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Lauren Lexton
Narrated By:
Gene Hackman
Writing Credits:
Lauren Lexton, Arnold Shapiro

The flag-raising atop Mt. Suribachi during the epic World War II battle of Iwo Jima is the focus of this stirring documentary narrated by actor and ex-Marine Gene Hackman. James Bradley, son of one of the flag-raisers and author of the best selling Flags of Our Fathers, relates many of the stories surrounding the men who fought at Iwo Jima, and retired Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who snapped the classic photograph, also offers his battlefield recollections. Family members of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima speaking movingly of the men and what prompted them to enlist in the Marine Corps. The rumors that Rosenthal faked the photograph are debunked, and the enormous symbolism of the Marines raising the flag and what it meant to America after four years of horrific combat is intelligently discussed in this look at how a single moment in American history has assumed legendary significance.

Rated NA

Widescreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $49.96
Release Date: 5/22/2007

• “To the Shores of Iwo Jima” Featurette

Available Only as Part of “The Battle for Iwo Jima 5-Disc Commemorative Collector’s Edition”


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Heroes Of Iwo Jima: Flags Of Our Fathers / Letters From Iwo Jima Commemorative Edition (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 25, 2007)

With 2006’s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, we got two big-screen views of a pivotal World War II battle. For a little more about those events, we go to a 2001 A&E documentary called Heroes of Iwo Jima.

Narrated by Gene Hackman, the program uses archival elements and interviews. We get notes from photographer Joe Rosenthal, Flags author James Bradley, Shadow of Suribachi co-authors Keller Cushing Freeman and Parker Albee, Jr., veteran/Immortal Images author Tedd Thomey, soldier Michael Strank’s brother John Strank, soldier Ira Hayes’ niece Sara Bernal, soldier Harlon Block’s brother Edward Block, Jr. and sister Maurine Block Mitchell, soldier “Boots” Thomas’ brother Jack Thomas and sister Jean Thomas Bishop, soldier Franklin Sousley’s aunt Mildred May, soldier John Bradley’s widow Betty Bradley, soldier Rene Gagnon’s widow Pauline Gagnon, veteran/Give Me 50 Marines Not Afraid to Die author John Keith Wells, combat correspondent Cyril O’Brien, soldier James Michels’ daughter Betty McMahon and widow Vicky Michels, photographer Lou Lowery, Lowery’s daughter Lesle Lowery Sullivan and widow Doris Lowrey, soldier Henry Hansen’s niece Judy Garcia, photographer Bill Genaust’s niece Susan Genaust Debnam, soldier Harold “George” Schrier’s widow Edna Schrier, AP photo archivist Chuck Zoeller, Iwo Jima memorabilia collector Fran Manucci, and veterans Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes USMC (Ret.), Greeley Wells, Charles Lindberg, Col. Tom Fields USMC (Ret.), AJ “Tex” Stanton, Norm Hatch, John Pasanen, Edward Moraniec, Phil Ward, W. Dewey Norman, Takeo Abe, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Snowden USMC (Ret.), John Bradley, Greg Emery, LB Holly, and Robert Bergen.

Heroes starts with a little background about the battle of Iwo Jima. From there we learn about the soldiers who participated in that event and dig more deeply into the fight on Iwo Jima. We find out about its importance, Japanese strategy, American planning and training, and details of the actual battle. In addition, the program gives us specifics of the flag raising as well as its photography, the impact the picture had, and related controversies. Finally, Heroes examines what happened to the surviving flag raisers and the image’s legacy.

If you saw Flags - and I’d assume that virtually everyone who views this DVD already watched the movie – then you’ll get a lot from Heroes. Actually, that factor initially makes Heroes seem a little stale. After seeing the film, you may feel like you already know all this material and wonder what purpose it serves to see it again.

That’s the way I first felt, at least, but I was completely wrong. Yes, Heroes includes a number of facts that also appear in Flags, but it goes much further for a more in-depth view of its subject. While Flags offers a character-driven piece, Heroes digs into the facts as well as the emotion.

Indeed, one shouldn’t discount the power behind Heroes. It doesn’t use the dramatizations of the film, but the stories found in it come across with great depth and power. The documentary manages to stay acceptably low-key, a factor that makes it even more successful. Rather than actively tug at our heartstrings, the show allows its material to speak for itself.

In that regard, it does very well. Heroes provides a dynamic and moving portrait of Iwo Jima that fills in the holes left by Flags. We learn a lot about the relevant events and come away with a strong portrayal of those involved. This is a very strong documentary.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C/ Bonus NA

Heroes of Iwo Jima appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Heroes used a lot of archival material in addition to new interviews. I didn’t factor the old footage into my grade, as that didn’t seem fair. Those clips showed their age as expected.

As for the modern images, the show offered a fairly typical example of a videotaped program, which meant that it suffered from a variety of concerns and never seemed better than average. Sharpness usually appeared to be acceptably clear and accurate, but the DVD delivered a vague and edgy look that befalls many videotaped pieces. The lack of resolution inherent in the format meant that things seemed pretty rough at times. Occasional jagged edges and moiré effects occurred, and I also saw examples of edge enhancement. No source flaws marred the new interviews, though they showed some light digital artifacting at times.

Colors were generally decent, though they lacked much life. They seemed to be fairly typical for video, as they represented the hues with acceptable accuracy but they failed to offer any vibrancy or boldness. Black levels were similarly drab, while shadow detail could seem rather muddy. Ultimate, Heroes remained watchable throughout the program, but it never went above that level.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Stereo 2.0 audio of Heroes. The talky program concentrated heavily on the forward speakers. Speech dominated the program and stayed in the center. A lot of music also appeared throughout the show, and those elements demonstrated vague stereo imaging. Effects tended to be stuck in the center since they usually came from monaural sources. The surrounds gave light reinforcement of the front material but didn’t add much.

Audio quality appeared fine for this material. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, with only a smidgen of edginess at times. Music sounded reasonably full and clear. Effects were acceptably detailed, though the flaws of the source elements meant they tended to be somewhat rough. Again, I didn’t think that was a real problem, as I expected problems from 60-year-old war footage. Ultimately, the audio was fine for this sort of piece but not anything better than that.

In terms of extras, all we get is To the Shores of Iwo Jima, a 1945 short film. This 18-minute and 40-second piece presents a Technicolor view of the battle on Iwo Jima. Shot by military cameramen, this shows a pretty sanitized version of the assault. As a narrative, it’s the kind of breathless propaganda we’d expect from the era. However, it includes a lot of valuable footage, including a very high-quality glimpse of the iconic flag raising. Those elements allow Shores to become a useful piece of history.

Undoubtedly Clint Eastwood’s two related films have piqued interest in the subject, and Heroes of Iwo Jima gives us a nice examination of the battle and its impact. The program includes many good tales and facts as it packs an emotional punch. DVD picture and audio are average and extras limited. However, since Heroes exists as a supplement itself, I don’t see that as an issue. This is an excellent documentary.

Note that Heroes of Iwo Jima comes only as part of “The Battle for Iwo Jima 5-Disc Commemorative Collector’s Edition”. It comes with two-disc versions of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Those can be purchased on their own, but Heroes remains exclusive to this package. It’s a good value for fans, as its $50 MSRP is actually $20 less than it’d cost to get the two-disc versions of Flags and Letters on their own. The inclusion of Heroes makes the package more of a bargain.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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