MacArthur (1977)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Gregory Peck, Ed Flanders, Dan O’Herlihy
Extras: Trailer, Production Notes, Cast & Crew Bios

The crucible of World War Two forged a number of powerful and memorable personalities. But one has to wonder what would have become of the likes of Patton, Rommel, and Monty if that great conflict hadn’t arisen to give them their time in the sun. Few of the great leaders to emerge from WWII arouse as much controversy as General Douglas MacArthur. At times brilliant, the general was also egotistical to a fault and few who fought alongside of him remained neutral in their assessment of the man.

1977’s ’MacArthur,’ starring Gregory Peck, is a biography of the general directed by Joseph Sargent. The film is bookended by General MacArthur’s appearance at West Point in 1961 in which he offered his famous ’Duty, Honor, Country’ speech. Walking among the Corps of Cadets, the aging general recalls a life filled with both triumphs and tragedies. From Bataan to Inchon, MacArthur’s military feats are shown in all their glory. But so too does the film give equal time to the flaws of character that ultimately led President Truman to dismiss the general in 1951.

’MacArthur’ is presented in anamorphic widescreen and is framed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture is by no means spectacular but it is decent enough. The overall look is somewhat soft and both colors and black levels are muted. The image is also a bit on the dark side and features a fair amount of film grain. But the film elements appear to have been in good shape as there are only minor nicks and blemishes to mar the transfer. This looks like a film that was shot in the 1970s and no amount of work is going to change that.

Audio comes in an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix. As to be expected, dynamic range is quite restrained with no deep bass and some distortion at the high end. Dialogue is always clear but the music and sound effects are a bit too loud in comparison.

’MacArthur’ is a fairly even-handed account of the life of the controversial general. Gregory Peck is solid as usual as are the supporting cast members. But overall the movie feels rather flat and never quite rises above its subject matter like, say, ’Patton.’ This is a history text reproduced on the screen and, while certainly entertaining and engaging, no new insights into the true character of General Douglas MacArthur are offered.

Universal’s new DVD release features adequate video and audio but this is the type of film that practically begs for some insightful bonus features. There are more than enough MacArthur scholars around who would have been pleased as punch to offer their thoughts on the man and a few such informed observations would have gone a long way toward fleshing out the overly neutral tone of the film.