwards). Jack Hawkins is suitabily manipulative as the Oxford Don turned demonlition man.
But the real star of this film is the jungle matched to the widescreen. The sweep of green tangle in which this drama enacts strangles the life and sanity from the people enmeshed in the struggle. Lean knew how to create shots in depth, so his films are always more than what the characters are doing on the screen.
Like Apocalypse Now, another tale of Western soldiers in the jungle, this production was fraught with difficulties, the most damaging of which was a cameraman's failure to shoot the more important angle of the bridge's destruction. In the CGI world this could never happen, but in the awesome realtime destruction of BOTRK, Lean's crew had to rebuild the bridge, rescue the train, and redo the shot. It was worth it.
The DVD restores this film to it's proper aspect ration, sound, and probably has better color than the original, although, having never seen it in a theatre, I can't say.
For a real and disturbing look at what actually happened in Japanese POW camps, read "Prisoners of the Sun."
on December 3, 2010
What more can I say that hasn't already been written about this epic film. To view it again was great but this time in Blu Ray with 4K digital restoration and newly mastered 5.1 audio it's truly amazing. You will have to see it for yourself, to understand what all this is like, and I believe you will not be disappointed. The extras you get with the DVD are a very nice keepsake.
on June 24, 2004
David Lean's THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is certainly one of the great war epics of the cinema. It might be an even better film than his equally celebrated LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. The latter film has, at the center of all the visual grandeur and epic scale, a character than is equally larger-than-life. The main characters of BRIDGE, on the other hand, are more humanly scaled, and I was grateful for that. Here is a cinematic epic that isn't just empty spectacle, but has intriguing characters and a literate thoughtfulness that is becoming a rarity in movies these days. In a lesser film, for instance, characters like Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness, in a performance that won a deserved Academy Award---as did the movie itself), and Shears (William Holden) might have been reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes. Here, they have fascinating complexities that help drive the plot and serve its theme, which can pretty much be summed up by the final words of the movie: "Madness, madness!" The beauty here is that both Saito and Nicholson might be mad, but their madness isn't necessarily without justification.
Of course, all this character development, which may or may not necessarily be interesting by itself, serves as a backdrop for what is essentially an adventure on a grand scale, and on that level it also works triumphantly, delivering beautiful widescreen cinematography, lush settings, and genuine suspense, particularly in its tense final moments. A glorious epic adventure that also never skimps on the human element, indeed makes it almost an integral part of the story---that is the magic of THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Highly recommended.
on August 18, 2013
A fantastic old war movie, one of the best. It tells the story of British prisoners in a South East Asia Prisoner of War camp being forced to build a railway bridge for their Japanese captors. The acting of Sir Alec Guinness as the senior British Officer is fantastic, no other word for it. The clash of ideologies between the British Colonel and the Japanese Commandant is brilliantly portrayed. Well worth watching several times.
on March 12, 2004
It's hard to beat the acting in this epic film. Alec Guiness, until then primarily known for comic roles, plays a ramrod straight British officer who has a tendency to get obsessed with matters of propriety and honor. He's deadly serious, but his performance comes right up to the edge of absurdity, including his amazing facial and body language at the climactic, ironic final moment. William Holden shows why he embodied the American male ideal in the 50s--the carefree, scheming existentialist who decides to care at the last, tragic moment. Sessue Hayakawa and Jack Hawkins are also memorable. This movie is one of my favorites. It unfolds slowly, but with a strong line of tension throughout that keeps you utterly hypnotized. The movie is almost the proto-typical blockbuster--fabulous photography, great scenery, powerful music, casts of thousands, and of course, that great big bridge that they actually built for the movie, and that, in the end, they...(I won't spoil it.) Rare is the movie that manages to have a compelling anti-war message while paying full tribute to the bravery of soldiers and the justice of war.
on November 18, 2003
A film by David Lean
The Bridge on the River Kwai is based on the fantastic novel by Pierre Boulle. The movie won 7 out of the 8 Academy Awards it was nominated for, including: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Alec Guinness). Watching the movie for the first time 45 years later, I'm happy to say that the film still holds up well over time.
It is a simple story. Set during World War II, the Japanese have a prison camp in Southeast Asia. They have an entire command of British prisoners of war, as well as a couple of Americans. The commander of the prison, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa, in an Oscar nominated performance) needs to have a bridge built across the River Kwai. The prisoners are to build it. This sets up a clash of will between Saito and Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), the officer in charge of the British. Nicholson still wants to lead his command, despite being in prison. He allows that the soldiers should work (to build morale, discipline, and to keep in shape), but absolutely forbids his officers to do manual labor. Saito demands that everyone works. Both men hold to their own personal code of honor and it is an intense emotional stand off between the two. While this is happening, the British soldiers are building Saito's bridge. Nicholson requires that take pride in their work and build the best possible bridge that they can.
That is half of the movie. The other half involves an American POW named Shears (William Holden). Shears seems to be fairly opportunistic and only out for himself. He manages to escape from the POW camp and eventually makes his way to freedom. While free and living at a British military base (waiting until he can return home), he is recruited into a mission to destroy the bridge that Nicholson is building. The bridge is strategically important and reluctantly Shears agrees. The storylines are separate for a while, but they do all come together near the end when the bridge is being completed and Shears (with British forces) are arriving to destroy the bridge.
This movie is a classic, and there is a very good reason for that. 45 years later (or so), The Bridge on the River Kwai is still a very good movie. This isn't your typical action movie with explosions every 10 minutes, but David Lean does a good job of building the tension throughout the movie. It may have some deliberate pacing at times, but if you're a fan of the classic movies, this is one you have to watch.
on October 26, 2003
I was 12 when BOTRK owened and I've grown up with it. While the DVD transfer is excellent (picture and sound), what I am always after is the BONUS material. If you know the film as well as I do, seeing the BONUS disk first will add tremendously to your enjoyment of the feature.
The longer documentary (about 40 minutes - much of it in widescreen and color) is enough in itself. The other featurettes are mostly a b/w review of what you've already seen. The tid-bits are fascinating: the SHEERS character (William Holden) is not in the novel and was added simply to get an American male star attached to the picture for box office appeal. The same thing is true of the various women who appear, from SHEER's brief love interest in Ceylon to the women bearers who carry equipment through the jungle - all added to inhance international appeal. Most interesting was the story of Lean's harassment of Japanese star Hayakawa (COL. SIATO). He has to cry in one sequence and just couldn't get it. Lean yelled at him constantly, saying he was a bad actor. When Hayakawa did the scene again, he was actually crying! Also, when Guiness is in the "hot box" or "sweat box", he begged Lean for something cool to sit on; Lean refused and Guiness sweated real sweat! The train wreck that actually wrecked the train BEFORE they blew up the bridge, etc. I kind-of liked the Bonus Disk more than the feature. But that is the true beauty of DVD.
on October 13, 2003
David Lean blossomed as a film director during the 50's. While he directed a number of earlier classics during the 40's, Bridge on the River Kwai was the first of many epic films that never lost the most important part of any epic tale--the human element.
Bridge focuses on the Japanese attempt to build a bridge linking their railroad through a perilous jungle in Southeast Asia. The prisoners of war are used essentially as slave labor to reach this goal. Colonel Nicholson(Alec Guinness who won an Oscar)are captured with his British troops. Nicholson's can-do attitude creates a myopic outlook which prevents him from seeing that he is collaborating with the enemy when he agrees to help complete the bridge. It's the infusion that Japanese Prison Commander Saito needs; his prisoner worker population is shrinking rapidly. Dysintery, Malaria, heatstroke and other inhabitants of the jungle have killed most of the workers. The bridge is behind schedule and the Colonel Saito is very displeased.
One of the last remaining prisoners is Shears (played with marvelous cynicism by William Holden). He just wants to do as little as possible and return home alive and well from the war. He has an escape plan. When he informs Nicholson of this, he's told that the British will not attempt to escape as there "is no place to escape to". Nicholson feels they'll be better treated in the camp and doesn't want his troops to face the harsh jungle. He orders his troops not to escape given the circumstances.
Shears and two other prisoners make a break for it. Of the three only Shears survives, is shot and eventually found within Allied territory. He's taken to a British stronghold to recover. Shears provides info on the bridge. He doesn't want become involved in an effort to go back and blow it up. Blackmailed by Major Warden (Jack Hawkins)he ends up volunteering for the mission with Warden and one other American.
Lean's direction captures the atmosphere of the jungle perfectly. While amazon.com rates the image as a 4 out of 5, I'd give it a 3. While a restoration effort was attempted, it's nowhere near as complete as that done for Lawrence of Arabia (another Lean film)or Hitchcock's Vertigo and Rear Window. Bridge has a much more brutal look which captures the essence of the jungle and the odds facing Shears and Warden. On the other hand, the film has a lot of analog artifacts and, although I can't be certain, looks like the negative has faded a bit. While it isn't in as bad a condition as Lawrence (or Vertigo)was, it certainly could use a face lift to improve the appearence.
The sound is pretty good overall. Columbia has expanded the original soundtrack into a Dolby 5.1 master and, while it doesn't take advantage of the full range, it coulds much better than the earlier VHS edition.
There are two editions of this classic film. The first has a second disc full of worthwhile extras that includes behind the scenes footage, a documentary on the film, appreciation by director John Millius many more items. The two disc set is certainly worthwhile for fans of the film.
The single disc edition is a dual layer like the first disc of the two disc set. It looks like it came from the same master. It features the full film, trailers and a brief talent biography on Holden, Guinness, Hawkins and Lean. It hasn't been updated since Guinness' death a couple of years ago. It's not bare bones but for the price difference it should suffice for most fans. It features the same interactive menu (a clever use of actual scenes from the movie)and a motion scene selection.
Bridge is a great film and it's certainly worthwhile in either edition. Which one you purchase depends on how much of a fan you are of the film and whether or not you'll watch the background material more than one time. The picture and sound are very good but it's also clear that Columbia sound undertake a more complete restoration of the this classic film.
Oh, a bit of trivia--the main titles have been changed. When the film was released screenwriters Michael Wilson (Lawrence of Arabia, Planet of the Apes) and Carl Foreman (The Guns of Navarone)were still blacklisted writers in Hollywood. Novelist Piere Boulle (who spoke no English)fronted for them receiving screenplay credit and received the Oscar for screenplay. It's only fitting that their names have finally been added to the opening credits. This happened shortly before Foreman's death (if I'm not mistaken)so at least one of them lived to see a wrong righted. Both (or their heirs)also finally received their Oscars with their names engraved. It was fitting given the film's themes and the price the main character (a stand in, no doubt, for both Wilson and Foreman)pays in the film.