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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Das Boot: The Original Uncut Version (1981)

"We are ordered to sink ships where we find them. You can ask the men who started this war about the rest."
- The Captain (Jürgen Prochnow)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: May 31, 2004

Stars: Jurgen Prochnow, Herbert Gronemeyer
Other Stars: Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch, Martin Semmelrogge, Bernd Tauber, Erwin Leder, Martin May, Heinz Hoenig, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Jan Fedder
Director: Wolfgang Petersen

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, violence)
Run Time: 04h:53m:33s
Release Date: June 01, 2004
UPC: 043396096783
Genre: war


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BC+ D-

DVD Review

Truly great submarine movies are few and far between, and it took German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen (who has since gone on to mainstream Hollywood glory with Outbreak, Air Force One, In The Line of Fire, The Perfect Storm, Troy) to make one of the genre's finest with this 1981 film that was originally broadcast as a six-part miniseries in Germany. It was shown theatrically in the U.S. as a vastly trimmed (but still hefty) 145-minute feature, and this latest release is touted as the "original uncut version"; it runs 293 minutes, and is the third DVD iteration of Petersen's film we have seen. Both the Director's Cut and Superbit editions restored the film to what Petersen blessed as the definitive theatrical version—at 210 minutes—but finally we now get the chance to see the film in its entirety.

It is World War II, and the mostly fresh-faced crew of the German U-boat U-96, under the command of a seasoned veteran captain (Jürgen Prochnow), is on a prolonged mission in the Atlantic to stop Allied supply ships from getting through. Prochnow's captain is one of the finest U-boat commanders in the German navy, and he must repeatedly push the crew and his vessel to new limits of endurance as their mission becomes progressively more dangerous, offset by long periods of interminable waiting and the occasional frantic moments of avoiding deadly British depth charges.

The thing that makes this such an engrossing submarine adventure is that except for the first 24 minutes, nearly the entire film takes place in the U-96, and as the facial hair gets longer, so grows the pressure (and not just on the sub's hull, either). Petersen certainly seems to paint U-boat life accurately, and it appears to be claustrophobically chaotic, small, crowded, cramped, and hot, and to accentuate this point, he is not shy about using long, rapid tracking shots to great effect that run through the length of the sub, narrowly avoiding the crew as he moves from stern to bow and back again.

What is interesting is that even with the expanded runtime of nearly five hours, the basic premise of the film doesn't really change all that much; there's just more of it. There aren't any substantial new plot developments in this uncut version, though if anything it does allow viewers to become drawn further in to the lives of the crew, and see them as men with real lives and very real fears; men who are all following orders. It was likely jarring for American audiences to have found themselves feeling sympathetic and concerned for the fate of a German U-boat crew during wartime, which is one of the reasons that Das Boot is so effective. It's about the men, and though that message was clear before, it is even more pronounced in this version. If you have seen the Director's Cut, or even the comparatively short theatrical cut, you know that this is not really a war film, but a film about slowly building human pressures, and about waiting, waiting, and more waiting, all of which builds towards its unforgettable climax.

On a final note, if you decide to check out this uncut version, I advise you to stick with the original German language track and optional English subtitles; besides being distracting, the English dub is nothing short of laughable in its translations. A phrase (admittedly out of context here) like "...ass cheeks together, squeeze the balls, and the belief in the Führer in their eyes" is changed in the dub to "...a box of Christmas toy soldiers, eyes blazing with the faith of the Führer." Similarly, "they say they're great f**ks" becomes the decidedly less bawdy "they say they're great fun in bed", so unless you're dead set against some appropriately rougher language or prefer a generally bad dub job, stay with the original language track.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented here in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this two-disc version of Das Boot falls well short of the Superbit release, but is a marginal improvement over the Director's Cut edition. It's a decent enough transfer, but not perfect; it is marred by some obtrusive grain issues, a few nicks and some minor compression problems. The thing that really impressed me, however was the underlying richness of the colors, coupled with the depth of the black levels, which all contributed to a transfer that held up rather well during the darker, more shadow-filled sections of the film.

The Superbit release still holds top honors for image transfer, but this latest outing comes in a distant second.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0German, Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
German, Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: While the image transfer here is respectable, the audio side cannot hold a candle to any of the earlier releases. There is no DTS track (which for a submarine flick is criminal, if you ask me), and the new German language Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (as well as the horrible English 5.1 dub) seems to be more like a hastily slapped together 2.0 track. Surrounds are used indiscriminantly, and their infrequent usage makes for a less than exciting presentation. The .LFE channel is fairly active, but it isn't the kind of deep, resonating bass that is found the Superbit release, and in comparison seems rather weak.

German and English-dubbed stereo tracks are also provided.

This could have been so much more aggressive, but instead is just disappointing.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Air Force One, In The Line of Fire
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There isn't much in the way of extras—or anything new, for that matter—except for the brief EPK Behind the Scenes of Das Boot (06m:18s), which has been ported over from the earlier Director's Cut DVD. Also tossed in for filler are three Wolfgang Petersen trailers (Das Boot: The Director's Cut, Air Force One, In The Line of Fire).

Disc 1 runs 01h:48m:15s, and is cut into 12 chapters, while Disc 2 clocks in at 03h:05m:18s and is divided into the remaining 24 chapters. Easy to read subtitles are available in English or French.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

It is difficult to not make this a recommendation, despite the high grade, simply because the audio mix just isn't up to par. The film itself is a remarkable bit of cramped and sweaty filmmaking, and watching this longer cut is just as intense of an experience as the previously released Superbit or Director's Cut versions, but without the punch of a DTS track it seems like it is missing something, despite running an hour or so longer.

Fans of the previous incarnations will no doubt succumb to the nagging curiosity to want to see the complete, uncut film, but if you have never seen Das Boot my advice is to grab the Superbit. It is probably the best all-around version currently available, at least in terms of audio and video presentation.

 


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