Stalingrad (2003)

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Released 7-Apr-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-Views of Volgograd - Stalingrad as it is today
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 158:41 (Case: 156)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (78:29) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sebastian Dehnhardt
Christian Deick
Stefan Mausbach
Jörg Müllner
Studio
Distributor
Ovation Starring None Given
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Enjott Schneider


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In the summer of 1942 the German army in Russia launched Operation Blue, intended to take Russia out of the war. By September, the Sixth Army under General Paulus reached the Volga River and the city of Stalingrad. Failing to take the city in ferocious close quarter fighting, 300,000 men of the Sixth Army became trapped by the Russian winter and Operation Uranus in November. Denied permission by Hitler to break out of the encirclement, by the end of January 1943 92,000 starving remnants of the Sixth Army surrendered and were marched off into captivity, from which only 6,000 ever returned to Germany. Stalingrad was the first major defeat of German forces in WWII, and marked a turning point in the war. The 3 part TV documentary Stalingrad by German filmmakers Sebastian Dehnhardt, Christian Deick and Jorg Mullner is an account of the battle and its aftermath, using interviews with survivors from both sides, restored 8mm film and computer graphics.

     In Part I The Assault, the German armies race across the Steppe towards the Volga encountering little resistance, unless one counts a herd of camels confiscated for transport with some unfortunate results! German wives farewell husbands, never to see them again. Russian civilians and villages left behind by the Russian army suffer at the hands of the SS. The Sixth Army reaches Stalingrad in September. In October Hitler announces that the city is almost captured but on the ground this is far from the truth. The Russians hold on as the Russian winter approaches.

     In Part II The Pocket, the Russians launch a November winter offensive, cutting off the Sixth army in Stalingrad. Hitler refuses to allow the army to fight their way out believing, in error, Goering’s assurances that the Luftwaffe can supply the soldiers. In temperatures of -30C, the German soldiers starve in misery, filth and disease. The German relief attempt fails and Russian attacks threaten the entire German front on the Don. In early January 1943 a Russian surrender offer is rejected, although by now the Germans know that they have been abandoned by Hitler to their fate.

     In Part III The End, the Russians storm the Stalingrad pocket. For those inside, German soldiers and Russian civilians, conditions are brutal; disease, cold and malnutrition kill thousands. Letters from the front describe horror on a scale unimaginable. Cannibalism occurs and German soldiers fight to get onto the few planes still flying into the pocket. The surrender delivers 92,000 malnourished soldiers into Russian hands, a number they are unable to cope with. On the march east to the work camps thousands die in the snow. In the end, only 6,000 men of the Sixth army ever return to Germany, the last not until 1955.

     Stalingrad is not a military history of either the 1942/1943 Russian campaign or the Battle for Stalingrad. There is no examination here of military strategy or the course of the battle. Rather, this is personal reminiscences, provided by the survivors on both sides of one of the pivotal battles of WWII; the exhilaration, degradation, horror, inhumanity and terror of prolonged urban warfare and the equally deadly Russian winter. It is a human story, told by those who had been through an inhuman experience. It brings the high sounding rhetoric of military leaders down to ground level, and often below, and examines the experience of real people, and is all the more moving for that.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Stalingrad is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     A lot of this film is make up of original black and white, plus some colour, footage, the quality of which varies from quite good, to poor with heavy grain and artefacts, including dirt, scratches and other marks. However, it is probably as good as it is ever going to be and is all very watchable and interesting. The modern interview footage, plus the modern footage of the Volga, the Steppe and Stalingrad is sharp, has exceptional clarity and is artefact free. Some of the computer enhanced footage looks unreal with extra deep colours. Given the state of the archive footage, this is an excellent looking print.

     There are burnt in English subtitles in a yellow font where the interviewees speak in German or Russian. These were prepared by SBS Australia and are easy to read and without spelling or grammatical errors.

     The layer change occurs at 26:48 in Part II, and resulted in only a slight pause.

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

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0, surround encoded, at 224 Kbps. As this film uses archive footage that is mostly silent the main audio is the narration by David Ritchie, interviewees, plus the music which the audio handles effectively. All narration and spoken words naturally enough come from the front speakers. They are always clear and easy to hear. The surrounds were used for music; the subwoofer provided a few thumps, especially in Part III.

     The sparse music by Enjott Schneider provided effective support for the narration and visuals.

     As interviewees were speaking their original language, lip synchronisation is fine.

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

Extras

Views of Volgograd (2:52)

     Views of the city, now named Volgograd, and surrounds as they are today, accompanied by the film score.

R4 vs R1

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

     The best version of the film is the Region 2 German special edition with German DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. This is a 2 disc set including a number of extras including a 3 part making of documentary running over 2 hours, trailer and other featurettes. There is also a similar Scandinavian Region 2; however neither have English subtitles for the feature or extras.

     The Region 1 US version has Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and includes the Views of Stalingrad extra of the Region 4 but adds deleted interview segments (17 min approx) and an interview with Professor Dr. Guido Knapp (10:43).

    For English speakers, this would normally mean a win to Region 1, but in place of the Region 4 original German and Russian spoken by the interviewees, translated by subtitles, the Region 1 has an English dub voiceover spoken by voice actors. To my mind the original language is to be preferred, but this may only be a personal preference.

Summary

    This 3 part TV documentary Stalingrad is a compelling look at the human experience in an inhuman situation that became a pivotal event in WWII. It is highly recommended. The video, given the archival footage is good, the audio is good, extras minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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