Warlords (2005)

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Released 6-Feb-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 194:37 (Case: 200)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Simon Berthon

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

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

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

Plot Synopsis

    Anyone brought up in the long shadow of World War 2 will probably feel that there is little more to be said on the subject. After all, every aspect of every battle has been portrayed in documentary form as well as in feature films. To truly grip the imagination a documentary about WW2 needs to have a fresh angle.

It is therefore pleasing to report that Warlords, a four part British documentary series, has such an angle. Whilst the honour roll of key players remains the same this series manages to look at the same information from a different viewpoint. It does so by matching up the world leaders and looking at how they fought, lied, flattered and strategised with each other. Each episode therefore gives a one on one analysis of the relationships between the two men.

The four episodes are:

1. Hitler and Stalin. (48.33)
2. Churchill and Roosevelt.(48.45)
3. Churchill and Stalin.(48.41)
4. Roosevelt and Stalin.(48.38)

It is perhaps not surprising that Stalin dominates. It is a common idea throughout the series that the wily Russian was the centre of the universe for several crucial years. To Hitler he was the best hope for avoiding a war on two fronts, which is exactly why Churchill wrote to Stalin brandishing an olive branch on more than one occasion during the 40's. To Roosevelt he was the friend of the future.

The decision to feature one on one is inspired as it allows for a clear and cogent guide to the private battles of these men which was reflected in the important and sometimes terrible decisions they made in the battlefield.

Hitler's seemingly insane decision to invade Russia was as much indicative of a misreading of the Russians devious nature as it was a desire to strike a blow against the only possible ally Britain could have in the battle for Europe.

The information for this series was not dreamed up in the shower. The show is based on the book Warlords by writers Simon Berthon and Joanna Potts. Theirs is a deep understanding of the personalities of these men and a willingness to throw in a controversial idea or two when needed to spice up the history. Berthon is behind the production and direction of the series.

The series is comprised of numerous excerpts from historical film footage and photographs. To give a different look to the popular still images the key figure has often been colourized. Additionally, there are scenes of the leaders, played by actors, watching the key action projected onto a small screen as if watching private newsreel footage. The lookalikes are pretty good and this device helps to vary the stream of images. Aside from the visuals there are voice overs by actors speaking in the accent of whoever is being imitated. Occasionally the German voices sound a little Hogan's Heroes but, again, it serves to break up the voice over commentary, which is performed by British actor David Morrisey.

The series may shock some people with its take on the leaders. Stalin will pretty much always be a dangerous psychopath but his level of cautious and methodical note taking cuts against his image as a mere thug. Also it is hard to besmirch the Furhrer's reputation much but the series does argue that Hitler was an idle dreamer rather than a true calculating strategist. Australians have long seen through the Churchill mystique (something about his planning for Gallipoli saw to that!) and it is also no surprise that Roosevelt saw him as little more than a drunken prig. It is surprising, however, to see the highly venerated Roosevelt being portrayed as a weak willed charmer who never kept to his promises.

In fact, the show suggests that all the leaders were only occasionally great military thinkers. Most of the time they either had inflated views of their own powers or an ability to lie, flatter and cajole their way through the war.

The series is aimed at history buffs but it does have a wider appeal. Those who know little about WW2 should be warned, however, that it doesn't have the time or interest to give a blow by blow description of the major battles or events in the war outside its terms of reference. This is about great men and their flawed personalities waging a desperate war.

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Transfer Quality


    Warlords was originally telecast on Channel 4 in the UK.

On the case it is described as having a 16x9 transfer. However it is most definitely a Full Frame 4:3 transfer.

The show consists almost entirely of old footage. That footage is riddled with artefacts and looks very raw. Either it was a stylistic decision not to restore it or it is simply an economic decision. Either way, these moments look their age. The colourized portions look fine although, again, the intention is not really to make it look like real colour and have a watercolour look. Having said that there are some scenes which are in colour and these look suitably old and faded.

The modern scenes are quite crisp and clear and the image is quite stable.

I noticed no real defects in the quality of the transfer. I was particularly looking for MPEG compression problems as the Region 1 release of this title came on 2 DVD 9's rather than the single DVD provided in Region 4. Nothing stood out though on my display. My suspicion is that the fans of this type of program will accept the failings in the source materials.

The DVD has yellow English subtitles which appear accurate and are easy to read.

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



The sound for Warlords is Dolby Digital 2.0 running at a pale 224 Kb/s.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. The majority of the series is comprised of voiceovers and these are clear and easily understood. There are no talking heads and only a few live speeches such as a couple of addresses by Hitler and Roosevelt. They appeared to be in audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

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

    For reasons that aren't all that clear this British made documentary series is only available in Region 4 and Region 1. The Region 1 version is on a 2 DVD set and is priced accordingly. The Region 4 represents the better option.


    Warlords is a fascinating insight into the psychology of world leaders at wartime. Although the actual information provided here has been detailed before the specific manner of telling really elevates the series.

The transfer is in keeping with the original footage and is entirely adequate for the show. The lack of extras is understandable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, April 07, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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