Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/30/00
The Story of G.I.
1945 (2000) - Image
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
108 mins, NR, B&W, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided,
single-layered, Snapper case packaging, newsreel footage of Ernie
Pyle interviewing G.I.s in Italy, gallery of Pyle's actual newspaper
columns, biographical liner notes by James Tobin (author of Ernie
Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness), film-themed menu
screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 1.0
mono), subtitles: none
Story of G.I. Joe is based on the real life experiences
of a war correspondent named Ernie Pyle. Pyle was in his 40s when he
volunteered to ship overseas to cover the Allied invasion of Europe.
What made him different, was that while other reporters covered the
aviators and the officers, Pyle told the story of the common soldier
- the Army G.I.. To accomplish this, Pyle slogged through the mud
beside them, crouched in foxholes with them and ducked the same
bullets as they did. As a result, they respected him immensely. He
told their story vividly, often in their own words, so their loved
ones back home would know of the life they led. And back home,
people were reading in droves. Pyle's reports made him an unsung
hero in the States, and he became one of the most respected
correspondents of the war.
His popularity grew to the point that Hollywood decided to make a
movie about him, while the war was still far from over. Pyle
insisted that the film tell not his story, but that of the men he
reported on. A soldier and actor named Burgess Meredith was sprung
from the Army to play Pyle (at the order of no less than Army Chief
of Staff George Marshall himself). And a young Robert Mitchum was
tasked to play the role of a platoon Captain who leads his men
across the European front.
The story of this film is surprisingly simple. Pyle (Meredith)
simply accompanies the men of Company C into action against the
Nazis, from the deserts of North Africa to the hills of Italy. And
along the way, we get to know and like these men, feeling some of
the emotions of their comrades, as some survive the fighting and
others do not. Meredith is perfect as Pyle, a quiet but likable man,
there by choice rather than by assignment. And Mitchum is
outstanding as the kind-hearted, but war-weary, Captain Walker.
Pyle himself was killed in the Pacific, before the film was
completed, while doing what he did best. This film, along with his
own newspaper columns, serves as an impressive legacy to not just
Pyle, but to the soldiers he stood by through thick and thin. Think
of this film as the original Saving
Private Ryan, with less impressive special effects
perhaps, but no less moving and powerful. It's a simple story, but
then war itself is pretty simple - face death because you must, and
do what you have to to survive.
On DVD, Image has preserved the B&W, full frame picture nicely.
This isn't reference quality video and the print does, at times,
show its age. But it looks as good as it needs to. The audio fares a
little less well, taking on a rather muffled quality occasionally
that makes dialogue hard to discern. But most of the time, the mono
track also suffices just fine.
As far as extras, this isn't a loaded disc. But the quality of what
you get more than makes up for that. To start with, there's a very
good biographical liner notes piece on Pyle on the inside of the
Snapper case. There's also an all too brief (less than 2 minutes)
clip of newsreel footage of the real Pyle interviewing G.I.s in
Italy during the war. But the real treat is a stills gallery
featuring about a dozen of Pyle's actual newspaper columns. These
detail his experiences in the Pacific theater, and chronicle the
invasion of Okinawa, Pyle's encounter with Japanese prisoners of war
and the story of a group of Navaho code-talkers. The last few
columns were published after his death (he had written them ahead of
time). The final story, written by a fellow correspondent, tells of
Pyle's death by sniper fire, and of the Major who stood with him and
retrieved his body. It's a powerful experience to watch this film,
and then to read not only Pyle's last words, but the words of his
comrades as well.
When Image Entertainment asked if I'd be interested in reviewing
this new DVD, I said, "Sure - why not?" Little did I
realize that I was about to discover a true gem - easily one of the
best films ever produced about the foot soldier's experience of
World War II. Thanks to Image for that, and for releasing this film
on DVD. Absolutely don't miss it.