Hitler: The Rise of Evil (Magna) (2003)

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Released 3-Sep-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-"Reflections of Evil"
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 176:53 (Case: 179)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (87:33)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Christian Duguay
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Robert Carlyle
Stockard Channing
Jena Malone
Julianna Margulies
Matthew Modine
Liev Schrieber
Peter Stormare
Friedrich von Thun
Peter O'Toole
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Normand Corbeil


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Adolf Hitler. A name that brings instant images of World War II and the atrocities brought upon millions of innocent people, including the millions of Jews who faced genocide in the Nazi leader's execution of "The Final Solution" in the death camps. But how did Hitler grow up to become one of the most evil, feared, and hated men in history? This made-for-television mini-series sets out to chronicle just how Hitler rose from the ranks of failed artist and World War I soldier to leader of the powerful Nazi party.

    Born in Austria in 1889, there is so little known about the young Adolf that he is already 10 years old as the opening credits start and his mother Alois (Stockard Channing) is dead before the same credits end, just as Adolf turns 14. A sickly boy who had constant lung trouble that prematurely ended his studies, he had a passion for art but was twice rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art because his drawings lacked passion. He scrapped together a meagre existence selling his paintings before moving to Munich in 1913. He served in the Great War, rising to the rank of Lance-Corporal, where blinded by mustard gas he won two Iron Crosses for bravery (even though he was effectively just a message runner).

    It was after World War I that Hitler started to show his political skills. He joined Anton Drexler's German Workers Party, and found that his innate speaking skills had people listening to him. Within months he deposed Drexler as leader of the party which was renamed the Nationalist Socialist German Worker's Party or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP). This party of course became much better known as the Nazi Party. Speaking his mind on social, economic, and racial matters with great passion it was from here his power grew. After a failed uprising and some months in prison for treason, he still had many wealthy backers and supporters. On his release from prison he campaigned vigorously on the back of a vast and growing propaganda machine which include newsreels and his own newspaper. Slowly gaining numbers in the German parliament he eventually usurped the German Chancellor, Hindenburg (Peter O'Toole) and turned Germany into a one party totalitarian state. By 1938, the military was back in full force, and with the invasion of Poland in 1939, the rest, as they say, is history.

    This mini-series attempts to chronicle Hitler's rise to power, from his early years in the German army through to the death of Hindenburg and his subsequent rise to leader of the country. The producers had some difficulty it seems right from the start. This is a pretty touchy subject for many people in Europe and of course the Jewish people. It met with howls of protest from both sides of the Atlantic, with many people stating any attempt at portraying Hitler's life would show him to be more human than many like to believe, and possibly even having a gentle and nice side. The casting was also troublesome. Robert Carlyle had been chosen to play Hitler in a rival BBC production, but this was cancelled. He was still keen to play Hitler and was soon offered the role in this production, on the proviso that his accent was authentic (he is a Scot after all). When the backers heard his Austro-German effort they deemed it too good and asked that he tone it down to more of a mid-Atlantic style (whatever that is). This should have set alarm bells ringing for the director. The whole production reeks of a 'we don't want to offend anyone with this sensitive material' mantra.  The supporting cast is large in number, but most of the characters are so one-dimensional they are either black or white in their support, and they add precious little to the plot.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall, this is a pretty decent video transfer, that while not eye-poppingly brilliant is quite serviceable and without major fault. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is quite sharp and detailed with only a few minor traces of edge enhancement and a little halo ringing around Robert Carlyle's Hitler at 63:28 when he is standing in front of a bright red Nazi flag. There are no problems with shadow detail, of which I am thankful as there are plenty of dimly lit scenes where problems could have arisen. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are somewhat subdued, but the ones that matter are well rendered and quite bright. The solid and foreboding red of the Nazi flag and the absolutely horrible light brown of the SA Brown Shirts are the highlights of the colour palette here. Skin tones are consistent and blacks are solid.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts, and thankfully the transfer is free from any aliasing or other film-to-video artefacts. I noticed a handful of small spots in the form of film artefacts, but these are barely worth worrying about.

    Unfortunately as is the case for many of the smaller distributors, this release features no subtitles.

    This is a dual layered disc that is formatted RSDL. The layer change occurs at  87:33. About a second and a half later would have made the placement perfect as there is a scene fade. This placement isn't bad as Robert Carlyle does remain motionless right at the layer change point, but it is noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort encoded at the superior bitrate of 448 Kb/s. Despite the presence of one very obvious fault, I was suitably impressed by it. It is a solid, dynamic, and powerful soundtrack that will offer much for those of you with full 5.1 channel setups. There is ample surround activity and heaps of movement across the front soundstage. The only problem occurs at 38:21 when there is a very obvious dropout in the score that lasts around half a second.

    The dialogue is perfectly balanced, clear, and easily understood. It is very prominent in the overall soundtrack, and there are no problems with audio sync.

    The score is credited to Normand Corbeil and is quite stirring and foreboding at times, though does not offer much over the many similar scores that have come before it.

    There is plenty of surround channel use. During many of the beer hall gatherings and other scenes where vast crowds are gathered there is consistent and sustained surround use. The subwoofer is likewise used effectively throughout to emphasis the heavy and dramatic score and whenever the action picks up on-screen.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

Featurette - Hitler and I: Reflections of Evil

    Not a true making-of or a behind-the-scenes featurette in the normal mould, this is really a true documentary on the production itself. It was made by an outsider to the production, a documentary director named David Cherniack. Running for 52:01 minutes, it chronicles the problems associated with even getting the production off the ground, the wave of controversy that was sparked because of it, and the toning down of the content in order to make it more palatable for US audiences. Interesting if perhaps a little dull at times, there are plenty of behind the scenes shots and interviews with the director, producers, and a few of the stars, but none of them are in a promotional sense.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc is not yet available in Region 1. The Region 2 offering is to be released in late October 2003 and from what information I can find that release contains only the mini-series and a trailer. I'll update this section when I find more accurate information.

Summary

    Hitler - The Rise Of Evil is not without fault, but it does chronicle an important part of history that often gets overlooked. From a purely historical point of view it is certainly worth a look. From a dramatic and entertainment angle, it is disappointing, labouring for too long on certain aspects and getting bogged down with some of the detail at the expense of keeping the story moving. Robert Carlyle does a sterling job as Hitler despite his mid-Atlantic accent. The other characters are simply too one-dimensional to be really make an impact. This whole thing could have been so much better had the producers and those financing the whole thing not been so intent on offending no one and toning down much of the story.

    The video is adequate, not quite perfect or eye-poppingly vibrant, but it does the job without major flaw.

    The audio is very nice indeed. The soundtrack is powerful, crisp and clear with only one tiny fault marring an otherwise near perfect audio experience.

    The extra is quite hefty and does offer more of a documentary feel than most of these sorts of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Sunday, October 05, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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