December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story

December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story (2001)
Magic Lantern (VCI)
Extras: Newsreels, Movietonenews, Japanese newscast, Commentary track, additional documentary and more

Before going into more detail about this release, let me tell you right off the bat that all the special features and bonus material that are listed on the box are very well hidden on this disc. No, I should say, the feature presentation is exceedingly well hidden among all the other material. In a word, the DVD structure is a mess. The disc makes no separation between the special features and the feature presentation of John Ford’s controversial documentary ’December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story.’ It is all chunked together in one big piece and only the names of the chapter stops give any indication as to what you are seeing at any given time. The fact that the actual documentary is chapter 13 of this mess, gives you an idea how strangely this disc has been compiled. Nonetheless, the content is very valuable, ranging from original newsreel footage, to actual battle film footage, and Japanese newscasts all the way to a separate documentary by Frank Capra and, of course, this feature documentary itself, ’December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story’ paints an incredibly vivid picture of the horrible moments of the attack by Japanese airplanes, as well as the aftermath of the bombing.

Since most of this disc is compiled of original vintage footage, the quality is fairly poor. Blotchy, grainy and jumping all over the place, the image is generally as you’d except from this sort of authentic material. The documentary itself is in slightly better shape, but still scratches and registration problems flaw the presentation. Fortunately this is not of any concern, as viewers are most likely interested in the actual content of the footage and will not expect a high-end presentation. Historic reality comes at a price!

The same goes for the audio, which comes as a narrow-banded mono stream. Noise and distortion prevail for the most part, making it a less than perfect presentation, but once again, the fact that this is mostly original footage, makes these problems appear insignificant.

I wish VCI Home Video had taken a more structured approach to this disc, making supplements and material accessible in a more organized fashion rather than just dumping it all on the disc thoughtlessly. Other than that, for a look at the events form a variety of viewpoints, ’December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story’ is a great archive of footage and information, and the commentaries that are also part of this release add quite significantly to that.