The Battleships (2000)

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Released 29-May-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 204:43 (Case: 209)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rob McRuley
Peter Butt

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $59.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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

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Plot Synopsis

    The Battleships is a four part documentary covering the rise and fall of the battleship over a period of almost 300 years. From the very first 'weapons platform' of its type, the Mary Rose, through to the last decommissioned battleship, the Missouri, this is a detailed and complex series which traces the development of these massive weapons of war through the political and economic influence they exerted during the colonizing period of the 19th and 20th century and right down to their ultimate demise as their effectiveness diminished when faced with new technologies. Air power and the arrival of the atomic bomb at the end of WWII hastened the 'death' of these expensive and ultimately flawed machines of war, consigning them to the scrap heap of history.

    The Battleships is broken down into four episodes:

    This is a superb series, excellently narrated by Robyn Williams, with lots of archival footage. This isn't simply a document of the maritime history of the battleship, but also of its political and economic impact on both nation and morale of the people. The battles discussed in the series are laid out simply, as in another excellent documentary series I hope comes to DVD, Line of Fire, with graphics that allow the viewer to more fully understand what is being verbally explained. I found the entire program enjoyable and totally entertaining and had no problem watching all 4 episodes back-to-back. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in ships or military history. It is another superb documentary series.

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Transfer Quality


    As with many documentaries, the use of archival material serious degrades the viewing experience due to the poor condition much of it is in, and this disc is no exception. Having said that, the use of this material interspersed with expert commentary forms a most enlightening backdrop on which the narrator can explain the subject matter. The Battleships, bad film stock or not, does this as well as I've seen in many a long day.

    The show is obviously made-for-TV and has an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is full framed. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The expert commentary footage is extremely good with no appreciable problems, as you'd expect. Much of the archival material lacks definition and sharpness in many cases and is used extensively in all four episodes. Material dates back as far as 120 years ago. Shadow detail varies from shot to shot with heavy grain obvious throughout. There was blooming in many of the shots, but there is no doubt that you'd be hard-pressed to find better material to work with. Overall, you became accustomed to the problems with the footage quickly and it never got worse than in the first episode. The animation used to depict battle scenarios was sharp and nicely defined.

    Much of the footage was in black and white with many defects in the stock causing the grey scale to wander significantly. Most times, though, you will be able to make out what's being shown, if only just. The interviews were nice and bright by comparison, offering a solid colour base without being spectacular.

    There were far too many artefacts to mention and if you are prepared to watch a documentary you'll understand that anyway. Several major flaws in some of the older stock were apparent, including film breaks and splicing marks, severe water and burn damage on occasion plus the usual lines and marks that older nitrates often exhibited over time. For the most part, there were the usual plethora of minor nicks and scratches on the film.

    There are no subtitles on this disc

    This is a dual layered DVD. No layer change was noted. The episodic nature of the DVD would explain this, with presumably two episodes per layer.

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


    The only soundtrack on this disc is in Dolby Digital 2.0 and in English. A bitrate of 192 kilobits per second was used. All the sound comes from the front speakers. There is some rear redirection, but this gave no greater substance to the overall sound field. Still, the sound was solid across the front speakers and suited the material nicely.

    The narrator, Robyn Williams, has an excellent speaking voice and sounds clear and articulate throughout. He added a level of briskness to proceedings. The interviews were also very clear, and no syncing problems presented themselves.

    The theme music was quite well done, being bright and very militaristic. There were lots of injections of Rule Britannia, the Marseilles and other military-type tunes throughout the various episodes. Sound effects were added to simulate gunfire, waves breaking on ships and other such on-screen events, and although there is no accredited person for the music, Campbell McAuley is credited with the sound and he does a wonderful job of adding just the right amount at the right time.

    There was some slight sound from the surrounds but this seemed unintentional. At no stage did it become noticeable except if you got close to the speakers.

    No subwoofers were sunk during the making of this documentary.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

    A simplistic but nicely colourful menu backdrop with access to each of the four episodes which are displayed with animated excerpts. There are additional options for the Photo Gallery and the End Credits, which are interestingly not added to the end of each episode. The music that accompanies the menu is the theme music from the series.


    Either a drawing or actual pictures of various battleships plus detailed information on displacement and firepower. 11 ships are covered including Marie Rose, HMS Victory, Gloire, HMS Dreadnaught, USS Iowa the IJN Yamato and the Bismarck.

R4 vs R1

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

    At this time, there doesn't appear to be an R1 version of this disc available for comparison.


    The Battleships is a quality documentary which is thoroughly detailed and entertaining. This is deserving of a place on any DVD shelf. Like many other documentaries dealing with such a meaty subject, this one is delivered in a truly informative and expert manner.

    The video is as good as you'd expect with the number of problems endemic to the core material.

    The audio is sold, if unspectacular, but the dialogue is crystal clear which is the main thing. There is good use made of sound effects to break up the monotony.

    The extras are naturally thin, being a single guide to the most notable battleships throughout the ages.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Thursday, September 13, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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