Glory (1989)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes
Extras: Picture in Picture Video Commentary, Director’s Audio Commentary, Documentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailers, Talent Files

"Give ‘em hell, Fifty-Four!"

Rising up for another round of hell, Columbia Tri Star offers up a brand spanking new two disc special edition of the Oscar winning Civil War drama "Glory." While the first version of this DVD was noticeably slim in the extra features department, no such injustices are to be found in this new release of a loved and important film, as it has now found a new home on a 2-disc Special Edition.

"Glory" tells the story of the first black regiment to do battle for the North in the Civil War. Lead by a young and seemingly opportunistic Colonel Shaw (Matthew Broderick), this band of run away slaves and few free men, struggle to unite, to prove themselves worthy of battle, and to gain equal treatment and respect in a land where they seem to be free by name only. Shaw must do his part as well, fighting the idea that the regiment he is leading is nothing more than a news blip, a group that will never see battle and only march through streets showing the people of America how progressive the North is. The journey these men take as a collective unit is as big a battle as the ones they ultimately face.

"Glory" is a film that works on every level. With so many elements that stand out, the acting has to take the blunt of the praise. Matthew Broderick shows a dramatic side that I haven’t seen him reach since, and does so with the poise and discipline of a veteran actor, not someone who still very much looks like a young man in this film. Denzel Washington delivers the performance that won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, as the run away slave who’s fighting this war for no one but himself. He has a fire and intensity that absolutely eats up the screen in this film. Cary Elwes and the terrific Andre Braugher also add fine supporting work, but "Glory" stands out in my mind as yet another amazing movie distinctly anchored by yet another amazing performance by Morgan Freeman. Serving as the father of the regiment, Freeman’s character is understated and subtle, yet stern when necessary and every bit worthy of his assumed role in the group. His performance, like the others, is outstanding.

The video of this new "Glory" Special Edition actually looks a lot like the video on the older version. Interestingly, the <$PS,widescreen> and <$PS,full frame> transfers are on the two separate discs which is kind of nice for referencing some of the special features to the actual film itself without having to switch discs. Both transfers are a bit dull and the print suffers from a few specks of dirt here and there, but all one needs to do is merely watch the included theatrical trailer to see how worse this film has looked. The cinematography is terrific and this transfer does justice to it. Could it look even better? Sure, but I doubt most fans of the film will be disappointed by what is provided.

Audio on the disc is presented in both <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> and 2.0 <$DS,Dolby Surround> tracks and is a noted improvement over the previous release. Being a war film, the surrounds and LFE channels handle a lot of activity but one should keep in mind that this is also a war film that was made 12 years ago. The directional effects are impressive, but lack that clear discrete oomph of a film that has a soundtrack specifically designed for 5.1 audio. One thing that is hard to find any fault whatsoever in is James Horner’s terrific score which sounds as good as it ever has on this DVD. I dare anyone to watch this movie and not walk away humming the main theme days afterwards!

Good video, better audio, it’s all plain and well but the main attraction of any re-release is naturally the newly included goodies. While not crammed with material, what’s provided is pretty nice. Both versions of the film feature a running commentary with director Ed Zwick. It’s a tad on the mellow side but there’s some interesting historical lessons to be learned. On disc one, we are treated to an additional video commentary that features Broderick, Freeman, and Zwick, all appearing separately in a small picture in picture window. While one wishes we could see them all interact together, the feature is nonetheless fun for seeing facial expressions, seeing the joy of memories and how much they apparently enjoyed making this film. Freeman, naturally, demands your attention when he speaks here same as he does in the movie itself and really is the standout of this feature.

On disc two, Freeman hosts a lengthy documentary that goes into more detail about the actual 54th Regiment, an excellent historical companion to the fictionalized version. Two short featurettes are also on this disc with one consisting of the reading of actual Civil War letters and the other a very quick behind the scenes look at the making of the film. Two deleted scenes are also included, with optional commentary that explains the fairly obvious reasons of why they ended up on the cutting room floor. Then there is a trailer for the film as well as two other films featuring Denzel Washington. Rounding out the disc are talent files for the cast and crew.

"Glory" is a great film that belongs in every collection. The story, the acting, the visuals, and the score are top notch right across the board. The extra features, particularly the Freeman hosted documentary, make this Special Edition of "Glory" worth trading up for if you’ve already got the previous version. And if you been holding out for this version all along, then your wait is over and you won’t be disappointed. A great movie and a pretty darn good DVD.