Overlord (1975) - Criterion Collection

Genre(s): Drama / War
|| NR - 85 minutes - $39.95 || April 17, 2007
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2007-05-04

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Stuart Cooper
Writer(s): Stuart Cooper, Christopher Hudson
Cast: Brian Stirner, Davyd Harries, Nicholas Ball, Julie Neesam

Theatrical Release Date: NA

Supplemental Material:
  • Co-Writer/Director and Actor Commentary
  • Mining the Archive
  • Capa Influences Cooper
  • Cameraman at War
  • Test of Violence Short Film
  • 2 Audio Files
  • German Calling

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.66)
  • English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.

Overlord tells the story of a young soldier named Tom (who director Stuart Cooper refers to as the "boy next door") who is about to be sent out to fight during World War II. The story is nothing brand new to war films but the unique concept is what makes Overlord such a great film. The concept of Stuart Cooper's 1975 film is actually a very interesting one. It is basically the merging of archival war footage with footage that Cooper shot himself with his cast and crew. I found the film to be extremely fascinating because of how Cooper seamlessly weaves the archival footage with the footage he shoots with his actors and actresses. What makes Overlord such a fantastic film is that the archival footage in no way distracted me from the additions that Cooper filmed later on. The blending of the scenes were linked and well constructed beautifully.

All through the film, Cooper creates dozens and dozens of surreal images to go along with the archival footage. I found myself engrossed in the film because of the surreal qualities Cooper added. Cooper uses real training footage as well as soldiers diaries in order to make the film as accurately as he could. The film is actually shot by Oscar winner John Alcott, who was Stanley Kubrick's cinematographer on A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Barry Lyndon. I believe the film shows the difference between an external and an internal war film. To me, an external film makes it harder to connect with its characters whereas an internal film almost puts you in with the characters. For myself, Overlord feels more external in terms of its characters. I usually connect more with war films like The Thin Red Line which are much more internal films. Nevertheless, I still found Overlord to be as fascinating as The Thin Red Line was to me.

This is basically a war film with out any action scenes which is an unheard of concept when it comes to Hollywood war films. I highly recommend this to people who enjoy war films because it is a totally different concept than what people are accustomed to seeing. Those who consider themselves history buffs will appreciate the fact that Cooper's additions are fantastic and merge with the real footage perfectly.


Overlord is one of the latest additions to The Criterion Collection which is always great news because of the effort Criterion usually puts into all their releases.

The film includes a Commentary from director Stuart Cooper and actor Brian Stirner, who plays Tom. Cooper's commentary is fantastic as he reveals how he was able to create the final product. Cooper mentions that he had to work backwards when making this film. He first used the archival footage, found that location where it was shot and then filmed at that location to blend in with the archival footage. Cooper also mentions the fact that he tried to use the archival footage where it would help his narrative rather than just adding an amazing shot here and there to impress. Cooper also discusses how he had to be specific in choosing his footage because there was 40 million feet of film shot on World War II and 14 million feet of film shot on World War I. Stirner on the other hand provides the perspective of a young actor and his first lead role. He discusses his overall experience of filming Overlord.

Mining the Archive is a featurette that runs about 23 minutes and it focuses on how Cooper was able to use the British and German archival footage. Imperial War Museum film archivists Roger Smiter and Anne Fleming discuss the difficulties and complications in capturing the war footage. We get to see how truly great these war cameramen were in terms of being able to capture film in the midst of war. We also get to see archival footage of the cameramen being trained as to how to film battles. Also included in this extra is 7 minutes of additional D-Day archival material that was shot by service cameramen.

Capa Influences Cooper is an 8 minute extra that shows how legendary war photographer Robert Capa influenced director Stuart Cooper in the making of Overlord. Cooper discusses how Capa inspired him to make his short film Test of Violence and how Capa's blurred and surreal shots inspired him in creating his own shots in Overlord.

Cameraman at War is a 14 minutes of an archival film from 1943 that shows army film units training and attempting to capture images during the war. Again, it is truly amazing to see how these men were able to capture such amazing footage in the midst of war.

Stuart Cooper's first short film "Test of Violence" is also included on the Criterion DVD. The 14 minute film is about the work of artist Juan Genoves. The film won prizes at the Venice, Berlin and Moscow film festivals. It is also the film that led Cooper to direct Overlord.

The DVD also includes "2 Audio Files" of letters and diaries from actual D-Day soldiers. Stuart Cooper offers an introduction to the audio files and actor Brian Stirner reads the excerpts. As Cooper mentions, these diaries became a huge part of the screenplay for Overlord and these specific letters were two of the most influential letters in terms of Cooper coming up with his story.

A propaganda film "German Calling" as well as a theatrical trailer for the film are also included on the DVD. In addition, the DVD includes a 28 page booklet that includes a new essay by critic Kent Jones as well as excerpts from the Overlord novelization written by Cooper himself and Christopher Hudson.


Criterion has created a new, restored high-definition digital transfer of the original film. The new print is as clean as it will ever be, which is great for a film like this. The film is also presented beautifully in 1.66:1 aspect ratio.

The audio transfer is only available in monaural (or Dolby Digital 1.0), which is very common for Criterion DVD's. I found the sound to be one of the strongest aspects of Cooper's film. Listening to the commentary, Cooper mentions the fact that the entire soundtrack had to be created from scratch because the archival footage is mute.


Criterion has yet again put together a fantastic package to add to their already impressive DVD collection. For a film that is so unknown to film audiences, I felt that the Criterion DVD producers did one of their finest jobs in creating extra features. The film itself is a fantastic meditation on war with amazing archival footage woven into footage shot by Cooper himself seamlessly. Though some still complain about Criterion DVD prices, I feel that they are worth buying because of the effort the DVD producers put into each of their releases. After watching this DVD, it just made me wish that Criterion was in charge of making every DVD out there.