War File, The-The Great War: The Story of WWI 1914-1918 (1997)

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Released 22-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 89:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Andrew Aitken
Rajon Music Group
Rajon Vision
Starring Patrick Allen
Case ?
RPI $9.95 Music Edward Elgar

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    This DVD contains a documentary about the First World War. The documentary covers the entire war, including some background as to the state of Europe prior to 1914, the start and course of the war, the Russian Revolution and the aftermath. It comprises entirely black and white archival footage from the era, plus some animated maps used to illustrate the Schlieffen Plan.

    The programme is narrated by veteran actor Patrick Allen, who seems to have also narrated a series of documentaries on the Second World War. He made a career in British films as a lead or second lead, and also appeared in some American movies (notably Dial M for Murder, his first film). He gets a lot of voice-over work in television because of his mellifluous tones. Having appeared in a number of war movies qualifies him to narrate this programme.

    This programme feels like it is older than its 1997 production date suggests, and the ninety-minute format means that a lot is squeezed in, making any sort of deep analysis of the war something you would need to go to a book for. The war apparently was the result of "German ambition", which is partly true but does not paint the whole picture of the causes of the conflict. I found myself ignoring much of the narration and concentrating on the images, all primary source material. There is something fascinating about watching old footage, and there is plenty of it here. This sort of thing has been done better (the 1996 Judi Dench-narrated BBC series on the war is far superior), but for a few dollars this programme isn't bad. It would have been a lot better if the transfer had been acceptable.

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Transfer Quality


    The programme is in the original 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Apart from a red flower at the very beginning and some arrows, the programme is in black and white. Some footage is slightly tinted. The transfer seems to have been taken from a VHS master, as while it is fairly sharp there is a softness to it that suggests videotape.

    Throughout the image is acceptably sharp, though there are some short clips that seem to have themselves been taken from second-generation video transfers, with considerable softness and lack of detail.

    Contrast levels are variable. Most of the material seems overly contrasted, with a lot of black areas while lighter shades tend to be washed out. This could well be the condition of the source material. The transfer is reasonably bright.

    There are several issues with the transfer to video, mainly in the area of video noise. There is noise of some sort throughout, mostly low level noise and chroma noise. There is also a thin pale band at the extreme left of screen, which probably will not be visible on 4x3 televisions.

    What film artefacts there are would have been present in the original footage, and no attempt at cleaning up or restoring the material seems to have been done. Every sort of film artefact is visible, from scratches and large pieces of debris to dirt and assorted print damage.

    The disc is single layered and has no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 and seems to be mono.

    The real problem with this disc is the audio transfer, which is constricted and distorted. At times the narrator's voice sounds like it is coming from a radio station that is not quite tuned in properly, and at others like he is being slowly strangled. While I was able to discern the dialogue, it was often painful and never a pleasant experience.

    There are some effects, usually crowd noises or explosions that someone has taken from the sound library and superimposed over the narration. Music is also compiled, and is mainly themes from the works of Elgar.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

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

    I have not been able to find any releases of this material in other regions.


    A superficial documentary about the Great War, with plenty of archival footage that it is interesting to see.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is very poor.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, May 27, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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