I had only seen parts of this three-hour long war extravaganza before, snippets on TV or online. Last night was the first time I sat down and watched the whole thing from beginning to end. In my mind, despite being made almost 50 years ago, this movie stands toe-to-toe with Saving Private Ryan or any other war movie made after it's release. Yeah, maybe the "special effects" are dated, and yeah, maybe guys clutching their chests and spinning to the ground when killed isn't as "cool" as a CGI explosion of blood and gore out of someone's chest, but this movie is a MASSIVE undertaking; there were over 23,000 extras in the production of this film, and with a budget of ten million dollars, it was the most expensive black and white movie made up to that point (and the highest grossing).
One of the scenes that really stood out for me is the Assault on Quistreham by the No. 4 Commando, and especially the 177 men of the 1st Batallion of Fusiliers Marins Commandos who were part of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando, who were given the honor of being in the first wave to assault Sword Beach, coming home to defend their country and drive out the Nazis. This scene, with it's almost two-minute long single aerial shot of dozens of commandos fighting and dying along the riverway of Quistreham, riddled with machinegun fire and bombarded by shells, is as "epic" a war moment as anything in SPR, Lord of the Rings, or any other "big battle" war movie. If you've never seen it, here it is:
I think come June 6th I'd like to do another post about The Longest Day, but for now, I'll leave you with this clip to whet your appetite.