The Columbia TriStar two-disc DVD release of "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is a truly impressive achievement, not least because the film itself looks and sounds like it was shot in recent years.
The film has been painstakingly restored to create a new print and soundtrack, which has then been digitally remastered onto DVD. The picture is a revelation. It is not possible to fault a disc that offers up a film that had in previous years looked old and worn, now transformed into a fresh and radiant image.
The new 5.1 sound mix offers subtlety and atmosphere, with the rear speakers busy with jungle ambience, and the sub woofer kicking in for the spectacular denouement.
To have the film in such a pristine state is enough for any fan. But disc one offers a few extra treats. The 'Trivia Sabotage' interactive game quizzes you on events in the movie. Answer correctly, and you destroy another segment of the bridge, with the aim being to remove it completely before the train arrives.
While "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is undoubtedly a fine piece of entertainment, it does sanitise the crimes committed against the POWs held in that region. The 'Maps & Military Strategy' feature allows you to move across vital locations along the 'railroad of death', while delivering real historical facts to compare against relevant clips from the movie.
If you want to learn more about the making of the film then disc two should satisfy even the most demanding. The top feature on offer is a 50-minute brand new documentary on the making of the movie. Interviewees include Lean's associate Norman Spencer, camera operator Peter Newbrook, production designer Donald M Ashton, and more. In between 'behind the scenes' footage and photos, their anecdotes build up a fascinating story. The various script problems, the casting (including William Holden's amazing $1m fee and percentage deal), and the building and blowing-up of the bridge among other things, are covered in detail.
Three additional featurettes offer more background footage, and poster buffs will enjoy the collection of images in the 'photo montage'. All this is presented with some wonderful animated menus that really add to the fun.
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Extra Features: Disc One: scene selection, 'Trivia Sabotage' interactive quiz, maps & military strategy, isolated music score, animated menus, multiple languages, subtitles. Disc Two: "The Making of The Bridge on the River Kwai" documentary (50 mins), 'An Appreciation' by John Milius, 'Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant', 'USC short film introduced by William Holden', filmographies, poster and lobby art gallery, trailer, animated menus, DVD-ROM features: screensavers, weblink.