The Big Red One: The Reconstruction—Warner Brothers

Video: 3
Audio: 4
Extras: 4

Samuel Fuller's quasi-autobiographical World War II drama, named for the symbol of the 1st Infantry, was brutally trimmed for its 1980 theatrical release. Now painstakingly pieced back together and enhanced for modern audiences, The Big Red One is almost 50 minutes longer and hereby revealed as a genuine epic. It's better than ever on every level. We can finally witness one of star Lee Marvin's most richly crafted roles as it was meant to be seen.

The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack flaunts truly discrete surround channels and mighty low-frequency effects. It's an aggressive mix at times, on par with that home theater benchmark Saving Private Ryan. Despite many intense battle sequences, neither a note of Dana Kaproff's evocative score nor a word of the heartfelt dialogue is lost. As presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic, the reintegration of footage is essentially smooth, owing partly to an overall video quality that's sometimes grainy, sometimes hazy, and somewhat inconsistent. There is noticeable overcompression of the 162-minute movie, bolstered by an articulate running commentary from Reconstruction producer Richard Schickel. A loaded second disc is highlighted by a new, all-encompassing documentary about the movie and its restoration, a 2002 Turner Classic Movies profile of Fuller (they just don't make directors like him anymore), 18 alternate scenes, before-and-after comparisons, in-depth analysis of key moments, and quite a bit more. The movie is better than I remembered, and the DVD is even better than I expected.