11 March 2009

DVD: "Glory" - Special Edition

Directed by Edward Zwick
Screenplay by Kevin Jarre
Based on the Books "One Gallant Rush" by Peter Burchard and "Lay This Laurel" by Lincoln Kirstein
And the Letters of Robert Gould Shaw
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman
DVD Release Date: 30 January 2001
MPAA Rating: R
List Price: $19.94
Cinescopes Personality Types: Loyal Warrior, Passionate Maverick

The Film
Patrician class Union officer Robert Gould Shaw (Broderick), survivor of the battle at Antietam, accepts promotion to colonel and agrees to command the first regiment of African-American soldiers.  Among the men under his command are Trip (Washington, who earned an Academy Award for this performance) and Rawlins (Freeman), who is made a non-commissioned officer and serves as a sort of liaison between the colonel and his men.

There are two commentaries; an audio commentary by director Zwick and a video commentary that alternates between Zwick and actors Broderick and Freeman.  Disappointingly, Zwick's video commentary is just excerpts from his full-length audio track and the three were not recorded together.  Zwick's insights largely relate to the shooting of each scene; Broderick, the evolution of the film from script to shooting.  Freeman's insights are the most interesting, as he places the events of the film in their historical context.  What I would give to sit in on a history class taught by that guy!

Other features include "The Voices of Glory," in which excerpts from surviving letters from the real members of the 54th Massachussettes regiment are read against a narrative of the events that happened during and after the scope of the film.  Back in the VHS era, Tri Star also commissioned the production of an hour long documentary of the real soldiers and events directed by Ben Burtt and narrated by Freeman; it, too, is included, along with two deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Zwick) and talent files of the principals.  The original theatrical trailer is accompanied by trailers for two other films starring Washington (Devil in a Blue Dress and A Soldier's Story).  This is a two-disc set; disc one has the widescreen version of the film with both commentaries; disc two has the pan & scan version with the audio commentary and the rest of the features.

The Recommendation
Morgan Freeman laments the notion of African-American history being confined to February, arguing instead that "there is just history."  He's absolutely right, and this is a tale that had long gone forgotten by Americans before this film.  Shaw himself was real, and accurately depicted in the film; the rest of the characters are composites of the brave men who enlisted to serve in the War Between the States.  The least we can do for the legacy of these brave men is watch a film version of their story.  Glory is compelling, faithful and holds a permanent place in my top ten favorite films list.

Bonus: the score is James Horner's finest work, ever, and one of the greatest film scores of all time, nominated for an Academy Award and winning a Grammy.

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