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The World at War

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 11-09-2010


Product Description
More than 30 years after its initial broadcast, THE WORLD AT WAR remains the definitive visual history of World War II. Narrated by Academy Award winner Laurence Olivier and digitally re-mastered for DVD, this is epic history at its absolute best. Unsurpassed in depth and scope, its 26 hour-long programs feature an extraordinary collection of newsreel, propaganda, and home-movie footage drawn from the archives of 18 nations, including color close-ups of Adolf Hit… More >>

The World at War

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Comments (5)

Assuming that a filmmaker can’t go on indefinately, let’s say making a history of World War II in hundred or more hours of videotape, Jeremy Isaacs has done a masterful job of capturing the essense of World War II, including its causes and the Cold War that evolved out of its conclusion.

Please note, “The World At War” was produced between 1971 and 1974, which means the interviews with veterans and other war survivors were filmed close to thirty years after the conclusion of World War II.

I watched much of this series when it was first telecasted in the 1970s, and continued to view reruns of programs over the last 25+ years. I had thought that I had seen every episode two or three times, but after finishing the complete DVD collection, I’m pretty sure I completely missed some programs and saw only bits-and-pieces of others.

What a tremendous production. Beautiful reproduced on DVD, with excellent color and superb graphics (maps).

I especially appreciated the opening special, “The Making of…” with producer Jeremy Isaacs, as well as Isaacs’ brief introductions to each of the 26 programs. I only wish he had prepared similar introductions to the supplementary material on Discs 4 and 5, but you can’t have everything.

“The World At War” is hundred times better than the typical fare found on A&E, The History Channel, and even PBS. That’s not to say that quality productions are not being made today, but Jeremy Isaacs’ production is just plain better than most things regularly scheduled documentaries on cable and broadcast television.

Special mention must be made of the music by Carl Davis and the writers, who are too numerous to mention. Everyone familiar with this series knows the contribution of Sir Laurence Olivier, definitely the finest documentary narration I’ve ever heard.

As an American, I particularly appreciate the British perspective, which offers a different view of the breath, scope and horror of the war. The series really puts the current War on Terrorism in perspective.

The supplementary material begins with an extended interview/commentary by Traudl Junge who served as Hitler’s secretary. She’s a fascinating person, speaking calmly and thoughtfully about her former employer, especially the events leading up to his suicide.

There is an equally interesting interview with historian Stephen Ambrose, filmed in the early 1970s. While looking 25+ years younger, Ambrose sounds almost the same as he does today during his numerous C-Span and PBS appearances.

The most fascinating of the eight hours of supplementary material are the programs dealing with the Death of Adolf Hitler and the extended two part examination of the Final Solution.

Thank you, Amazon, for making this wonderful documentary so accessible.

For those of you contemplating this major expediture, you won’t regret purchasing this landmark visual/aural history of World War II.

And remember, this DVD collection will be available for your children and grandchildren.
Rating: 5 / 5

When investing in any DVD, especially a boxed set, you might ponder the question, “How often will I watch this?” Let me say that your purchase of The World at War will offer you endless viewing opportunities! Besides the 26 original episodes, all of the extra features that were produced afterwards are included in the set. There is so much information generated in over 30 hours of material that you will discover something new with each repeated viewing. Each episode will hold your attention from first to last, and they are efficiently indexed so you can easily review a map or replay a speech. Along side the emotional impact of the pictorial images, you have Carl Davis’ moving score, a judicious use of period music, personal accounts from all the major powers, and Sir Laurance’s strong narration, making this the most comprehensive documentary on the subject. Now if we can only have World War I, narrated by Robert Ryan, available, we would have the documentary bookends to the two most devastating wars in the 20th century.
Rating: 5 / 5

For History buffs and those who have a keen, deeply felt interest in World War II beyond just the military events, the World at War, produced by Thames Television (1981) and released earlier on VHS by Thorn/EMI, is a 26 episode documentary set apart from all other documentaries about WWII. No other, with the exception of Walter Cronkite’s CBS series, comes close to an unbiased, analytical perspective of a War that cost perhaps 50 million lives and took an emotional and philosophical toll we are still trying to comprehend today.

Narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier and covering all aspects of the war, this definitive series is used by many colleges and universities as a source for History and Documentary Film courses. There is an incredible depth of archive footage used; skilfully woven with interviews of major figures in the War from Britain, US, Canada, Europe and Japan. Many major eye-witness leaders and ordinary people who were still alive in 1981 contributed sometimes surprising, sometimes incredible, and sometimes haunting interviews. Yet, for all its skilful editing and historical sophistication, it is clearly presented and emotionally compelling. In my opinion, it is, along with Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation”, the best ever produced British documentary.

What makes this a stellar and overpowering account of the War is Olivier’s narration. Never blustery, patriotic, or theatrical, Sir Laurence delivers pointed, thoughtful analysis with his incredible command of English and oration. Music for the series was composed by Carl Davis and even the opening credits set an unforgettable tone in a haunting image of a child in a photograph, dissolving in flames. This series is for those trying to make sense of a 6 year period when the world went mad. Five Stars PLUS.
Rating: 5 / 5

I very much regret A&E Home Video chose to do an extremely amateurish job of producing The World at War (30th Anniversary Edition). Laurence Olivier’s fine narration is barely audible during the initial ten or twelve seconds of many episodes, a situation which could and should have been corrected by A&E Home Video; and at the end of every episode the viewer of this product is instantaneously clobbered with a way-too-loud blast of recently-included advertising, something A&E Home Video could and should have moderated.

This brilliant television series deserved better. Thankfully, excellence of material far outweighs those errors A&E Home Video committed in producing the boxed set; but they are none the less aggravations which distract the viewer and hence detract from this release’s expected quality.

My rating of three stars is the best compromise I could think of, between the one-star rating A&E Home Video deserves and the five-star rating I’d give the television series itself. One wonders, doesn’t one, why no quality control was implemented prior to release of this product?
Rating: 3 / 5

Rarely does a documentary hold a viewer enthralled from start to finish, a feat which The World at War accomplishes from the opening sequence through the closing credits. The definitive film documentary of the second great global conflict, this production is first rate in every aspect. Archival footage, insightful interviews, intelligent editing and the classic narration of Sir Laurence Olivier are welded into a powerful video production focussed on presenting a visual record of the war as opposed to an editorial commentary.

Obviously, this is a British production which leans somewhat sympathetically toward the English view of the struggle and concentrates on the European Theater of Operations. However, interviewees include representatives of all the major powers, and even relatively minor theaters of operation (such as Burma, India and others) are covered.

The full range of expected topics are included; the period leading to war, Blitzkrieg in Poland, the Battles of Britain and the Atlantic, the Holocaust, Barbarrosa and the Atomic Bomb, naming only a few.

The individual episodes are taut and compact, covering well-defined topics and timeframes, and work well as individual programs or, as they were intended, components in a larger picture. Much of the footage is actual combat photography; therefore much is black and white and some has less than perfect production value. However, this only adds to the overall impact of the presentation.

There is no attempt to glorify the combat, lionize or villify any of the participants, or to second-guess leaders. Events are depicted as they developed and, where tactical or strategic misjudgements are indicated, they are usually pointed out by persons actually involved in the planning or execution to the operations.

The World at War is a straight-forward, sobering examination of the central event of the twentieth century. No serious student of history should miss seeing it, and no student of military history should fail to include it in his or her video library.
Rating: 5 / 5

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