Patton(Fox Home Entertainment, 5.23.2006)
If, like me, you bought the 2-disc special edition of Patton in 1999 and thought you had the definitive DVD of this semi-classic form 1970, you were dead wrong. With no need for additional discs -- that old special edition wasn't as jam-packed as it could have been -- Fox has created a special edition that offers a much more complete historical portrait of the film and its subject. At first glance, disc one may not seem to offer much, but I'd recommend the double dip for this disc alone.
Screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola offers a terrific introduction and an epic commentary over the film's full 3-hour running time. Now 67, Coppola has aged like the fine wine he sells, settling into the role of a wise and level-headed sage. Every word that comes out of his mouth seems well-considered and he has an unsentimental warmth that is tremendously refreshing.
At one point in the film, he notices that an expression in the film has been a popular phrase in his household for years, but he had forgotten its origins. Coppola also points out that he was fired from the film when Fox decided that his script -- particularly its opening -- was too unorthodox. In a strange twist of fate, this scene (and most of Coppola's script) made it to the screen years later and won him an Oscar. Coppola was in the middle of production on The Godfather at the time and he still believes that he would have been fired, if not for this award. Coppola also praises the contribution of co-screenwriter Edmund H. North (who he never worked with), which is most evident in the film's exceptional and historically accurate battle scenes.
Disc two includes two more significant new features that weren't on the 1999 DVD. Patton's Ghost Corps is a 47-minute, interview-heavy documentary, but these aren't just any talking heads. In 2004, 63 WWII veterans from the 94th Infantry Division of Patton's 3rd Army were interviewed in front of a black background, a la Reds. There are some fascinating anecdotes here, but this will appeal primarily to those who consider themselves war and/or history buffs (most fans of Patton probably qualify).
Patton: A Rebel Revisted is a thorough and significantly more engaging 90-minute documentary that deals with "the movie, the myth, and the man." Narrated by Burt Reynolds, this is a surprisingly frank and occasionally critical look at Patton that provides all the background and historical insight found elsewhere on these discs in one tidy package. -- Jonathan Doyle