Victory at Sea (1954)

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Released 23-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 73:32 (Case: 98)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Donald B. Hyatt
Studio
Distributor
Warner Vision
Warner Vision
Starring Alexander Scourby
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Richard Rodgers


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Victory At Sea was originally a television documentary produced in 1952 as 26 half hour episodes. What we have on this locally released disc is not this complete series but an edited version that was created in 1954 apparently for theatrical release. I have never seen the original series and even before investigating the origin of this documentary I already had the feeling that the material presented on this DVD lacked a certain substance and depth. Certainly it didn't live up to the quote on the front cover which is attributed to Esquire Magazine and which tells us that "You will weep, we assure you, when you see it, but what is really important - you will be unashamed!" This is without doubt a very big claim and perhaps it applies to the complete series rather than this cut down effort. While I am certainly not a big viewer of World War II documentaries, nonetheless the material was interesting to watch and succeeded in holding my interest for the entire running time. In general though I think that this title will have limited appeal and will probably only attract those fascinated by war history.

    Content-wise we are presented with film footage of many well known and significant events of WWII, which despite the title includes many events that have nothing to do with the sea. Footage presented includes the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the battle for Guadalcanal, the North Africa campaign, the Atlantic convoys and U-Boat wolf packs, Japanese Kamikaze pilots, the atomic bomb aftermath in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, D-day, and the Japanese surrender, amongst others.

    Obviously there are no actors but the material includes vision of  many historical figures including Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Hirohito and Benito Mussolini amongst many others both well known and not so well known. Narration is provided by Alexander Scourby.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a compilation of actual war footage and as such the presence of all manner of film artefacts is pretty much to be expected. In a movie this would be completely unacceptable but for this material it adds to the realism of the material. After all, war is terrifying, it's gritty and it's dirty, even more so in this era than today when you can launch your missiles and smart bombs from a nice clean control room a long way from the actual action. So what're a few scratches and blotches in the annals of war?

    The picture is presented in its native full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio and consequently no 16x9 enhancement is necessary.

    The sharpness is very variable and ranges from soft at one end of the scale to noticeably out of focus at the other. The shadow detail also varies from poor to good but can be fairly described as always adequate. No low level noise was evident in the transfer.

    All of the material is in black and white and utilises an adequate grey scale.

    As mentioned before there is no shortage of film artefacts including black and white marks in all shapes and sizes, what appears to be water damage, reel change marks, hairs, long vertical scratches and film grain. These are basically present throughout the entire production. On the positive side I didn't note any compression artefacts and there was only some minor aliasing to be seen.

    No subtitles have been provided on this disc.

    As this title utilises a single layer DVD5 disc there is no layer change to interrupt your viewing.

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

Audio

    A single audio track is provided on this disc, with this being English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The narration was always quite clear and understandable thanks to the excellent elocution of Alexander Scourby, despite the significant level of hiss, which is quite noticeable at normal listening levels and is present throughout. The audio was also afflicted by the occasional crackle and distortion.

    Audio sync is not a problem with this transfer as all the spoken content is provided by the narrator.

    The music, composed by Richard Rodgers, of Rogers and Hammerstein fame, was both touching and dramatic as required by the visuals. Occasionally it became, to my mind at least, a bit strident and over-dramatic but for the most part complemented the visual content perfectly.

    For this mono sound track the surrounds, and for that matter all channels, get to have the night off.

    As far as I could determine from my listening position the subwoofer was completely silent.

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

Extras

    Extras? What extras!

Menu

    The menu is presented in colour in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and features neither animation nor audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc doesn't appear to be available in Region 1. However, there are two multi-disc sets with the same title available which contain the complete TV documentary from 1952 - a Region 1 four disc set and a Region 4 six disc set. If  your passion is World War II history then nothing short of the full series is likely to satisfy you. If you want the brief version then this is the version of choice for you.

Summary

    Victory At Sea  is an interesting compilation of footage from World War II. It provides a brief overview of some of the most well known events of the war but real World War II buffs will find the content of this disc much too superficial and opt for the complete series which is also available.

    The video quality shows its age and is quite poor primarily because the source material is badly afflicted with all manner of film artefacts.

    The audio quality is adequate but also shows its age and is afflicted with significant hiss.

    There are no extras provided on this title.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Monday, January 12, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-655A [SACD & DVD-A], using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
I gave my copy away - Noel
I'd like to see a review of the entire series - Lipschitz
Re: I'd like to see a review of the entire series - TurkeyTom
ABC TV showed the series a few years ago - John T