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Cast a Giant Shadow

Cast a Giant Shadow on DVD

Kirk Douglas stars as an American Colonel dragged into the war that helped create the state of Israel in this fascinating and disturbing historical drama.

Jewish-American Mikey Marcus (Douglas) was a Second World War hero who's having trouble adjusting to life back home in the States. He's experienced a lot of horror, including the aftermath of the Nazi death camps, and it has changed him.

Then the fledgling Israeli army challenges him to advise them and help turn their ragtag force of mostly untrained and ill-eqipped civilians into a real fighting force capable of challenging the well-armed Arabs who surround them and would like nothing better than to push them into the Mediterranean Sea - or worse if given the chance.

The movie starts off slowly, but you get drawn into it and it's hard not to be moved by the bravery and strength of a people who at heart only want a place where they can live in peace.

We don't know how historically accurate this film is (after all, it's a drama and not a documentary), but if nothing else it offers interesting insight into a time and series of events that still affect our world today.

Douglas is excellent as Marcus and the supporting cast are all extremely well cast and totally believable in their roles, especially the lovely Senta Berger as the sensuous Israeli woman to whom Marcus is increasingly attracted as events throw them together, despite is devotion to his American wife (Angie Dickinson).

Also on hand in "guest starring" roles are Yul Brynner as a Jewish military commander desperately looking for a hand up in the conflict. John Wayne crops up repeatedly as "the General," a man who has crossed swords with Marcus before, but who is at heart a compassionate man, and Frank Sinatra plays an American pilot with a streak of derring do who gives the new Jewish army a hand when it needs it the most.

Cast a Giant Shadow is a powerful and moving war drama and we recommend it highly.

The DVD is also very good. The anamorphic widescreen picture (16x9 TV compatible) is excellent. The colors are bright, the image is sharp and the overall effect is a transfer of a film that looks as if it were shot yesterday. It's a real treat to watch this on a widescreen television and we wish all DVD's looked this good.

The Dolby Digital two channel mono audio isn't nearly as good, unfortunately. First of all we would have preferred Dolby Digital mono, which directs the single channel sound to the front center speaker so sounds appear to emanate from the screen. Secondly, we found that there were times (usually during bombardments and the like) when the bass was excessive even though, like the overall audio quality, it otherwise tended to be rather thin.

A lot of DVD's from this era and earlier exhibit substandard sound, however. We suppose the filmmakers just weren't as tuned into audio as many are today. Too bad, but what can you do?

It doesn't detract from the film, fortunately and as often happens with films of this era the old style audio actually helps impart a feeling of the setting and era.

Unfortunately, the only extra on this MGM disc is the original theatrical trailer. We would have loved to have seen some insight into the production and, even better, the time and events portrayed, but such was not to be.

An interesting note: a blurb on the box says that many of the exterior scenes were shot in the locations where they actually happened.

Cast a Giant Shadow, from MGM Home Video
138 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital two channel mono
Starring Kirk Douglas, Senta Berger, Angie Dickinson, James Donald, Yul Brynner, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra
Produced by Mirisch Llenroc Bat Jac
Written and directed by Melville Shavelson


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Updated May 13, 2006