MacArthur AKA MacArthur, the Rebel General (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (2nd October 2021).
The Film

MacArthur is a thoughtful look at the life and times of controversial American military leader General Douglas MacArthur. Directed by Joseph Sargent (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three), this celebrated biopic features a hugely authoritative central performance by Gregory Peck, and strong support from Ed Flanders (The Ninth Configuration) and Dan O’Herlihy (Imitation of Life), who play Presidents Harry S Truman and Franklin D Roosevelt, respectively.


Joseph Sargent's solid generally well regarded but minor and largely forgotten biopic war flick about American General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) gets the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse Films. Hopefully this release will rise the film's profile. MacArthur was shot flat (1.85:1) in 35mm with spherical Lenses and Panaflex Cameras by Panavision (Panaflex Camera) in Technicolor. Cinematographer Mario Tosi in conjunction with Sargent utilised a filtered look achieved by Fog Filters, which can be tricky for hime video formats creating a more desaturated look.

Theatrical Version

The main version on this disc is far and away the preferred viewing option because we get the 1080/24p matted widescreen version which presents the filtered film on it's best behaviour and at it's compositional best. The colour palette is simultaneously muted and strong with good delineation although primaries are comparatively rare they can pop on occasion as in the scene where a cherry red car parks next to a ship at approximately 46 minutes or t 56 minutes when Peck's face is flooded with red light. It's deliberately shot in a hazy style designed to evoke a period feel in a way the more elaborate, stylised Patton (1970) was not. Black levels and contrast are balanced perfectly to allow this potentially difficult image harvest to shine with a strong if muted dynamic range.

There's no sign of unintended crush but on occasion - as part of the aforementioned filtered style - we have some flaring, blown-out highlights, primarily in exteriors. Grain is strongly filmic and ever-present and it gets expert handling by the encode. This is easily the best this film has ever looked on home video, at least that I've seen ... possibly since it was made. There's not a speck of damage or or blemish nor signs of any digital tinkering. There are occasional moments of softness but only during optically processed shots; detail is exceptional aided by being shot flat with no anamorphosis. This primary version gets a 'A+'.

1080/24p / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 1.85:1, 1.33:1 / 129:34

Home Video Version

It must be said upfront that this version has been taken from a vintage PAL UK VHS that has been (I think) speed corrected to mimic 24fps (PAL = 24fps) but I stand to be corrected on that score. The image is missing material on either side but gains some top and bottom. The compositionally correct feel of the theatrical cut is lost and everything feels more claustrophobic. The image is incredibly soft; compounded by the fog filters used in production. Colours are fairly drab when set against those in the HD version, detail is muted and it all looks drab. I appreciate it being included for completeness but I would've preferred one of Powerhouse's featurettes that simply compared the differences rather than included this full-length alternate cut and a deleted / alternate scenes package. This version scores D- but is basically an extra so I'm not allowing it to detract from the overall quality grade.

Upscaled 1080/24p / AVC MPEG-4 / 1.33:1 / 128:57


English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (theatrical cut only)
English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

The original mono used in most regional cinemas is an exceptionally strong track that delivers some powerful base during soaring passages of score and during battle sequences. Dialogue is always clear and although it is somewhat flat due to being what it is it's as good a mono track as I have ever heard, certainly from a film from the late '70s.

The 5.1 upmix is based on the 2.0 stereo track used in prestige engagements; IMDB lists the film as being made in stereo which at the time was comparatively rare. The first Dolby Stereo productions had bee the two Ken Russell classics Tommy and Lisztomania a mere two years previous. It retains the robust quality of the 1.0 but spreads everything out expertly around the soundstage consequently it doesn't beat you over the head as forcefully as the 1.0 but has greater resonance, range and depth. The surrounds are very active for a production from 1977 although by today's standards it's a front heavy track only really expanding during action and combat scenes. Nonetheless, it's a top notch presentation; 'A+'.

We also have the usual and typically meticulous subtitles for the hearing impaired.


Audio Commentary with Steve Mitchell and Steven Jay Rubin (2021)

Mitchel and Rubin seem to get most of the gigs discussing war films, especially WWII films; the last one I heard was Powerhouse's Force 10 from Navarone. Both have a history with the subject and have published books on it. They start off discussing their memories from the time of first release and their mixed feelings towards the film and from there the cast, crew, history all get a look-in. Lots of detail and n excellent track. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

"General Disposition: Joseph Sargent on Gregory Peck and MacArthur" 2021 featurette (4:13)

Sargent died in 2014 so this brief but fine featurette utilises footage from a vintage interview conducted by Jeremy Kagen. It's most interesting in it's discussion of Peck and his insecurities and approaches to the role. Sargent also gives us his potentially controversial views on the real MacArthur. Although overall framed 1.78:1 and presented 1080/24p film clips are 1.85:1 and Sargent's bits are 1.33:1. Lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Pathé Newsreels (Play All - 16:19):
- "A Tribute to MacArthur" (1942) (2:41)
- "MacArthur in Australia" (1942) (0:50)
- "MacArthur Returns to the Philippines" (1944) (4:39)
- "MacArthur Steps Down" (1951) (2:03)
- "MacArthur Addresses Congress" (1951) (5:25)
- "MacArthur Honored on 75th Birthday" (1955) (0:38)

A fascinating and welcome clutch of vintage newsreels presented in 1080/24p 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Theatrical Trailer (2:51)
Radio Spots (with Play All option) (2:04 in total):
- Radio Spot #1 (0:30)
- Radio Spot #2 (0:30)
- Radio Spot #3 (0:34)
- Radio Spot #4 (0:30)

The vintage trailer is presented in upscaled standard def 1080/24p 1.33:1. The sound on the trailer and the radio spots are presented in LPCM 1.0.

MacArthur Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (71 images)

Meaty HD gallery.

36-page liner notes booklet by Robert Matzen, archival articles on the film and events that inspired its screenplay, an overview of critical responses, and film credits

The usual superb hardcopy companion; a trenchant example of how to create an accompanying booklet.


Standard clear BD case favoured by Powerhouse Films.


A largely forgotten WWII biopic flick gets rediscovered and presented in a definitive home video edition from Powerhouse Films in the UK. Image and sound on the main presentation are as good as we can expect and taken from excellent source elements. Extras are not as comprehensive as with some other Powerhouse Editions but are still well up to expectations with an alternate version of the film commentary, featurette and a collection of vintage newsreels bout this film's subject. An excellent and highly recommended release; essential for fans of Peck and film buffs in general.

The Film: B Video: A+ Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: A


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