Patton appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not without flaws, the picture mostly satisfied.
The picture offered good detail most of the time. Occasional wide shots suffered from some ill-definition, largely due to the presence of moderate edge enhancement. Those haloes usually stayed in check, but they sometimes became awfully prominent. However, the majority of the flick was crisp and concise. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, and source flaws were reasonably minor. I saw a few specks, marks, streaks and spots, but nothing too intrusive appeared.
Colors also were positive. Since it's a military film, various shades of green, brown and tan dominated, and bland though those may be, the picture displayed them with nice clarity and accuracy. Black levels appeared rich and dark, and shadow detail seemed clean and clear. The edge enhancement and smattering of source flaws were the main problems here, but they weren’t significant enough to knock this transfer below a “B”.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix also satisfied. The soundstage demonstrated surprising width and depth for such an old film. The stereo imaging of the front three channels appeared especially strong. Sounds were nicely placed within that area and they also panned well across the speakers. We even got a lot of accurately localized speech.
The surrounds were used sparingly but somewhat effectively. They provided a decent level of ambiance though they rarely attempted more than that. This was fine with me, especially since the front spectrum was so vivid and well-defined.
Audio quality seemed perfectly solid for a movie from 1970. Speech demonstrated moderate of edginess, but the lines were intelligible and reasonably natural. Effects also suffered from some distortion, as explosions and gunfire occasionally became rough. I didn’t think these issues were a real problem, though, as the elements were acceptably accurate. The score appeared pretty clean and smooth, and it featured nice dynamics. A layer of hiss occurred throughout the movie. Ultimately, the sound mix of Patton was quite good for its age.
This DVD of Patton actually is an adaptation of a nice laserdisc release from 1997. An unusual form of audio commentary appears here. It's actually an audio essay from Patton historian Charles M. Province, the founder of the Patton Historical Society. In their entirety, his comments occupy about the first 80 minutes of the film with one brief break late in the period.
While it's not quite a substitute for a true audio commentary about the film, Province's remarks are quite interesting and informative. He adds a lot of data that isn't covered by the film in that he tells us about Patton's life prior to WWII. Province also clarifies some of the events that are depicted in the film and tells us what really happened, though this doesn't happen much; it seems that the movie was pretty accurate.
While I'm sure he worked from notes, it doesn't appear that Province is just reading his comments, which adds a nicely informal quality to his statements. The track offers some solid perspective on the "historical" Patton and whets one's appetite for a full biography.
The DVD also contains a good 50-minute documentary called Patton: A Tribute to Franklin J. Schaffner. This piece effectively covers a fair amount of information about the making of the film, though the title is somewhat misleading. It makes it sound as though the program will be a biography of Schaffner, whereas it spends virtually no time discussing his life other than as it related to "Patton". The piece provides modern interviews with cinematographer Fred Kroenekamp and composer Jerry Goldsmith. Their comments are combined with 1970 remarks from Schaffner, actor George C. Scott and others and are mixed in with production stills, on set "behind the scenes" footage, and finished film clips.
Overall it's a solid though too brief documentary. A film of this scope could have used more time than 50 minutes, but for what we get, it's well presented. Much valuable information about the film's creation is depicted and it maintains a generally entertaining pace.
Fans of film scores will be delighted to learn that Goldsmith's entire score is presented here in stereo. Is it just me, or does it seem surprising that the score for a nearly three hour movie only takes up 36 and a half minutes? I guess that's because Goldsmith repeats so many motifs.
More music can be heard immediately following the end of the isolated score per se when we hear outtakes from the actual recording session. This is vaguely cool but ultimately a little dull. It's just additional variations on that echoed "da-da-da" theme we hear so frequently in the movie.
More interesting are the four radio ads that follow the alternate musical takes. These are fairly entertaining, especially the first one, which is an unintentionally amusing attempt to sell this "man's movie" to the gals in the audience.
Additional promotional materials are included in the form of trailers. One theatrical trailer for Patton appears, as do promos for Tora Tora Tora and The Longest Day. I find it mildly disappointing that more Patton trailers were not included, since it's clear they exist. Also absent are the newsreel clips of the real Patton that appeared on the first widescreen LD release but not the 1997 reissue). I have no idea why these fascinating clips didn't make the cut.
Finally, the DVD offers a nice booklet that features an informative timeline for Patton's life. This replicates the liner notes of the last LD release. As with Province's comments, this doesn't substitute for a full biography, but it adds a nice taste of history to the package.
As it stands, Patton is one of the all-time great films, and Fox's DVD release provides us with a nice edition of it. The picture and the sound are generally positive, and the DVD includes a few very nice supplements. Patton is a highly recommended movie that falls into the category of a "must have" DVD.
To rate this film visit the Cinema Classics Collection review of PATTON