The World at War-Part 2 (1974)

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Released 19-Feb-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Synopsis-Episode Summary
Notes-Brief History Of The World At War
Web Links
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 415:32 (Case: 432)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jeremy Isaacs

Warner Vision
Starring Laurence Olivier
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $59.95 Music Carl Davis

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 None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If you haven't already read my review for The World At War - Part 1, then I suggest you do so before proceeding with this, as it contains all of my general comments about the series. Part 2 continues this fine 1970s documentary series with another 7 hours of material.

    Part 2, Disc 1

    Part 2, Disc 2

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Transfer Quality


    It is important to bear in mind the nature of the material on show here. The majority of pictures are from original newsreel, propaganda and war film sources. This is supplemented by a large number of modern (ie 1970s) personal interviews and the odd modern scenic reference shot. A number of simple animated graphics, largely based on large-scale European and Pacific maps are also used. The quality of the material varies from the (rarely) terrible to the (slightly less rarely) excellent. Even the modern photography varies considerably, presumably because of the large number of filmmakers involved and the wide range of conditions and equipment with which they had to work. We can be quite relieved, however, that all of the footage was shot on film, rather than on video tape, so we never have to suffer through horrible video induced artefacts.

    Being made for television, the disc is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Even if this weren't the case, so much of the archival footage was shot in this format that it would have been senseless to attempt anything else.

    I felt that the video quality on Disc 1 was of considerably lesser quality than that of previous episodes, and any other discs for that matter. The explanation for this relates entirely to the original newsreel sources for these particular episodes. The Italians obviously couldn't compete with the Germans when it came to their photographic expertise, and it shows in every scene involving the Italian army in Africa. I've already commented on the quality of Russian film footage in my review for Part 1, and there is little improvement here. Finally, what little original footage exists of U-boats and their prey tends by necessity to be blurred, jumpy and poorly lit.

    Of course these comments apply to the original film footage - the modern footage throughout Part 2 is of a similar standard to that in Part 1. Furthermore, the original footage on Disc 2 returns to the general quality level set by Part 1.

    The involvement of the Americans in the Italian campaign introduces colour footage of the war (the Yanks just had to have their war in colour!). Of course, all of the difficulties that face any war photographer are in evidence here, so that colours are well undersaturated and graininess seems to be enhanced.

    I've already commented on the general nature of the footage. Film artefacts are, of course, abundant, but much less than expected given the age and nature of the material. I couldn't detect any MPEG compression problems, but in the midst of all the other marks they might be hard to find. All in all I got the impression of a quite competent transfer. This is commendable given the sheer volume of material on each disc and the need for heavy compression.

    Although all the discs are formatted as dual layered (with 7 hours per disc, I'd hope so!), I never found the layer changes. I would have guessed they were placed at the end of episodes.

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


    The soundtracks are made up of four distinct components: Lawrence Olivier's commentary, sound effects dubbed over the top of original film footage, modern personal interviews and some occasional original recordings of political leaders or entertainers. Olivier's voice is nigh on perfect for the job, providing a level of authority that sets the series apart from many others. He is able to turn a single word or phrase in such a way as to make the horror of what he is describing just a little more real for the viewer. The sound effects are so natural that you simply accept them as being real (perhaps some are).

    There is only a single audio track. The bulk of the sound is modern, and is almost virtually totally free from noise. The interviews exhibit a mild style of hollowness that reflect their recording in living rooms rather than professional studios, but you would have to be very picky to notice. I found no audio sync problems.

    The music is by Carl Davis, and I must say it brought back a flood of memories from the time when the series was first broadcast here. I was too young to either view or understand it so that the sound used to waft through to my bedroom from the family room where Dad would be watching it. It is simple but captures well enough the mood of the series.

    The impact of the series is through pictures and the spoken word. There is no need or use made of the surround channels or the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Time Line Menu

        The menu is ingeniously designed in the form of a time line, with each episode represented by a bar showing its chronological relationship to the war itself and to the other episodes. The menu is common across all discs, and all episodes are shown even though only a small number would be accessible on the disc in the player. It takes a little while to get the hang of it all, but after 32 hours and 34 episodes you'll have well and truly mastered it.

Photo Galleries

        Each episode is presented with its own sub-menu, from which a small selection of relevant archival photographs can be accessed. The selections are not large, typically comprising only two photographs. For this reason I don't consider them to be of huge value, although I was fascinated to see Hitler and Chamberlain's entire Munich Agreement (the "Peace In Our Time" agreement) included, complete with signatures.

Insert Points

        Each episode's sub-menu also provides the viewer with the ability to jump directly to points of particular interest within the episode, generally under the headings of "Speeches and Quotes", "Graphics" and "Songs and Poems". This facility, again limited, could nevertheless be useful for history students searching for some particular item.

Episode Summaries

        Provides a short summary of each episode in turn.

Brief History of The World At War

        A history of the series itself, not of the world's wars. I think this is pretty much an opportunity for the series' makers to brag a little about their achievement.

Biographies of Major National and Military Leaders

        Painfully brief biographies of 17 of the major political and military leaders from the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. Handy if you've never heard of Douglas MacArthur or Joseph Stalin, but if that's the case you need a serious review of your history lessons!

Web Link

        Links to the sites of the series and the Imperial War Museum.

R4 vs R1

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

    The discs have multi-zone coding. I could find no reference to the series either for sale or reviewed in the US, so I must assume that we have the definitive product available here.


    This series provides an excellent overview of the story of the Second World War. The quality of presentation on disc is probably as good as we will ever see of this material. Perhaps its greatest strength is the obvious humanity it brings to the topic without ever making moral comment on the subject material. I tended to find Part 2 slightly less satisfying than Part 1, but it certainly still contains several important battles and other aspects of the war.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Murray Glase (read my bio)
Monday, February 05, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K310, using S-Video output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 (125cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D906S
SpeakersRichter Wizard (front), Jamo SAT150 (rear), Yamaha YST-SW120 (subwoofer)

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Web Wombat - James A

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