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With: Richard Burton, Curt Jurgens, Ruth Roman, Christopher Lee
Written by: Nicholas Ray, Rene Hardy and Gavin Lambert
Directed by: Nicholas Ray
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 102
Date: 08/29/1957

Bitter Victory (1957)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Just Desert

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This 1957 war film caused Jean-Luc Godard to pontificatethusly: "There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting(Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema.And the cinema is Nicholas Ray."

Previously unavailable on video, Bitter Victory shows Ray at the height of his powers, making beautiful use of his black-and-white Cinemascope frame. But unlike his previous widescreen masterworks, Rebel Without a Cause and Bigger Than Life, Ray is unable to reach the emotional depths that the work required. No amount of exquisite framing, timing and cutting could have buoyed the soggy performances by Richard Burton and Curt Jurgens. Burton and Jurgens play commando officers who discover that they are in love with the same woman (Ruth Roman). Lost on a dangerous mission in Libya, the two men psychologically hammer away at one another, subsequently endangering their fellow soldiers. Ray manages a few striking images, such as a scorpion attacking the sleeping men, and a brilliant use of bayonet practice dummies during the opening and closing sequences, but this cast and a turgid screenplay by Ray, Rene Hardy and Gavin Lambert keep it from greatness.

DVD Details: Columbia Tri/Star's gorgeous DVD presents Bitter Victory in all its widescreen, black-and-white glory, but with few extras. I could have used subtitles to make out some of Burton's stiff, British emoting or Jurgens' supervillain accent, but there aren't any. Additionally, the film is presented in its full, uncut 102-minute version, thankfully banishing the edited version to the mists of history. The only real extra is a collection of previews, for Castle Keep, From Here to Eternity and The Fog of War.

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