Over the past couple of weeks it's been impossible to miss television's 50th-anniversary celebration of D-Day. Video distributors are also getting into the act, reducing prices on old tapes and releasing a few new ones.
"Normandy: The Great Crusade," a documentary recently named the Department of Defense's official commemorative tape of the landing, has been released by Discovery Enterprises Group. It's available as a $20 videotape or in a $50 CD-ROM version."A Foreign Field," a new British film about a reunion of D-Day veterans, played by Alec Guinness, Leo McKern and John Randolph, has appeared on several PBS stations lately. Co-starring Jeanne Moreau, Lauren Bacall, Geraldine Chaplin and Edward Herrmann, it's also available as a rental-priced tape from CBS Fox Video. It was written expressly for Guinness by BBC writer Roy Clarke, filmed entirely in Normandy and directed by Charles Sturridge ("Where Angels Fear to Tread," "A Handful of Dust").
Cabin Fever Entertainment Inc. is reducing the price on each of the tapes in its "Medal of Honor" series to $10. Narrated by Cliff Robertson, the series deals with World War II, Korea and Vietnam. D-Day is covered in the 48-minute installment titled "Europe."
Movies Unlimited, a Philadelphia company, carries a number of D-Day documentaries. The 71-minute "Dropzone: Normandy" ($30) focuses on paratroopers and gliders that secured strategic positions behind enemy lines before the landing. "D-Day" ($30) makes use of rare footage from Eastern Bloc and British sources. Soldiers talk about their experiences in "War Stories: D-Day, Omaha Beach" ($20). The hourlong "D-Day Plus 40 Years" ($25) deals with the commemorative ceremonies held 10 years ago.
The company's catalog also includes all of the "World at War" series, including the Normandy-invasion episode, "Morning" ($30), and all of the "Victory at Sea" series, including the D-Day segment, "Victory at Sea Collection 5" ($25). For information, call (800) 523-0823 or write to Movies Unlimited, 6736 Castor Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19149.
A few fictional films have dealt directly with the Normandy landing, including Paddy Chayefsky's witty 1964 anti-war satire, "The Americanization of Emily," starring James Garner as a pacifist officer who becomes part of a Navy publicity scheme that would make him the first D-Day casualty. It's available from MGM/UA for $20.
The two most famous theatrical films about D-Day, both produced by Twentieth Century Fox, are hard to locate on the tube this year. Both are available on video-cas-sette, although they may take some tracking down. Fox is doing little to re-promote them.
Henry Koster's "D-Day, the Sixth of June," a slow-moving 1956 romantic drama that reduces the Normandy landing to a background story, stars Robert Taylor and Richard Todd as officers in love with the same woman (Dana Wynter).
Darryl F. Zanuck's "The Longest Day" was released on tape some years ago and may be harder to find. But it's widely regarded as the definitive Hollywood film on the subject. Nominated for an Academy Award for best picture of 1962, it won Oscars for its cinematography and visual effects and features many stars in cameo roles - some of them distracting (Fabian, Tommy Sands, Peter Lawford), some quite effective (Red Buttons, Eddie Albert, Curt Jurgens). It was reissued theatrically on the 20th anniversary in 1964, and it used to be an annual June 6 television event.
Question: Can my videotapes be harmed by the X-ray machines in airports?
Answer: There's little risk in submitting videotape to X-rays. Videotape is an electromagnetic medium and, unlike photographic film, is not sensitive to light rays. What can destroy your videos, though, is exposure to strong magnetic fields, which can be produced by electric motors in powerful appliances. Also, avoid putting tapes on top of loudspeakers.
- Do you have a question you'd like answered? Send your queries to Andy Wickstrom, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101.
OTHER NEW VIDEOS
A GEISHA - Kenji Mizoguchi is justly recognized as one of Japanese cinema's greatest figures, and this delicate yet uncompromising 1959 drama shows why. The heroine is a teenage girl whose poverty and family background steer her inexorably toward life as a paid consort for jaded businessmen, despite her reluctance to enter this career, and notwithstanding the supposedly new attitudes toward traditional forms of exploitation that are groping for a foothold in Japan after the World War II years. Mizoguchi tells the story with dignity, restraint and deep compassion, although it doesn't have the full visual power of his very finest works. (New Yorker Films, New York)
- David Sterritt
(Christian Science Monitor)
DEATHFIGHT - After his parents are murdered, Jack Dameron (Richard Norton) is taken by his father's Asian partner and raised as though he were his own son. As an adult, Jack and his step-brother Chang have gone their separate ways and ended up on opposite sides of the law. But when control of the family company is up for grabs, they find themselves pursuing the same goal. Woefully short on plot, the film has a cramped feel. However, the martial arts sequences should more than satisfy fans of that genre. Academy Entertainment, 94 minutes, rated R.
- Richard T. Ryan
(Newhouse News Service)