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The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel

Reviewed by: David Litton
Genre: War
Video: 1.37:1 fullframe
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Language: English, Spanish
Subtitle: English, Spanish
Length: 88 min
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: 05/20/2003
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Commentary: None
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Theatrical trailers
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew: James Mason, Jessica Tandy, Cedric Hardwicke, Luther Adler, Everett Sloane
Written By: Nunnally Johnson
Produced by: Nunnally Johnson
Directed By: Henry Hathaway
Music: Daniele Amfitheatrof
The Review:

"The Desert Fox: The Life of Rommel" chronicles the exploits of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (James Mason), who in the later years of World War II was stationed in North Africa with his Afrika Korps, who remained in power there for some time. Once the path of the war began to shift under the weight of Hitler's steadily-crumbling Third Reich, the lack of attention from Berlin to the Korps begins a growing strain of disenchantment in Rommel for the Führer, which would lead to his involvement in a planned assassination attempt, after which he was to be tried. In the wake of his suicide, he would eventually go onto become one of Germany's most revered military figures. ***

Sounds like pretty powerful stuff, but what comes across in Henry Hathaway's rather dry biopic is an uneven mixture of exciting real-life combat footage and a powerful performance from James Mason, who puts his heart into the character and leaves a lasting impression, even if the end result doesn't come close to working like it should. The screenplay by Nunnally Johnson, based on Brigadier Desmond Young's book, is bland in its presentation of the events of Rommel's life, with the scenes of battle punctuating what would otherwise be a turgid and ineffectual affair. Fans of hardcore war material will undoubtedly find it a necessity, but for me, this "Fox" just doesn't have much zip to it.

Image and Sound

Although not quite as good as the transfer for "13 Rue Madeleine," this image for "The Desert Fox" is an acceptable effort just the same. The presence of actual combat footage provides for a heavy dose of film scratches and dirt marks, while film grain is present in a great many scenes. The black-and-white photography is so-so, with mediocre contrast and shadow detail, while edges remain pretty decent throughout. Not a bad effort, even if it could use a little work. ***

The sound, however, is a bit uneven. Billed as a Dolby 2.0 Mono track, this one bleeds heavily into the front channels, which might seem like a 2.0 Stereo track, actually. In any case, the dialogue sounds pretty harsh, while the sound effects and music are unfocused and brash throughout.

The Extras Nothing to comment on here but two theatrical trailers, one in English, one in Spanish.
Commentary None
Final Words: A fairly uneven attempt to portray Germany's most revered military figure, and the DVD is for fans only.

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May 25, 2003