Civil War, The (Ken Burns)-Volume 2: Valley of the Shadow of Death (1990)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 14-Feb-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 226:01
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ken Burns
Florentine Films
Magna Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Click
RPI $49.95 Music Various

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Civil War, Volume Two provides the next three instalments of this brilliant documentary series. My review of The Civil War, Volume One contained my review of the series generally, and it can be read here.

    There are three episodes included in Volume 2:

    Episode 4, Simply Murder (61:44)

    The Union Army suffers a crushing defeat at Fredericksburg and then at Chancellorsville. General Lee's right-hand-man, General 'Stonewall' Jackson, dies after he is mistakenly shot by his own men. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation proves to be very unpopular in the North, and results in many Union soldiers deserting rather than fight to help end slavery. The horrendous living conditions of soldiers generally results in twice as many dying from disease as on the battlefield. By 1863 one quarter of the Union Army is AWOL, as are two fifths of the Confederate Army.

    Episode 5, The Universe of Battle (95:10)

    The Battle of Gettysburg (1863) proves to become one of the turning points of the war. A number of place-names around Gettysburg are still remembered for the gross slaughter that took place there: The Battles of Little Round Top, Wheatfeld, Valley of Death, Slaughter Pen, and Devil's Den. For example, of two Union regiments, one suffered 82% causalities, while the other 100%. Picket's Charge involved three divisions of Confederates (13,000 men) marching slowly across an open field towards an entrenched Union Army with predicable results. After three days of ferocious fighting, the South would leave behind 28,000 men on the fields of Gettysburg, and the North 23,000 men. Lincoln would later visit the site and give his famous Gettysburg Address.

    Episode 6, Valley of the Shadow of Death (69:07)

    General Grant (known as 'The Butcher') takes over as commander of the Union Army. Along with his right-hand-man, General Sherman, Grant tries to annihilate General Lee's Confederate Army in a war of attrition. In the next thirty days more men will die than in the previous thee years of warfare combined.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The quality (or lack thereof) of this video transfer is sadly the same as with Volume One. The standard is consistent across all three episodes on this disc, so the times below all refer to Episode 4.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    Again the image is soft throughout and even blurry on occasion, as can be seen in the shot of the church at 14:16. The shadow detail is very poor, as evidenced by the shot of the bookshelf in the background at 31:40.

    Again the colours are dark, drab and muted throughout, as can be seen with the shot of the Forrest at 42:11.

    MPEG artefacts appear throughout. The image suffers from pixelization, and an example can be easily seen with the shot of the sky at 37:06. There is also posterization, such as on historian Shelby Foote's face at 54:38, and some macro-blocking throughout, as evidenced on the bank note at 35:18.

    Again there is slight aliasing throughout, which normally takes the form of a slight shimmer. Perhaps the worst offender in regards to artefacts is telecine wobble. It is as bad as it was in Volume One, and once again I had to watch the program in stages to avoid getting a headache.

    Film artefacts appear frequently, but are tiny. A smattering of these tiny flecks can be seen between 4:50 and 4:56.

    There are no subtitles on this DVD.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, but I did not spot the layer change this time.

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


    As with Volume One, there is not a great deal to say here, as there is only one audio option, an English Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track.

    This mono track uses the centre speaker only. The dialogue quality and audio sync are good. Importantly, the narration is always very clear.

    Again the program utilises Civil War era music, including recognisable tunes such as Dixie and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. There is also a fair amount of martial music used, seemingly played by military bands.

    As a mono track, there is no surround presence and activity and the subwoofer is not called upon.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras.


    A well animated menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title has not been released on DVD in Region 1.


    As I found with Volume One, 'The Civil War is a brilliant documentary series which has been given a very disappointing transfer. The quality of the program, however, is such that it can transcend the lousy image and mono audio. One can only dream what this series could have been on DVD.'

    The video quality is extremely disappointing but still watchable.

    The audio quality is good for mono.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Sunday, April 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews
Web Wombat - James A

Comments (Add) NONE