Das Boot (Blu-ray Review)

I have a confession to make.  I’ve owned several versions of Das Boot (The Boat) throughout the years.  I used to own the director’s cut DVD which ran  209 minutes long.  I even owned the full original uncut version that ran for an even longer 293 minutes on DVD.  Yes, you can say I was a very dedicated fellow when it came to all things Boot. Well, this being Blu-ray and all, it was time to get back on…Das Boot again.  This newly remastered high definition edition of the WWII German film is finally available for all those poor souls who have never journeyed to the bottom of the sea while hell was raining down on them from above…. pretty dramatic, huh?  Take a journey with me to the bottom of the sea if you dare.  


On the eve of a top secret mission aboard a U-Boat, a German crew will first party like it’s 1999 before sailing away to their undetermined fate.  The young crew of comrades are led by the Commander (Jurgen Prochnow).  The boys in the crew are but mere pups and this does not sit will with the thirty year war veteran.  We’re in trouble from the start.   You will also have to keep in mind that the story is told from Lt. Werner’s (Herbert Grönemeyer), point of view.  He is a war correspondent.

After the heavy partying the night before the boys set sail on their mission aboard a U-96.  At this point in WWII the German casualties are piling up, not only in general, but in terms of U-Boat casualties.  The alliance is wiping them out in record numbers.  You can say that this is a suicide mission that the boys will be embarking on.  Their mission is to patrol The Atlantic and destroy an allied armada that will be bringing supplies to Britain.  Sounds easy enough.

Before I go on even further, if you or any loved ones suffer from claustrophobia or fear of small spaces in general, you will not have a good time with Das Boot. It is extremely tense, cramped, and a labyrinth to navigate through.  The cinematography is outstanding and worthy of the Academy Award nomination it received.  I will also say that just because the film takes place under cramped and closed quarters for the majority of its running time, it is anything but boring.  There are various action set-pieces on display here which include some amazing underwater battles with depth charges galore!  In the age before CGI, all of the effects were done on set with models and scale reproductions.  The only hints of optical effects that were apparent were the tiny amount of rear projection footage.  Even then I was only able to tell what it was until the last part of the film.  The craftsmanship that went into Das Boot is staggering to say the least.

Now comes the part where I have to hit you over the head with a bit of  clarification, because I know some people out in the crowd may be saying that why are we supporting a film where the leads or heroes are in fact Nazis?  Why should we care or empathize with these characters?  Well, what’s brilliant about Das Boot is that it is apolitical.  In fact, most of the characters aren’t even Nazis; by this point (in the losing war on the German side) everyone is cynical at their own government.  They do what they do, because it’s their job.  There is no propaganda in Das Boot at all.  It’s brilliant filmmaking, and I’m also pretty sure that Wolfgang Petersen and company were very aware of the possible implications during production.  They did great in not picking a side even though they were telling a story from the German point of view.  Absolutely brilliant!

As you can see by my not-so-quite-generous rating of the film itself (wink, wink), Das Boot is Wolfgang Petersen’s magnum opus, because without having it under his belt he would not have been able to command bigger budgets for even bigger  productions.  If you’re a fan of German cinema, war films, or just a film fan in general, then Das Boot is required viewing.  Das Boot is one of the best war films ever made along with being the DEFINITIVE submarine picture. 


Das Boot is presented in 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen.  This is the best the film has EVER looked besides the original 35mm prints.  Das Boot is thirty years old now, but is very graceful as its aged through these many long years.  I did not notice any dirt or debris.  The film does retain a slight hint of grain through its entirety.  Since the majority of the film takes place underwater in a submarine flesh tones can only look so natural.  Its only during the few instance of the men going up to the surface that you can see how anemic, and pasty they look.  Months underneath the ocean will do that to a man.  The opening of the film is also very bold and colorful as the men celebrate.  The women are dressed to kill.  Just check out the woman in the red dress at the beginning of the film.  The color looks awesome on her.  Okay, so that was the good news.  The bad news, and the reason why it doesn’t get a perfect on the video specs is because the film is very soft.  Not just under water, but the whole thing is soft and hazy.  There is also a tad bit of contrast boosting, but luckily the black levels do not crush.  These are minor faults, and should be no cause for alarm.  Das Boot looks damn good!  Ja!  


Das Boot is presented in DTS HD-MA 5.1.  The theatrical cut is misleading in  that it says it’s 5.1, but is really only in 2.0.  We DID NOT review the theatrical cut, so my accolades are all about the director’s cut.  I’m going to give a bit of a history lesson about the audio.  Wolfgang Petersen shot Das Boot in 1981 using, what was at the time, state of the art cameras and rigs (of cinematographer Jost Vacano’s design).  Not only that, but he filmed in very loud environments, and even during quiet dialogue scenes, the camera gyroscopes were very noisy.  This required Das Boot to be completely dubbed (or looped) over in the studio.  Well, the engineers and sound wizards clearly knew what they were doing, because Das Boot went from being a 1.0 mono track to a full lossless 5.1 mix for this Blu-ray.  And to clarify, it had already been remastered for dvd, but in bringing it to Blu-ray it was “sweetened” up a bit.

Dialogue sounds clean and crisp.  Depth charges make the entire house rumble.  Alarms go off at every turn and through every surround channel.  The depth of field is very impressive!  The ocean waves crash with ferocious intensity you’d think that you would almost get swept away by the water.  I was enveloped in every frame, and felt like I was part of the crew.  Ironically, the most impressive pieces of audio are actual non-audio moments.  The creaking of the gears, gauges, pipes, steam, engines, are all scarier than some bomb that can wipe you out in an instant.  It’s the sense of quiet dread that elevates this amazing soundtrack to reference proportions.

Special Features 

It seems that I have been blessed with Blu-rays that contain some excellent special features as of late.  Remember, if you add special features that create value in my Blu-ray watching experience, you will receive a high score.  This Blu-ray contains a literal horn ‘o plenty of extras.  I’ll try and go down the line.  We have the theatrical cut of Das Boot (along with the director’s cut), audio commentary by Wolfgang Petersen, and several BRAND NEW full length documentaries with Wolfang and his wife Maria (who was  also Assistant Director).  Some of these documentaries contain never before seen behind-the-scenes-footage, and in one instance Maria’s brother (who also worked on the film) makes an appearance in some of the footage.  This is especially touching, because we find out that he passed away many years ago, but that he and Maria Petersen were very close.  There’s just lots of great stuff on this Blu-ray.

  • Audio Commentary with Director Wolfgang Petersen
  • Wolfgang Petersen – Back to The Boat – Documentary
  • Going Deeper – Maria’s Take
  • The Perfect Boat – Director’s Cut
  • Captain’s Tour
  • Inside The Boat
  • The Battle of The Atlantic (1983)
  • Behind the Scenes (1981)

Final Thoughts 

Whew, and I thought I was getting short!  Enough with the heaping praise already, right?  Just a bit more if you don’t mind. Das Boot is a masterpiece in filmmaking and in German cinema. The Blu-ray features remarkable video with an amazing audio presentation.  Das Boot has never looked or sounded better.   Das Boot has cemented itself as one of the best war films of all time.  It’s message is that of neutrality (in terms of political and ideological beliefs), so you can enjoy the picture free of any baggage or preconceived notions.  One thing remains true, and will remain true, until the end of time: No matter what side you are on…war is hell. 



Order Das Boot on Blu-ray!


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

4 Responses to “Das Boot (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Jiminy Critic

    This movie is fantastic! Definitely worth the time investment.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    I love this film and I’m glad to hear that they did a good job with the Blu-ray. I’ll have to pick this one up when I can.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    Yep, you will love the Blu-ray, Sean.

  4. EricW

    I saw it in the theater, and own the Director’s Cut DVD, the SuperBit DVD, the original uncut version DVD, and will most likely at some point buy the Blu-Ray. But I’d LOVE to have the uncut version (my favorite) on Blu-Ray – but I know Peterson has already said “no” to that.

    If you’ve never seen this movie and you have a Blu-Ray player, you MUST buy this movie. Don’t even hesitate.

    (and also buy the uncut 293-minute version, even though the PQ and AQ will suffer in comparison)