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Patton’ released on a four-star special edition

Marty Schroeder | Tuesday, April 3, 2007

With one of the most famous opening monologues in the history of the cinema, “Patton” begins as its namesake lived: fierce and calm, pious and callous, genius and insane. When Patton says, “When you stick your hand into a pile of goo that a moment ago was your friend’s face … you’ll know what to do,” a primitive fierceness easily convinces the audience that nothing more brilliant could ever be said.

And so opens 20th Century Fox’s newest DVD release of the Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed “Patton” as part of its Cinema Classics Collection. Starring the surly George C. Scott in one of the finest roles of his career, this film is less about the war it portrays than how one man deals with that war. A controversial figure in American military history, George S. Patton was one of the most brilliant, crazy, loved and hated figures to emerge from World War II.

Scott lives this role and emerges victorious not only on the battlefields of Ardennes and North Africa but also in the Academy Awards where he won (and infamously declined) the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. With panache and gusto, Scott’s Patton is one of the most memorable American war film roles. While Tom Hanks was marvelous in “Saving Private Ryan,” few actors deftly live a character like Scott does. With aplomb and his own rough-and-tumble grace, Scott becomes Patton.

“Patton” also stars Karl Malden as the professional, look-before-you-leap General Omar Bradley. Similar to the situations of the characters portrayed, Malden’s placid Bradley lives in the shadow of Scott’s churlish Patton. However, this does not stop Malden from reveling in the role. He is the perfect counter to Scott – their arguing and pleading characters form one of the best duos in any film.

The film is shot in a beautiful 2.20 to 1 widescreen that allows director Franklin Schaffner to visit the ominous deserts of North Africa and the imposing forests of France in all their natural glory. It also provides for the best opening scene in the latter half of the 20th century.

Schaffner’s direction, Fred Koenekamp’s photography, Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North’s screenplay and Scott and Malden’s acting make this film a must-have for aficionados of history and the cinema.

The DVD release marks the first time a special edition of this film has been released – and 20th Century Fox has spared no expense for a film that truly deserves it. The film transfer is top-notch, the 5.1 sound is truly surrounding and the extras are insightful and plentiful. “The Making of ‘Patton'” documentary is a true gem that explores what Schaffner and crew went through to make this film. There are also historical documentaries that compliment the film nicely along with an audio commentary by famed filmmaker and “Patton” screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola, which gives a new and interesting perspective on this film.

Released in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam War protests, this movie is still relevant in more contemporary situations. When Patton famously declares that America will never lose a war, the phantoms of Vietnam and the quickly developing skeletons of Iraq materialize. This glorious and vainglorious man only knew happiness in battle, and this film deserves all of the laurels it has ever received.