Das Boot (Blu-ray)
“40,000 Germans sailors served on U-boats during World War II.
30,000 never returned.”
This statistic is absolutely staggering. To think that one’s survival rate when going into a submarine is a mere 25 percent is astonishing but after submerging myself into the 208-minute director’s cut of DAS BOOT (although the shorter 149-minute theatrical version is an option), I quickly realized it was a miracle anyone ever survived. DAS BOOT is a riveting look at the claustrophobic and nearly hopeless conditions these men went through.
During World War II, German U-Boats were engaged in the Battle Of The Atlantic with the British. But the English shipping that the U-Boats are sent to destroy are heavily escorted by actual Destroyer ships, which by the shocking numbers above you can see the Germans were losing. DAS BOOT follows Captain Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow) and his crew as they man the underwater vessel through the treacherous sea.
The amount of men it takes to keep a U-Boat running in such cramped conditions for so many months at a time is an amazing feat. Adding to that trial, they must avoid depth bombs deployed by the enemy ships they are attacking. If that isn’t enough hardship, there is only one toilet and nothing but moldy food to eat. Director Wolfgang Petersen (who later did THE NEVERENDING STORY, AIR FORCE ONE, TROY and many others) does an incredible job of putting the audience right there with these men. You can feel the cramped walls and the minimal amount of air surrounding them as they quietly await for the affects of the next bomb that will surely detonate near them any second. The tension is unrelenting as we learn every nook and cranny of these underwater tanks.
Perhaps the film is too long but it helps create the time span for these men who start off clean shaven and well dressed to dirty and wet from leaking water and their own sweat with full untrimmed beards as the months go by. Following a core group of men including a correspondent who is almost as unknowing as we are sent to record the mission, an experienced Chief Engineer, a by the book Lieutenant and a few other officers and sailors, they all have distinct personalities that keep us invested. But Jürgen Prochnow is mesmerizing as the captain, bringing an experienced wisdom that reveals commanding strength and an understanding concern.
Receiving Academy Award nominations for Director, Cinematography, Sound Effects Editing, Film Editing, Sound, and Adapted Screenplay, DAS BOOT is hailed by some as one of the best War films ever made. Since then, many submarine films including have been made such as the much more flashy and entertaining U-571, however there is something to be said for the original U-boat film that went to great lengths to capture the real danger and fear that went into commanding these underwater vessels.
Director’s Cut and Theatrical Versions
Video: (1080p 1.85:1) This is cleaned up and transferred better than you could ever imagine.
Audio: (German, English 5.1 DTS-MA) This is perfect for showcasing exactly what Blu-ray and surround sound was built for hearing every sonar, echo and explosion. They actually went back and rerecorded many of the sounds for the director’s cut.
Commentary with Director Wolfgang Petersen: Actor Jürgen Prochnow and producer Ortwin Freyermuth are there as well but Wolfgang Petersen does the majority of the commentary. He is passionate and insightful, never without something to say.
Wolfgang Petersen-Back to the Boat Documentary (44:46): The director takes a look back at the film with different crew and actors. The revisit the locations and submarine from which the film was shot. This is a full package that fans of the film will really enjoy.
The Perfect Boat: Directors Cut (13:02): The producer and director explain why and how they decided to do the director’s cut version and the upgrading of sound and video. This is pretty impressive showing before and after shot of the versions.
Maria’s Take (9:16): Assistant Director Maria Petersen gives her viewpoint of the filmmaking process with her husband director Wolfgang Petersen.
Captain’s Tour – Inside The Boat (8:12): Actor Jürgen Prochnow takes a couple of minutes in each area of the submarine explaining its purpose. This is a neat overview to familiarize oneself with the submarine.
Behind the Scenes (1981) (1:00:20): Fully narrated, this documentary is an in-depth look at the making of Das Boot. This shows how they used small models to film the underwater scenes and at times simple firecrackers to create underwater explosions.
The Battle of the Atlantic (1983) (40:16): A German documentary covering the history of the battle from which Das Boot is based on. This uses actual footage of sinking ships from the battle and will be appreciated by any history buff.