Anchor Bay/1976/131m/WS 2.35

    Filmed at a deliberate pace with straightforward recreation of the action and decision-making, Midway makes an interesting case for luck as the final ingredient in winning and losing battles and maybe wars. The depiction of the events leading up to and including the famous naval battle between the heart of the Japanese  and the defending American ships, the widescreen epic war film is entertaining, if somewhat cut-and-dry.
     Charlton Heston stars as Captain Matt Garth, who goes from a desk assignment at Pearl Harbor to temporary duty on Aircraft Carrier Yorktown. An attempt at personal drama involves Garth's Ensign son's romance with a Japanese/American girl accused of seditious sympathies. This sinks faster than any ship at Pearl during the infamous Japanese attack. Big name stars appear in various roles, including Henry Fonda, typically solid as Admiral Nimitz, Glenn Ford as Rear-Admiral Ray Spruance, giving a rather self-effacing performance, and Robert Mitchum as Admiral Bull Halsey bed-ridden by an rash of bad dialogue. Toshiro Mifune, as Admiral Yamamoto, gets the dub treatment, which leaves his character afloat in a sea of perfect diction.
    The battle sequences are merely okay, but somehow the film manages to develop a reasonable amount of excitement. I suppose the photography of Harry Stradling, Jr is the most powerful element of Midway. Or maybe it's coming away with an understanding of the importance of this pivotal naval battle. Director Jack Smight cuts liberally between the battle venues in an attempt to emphasize the tension.

Looking good George. ©Fox

     The identification graphics were so frequent that in any scene transition where they were absent I was almost surprised. Graphics denoting the Enterprise, Hiroshima, Midway Island, Carrier Hiryi,  Battleship Yamato are joined with graphics indicating squadron leader this or lieutenant that flying the various missions to stop the enemy ships. Some of the graphics are so brief one wonders why they even bothered to make the cut. But the graphics do keep you located within the world of Midway and maybe that adds to a level of concentration the film mounts.
     There are several disappointments with Midway on DVD. First is the unexceptional mono sound. This was one of Universals Sensurround productions. Theaters were actually outfitted with special subwoofers under the seats to produce more bass than you could ignore. The explosions on this DVD edition failed to rouse me from my comfortable theater chair. There are plenty of image artifacts associated with the limitations of the NTSC system. Inter line flicker and smearing of fine detail detracts from the overall presentation. On the plus side, the transfer elements are in good shape with color stable and reasonably saturated. 


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