The World At War

Part Four

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Details At A Glance

Category Documentary Time Line Main Menu with Audio and Animation 
Synopsis - Episode Summaries 
Notes - Brief History of The World At War
Biographies - Major National and Military Leaders 
Web Link 
Galleries - Photo
Year Released 1974
Running Time
248:27 minutes 
(Not 260 minutes as stated on the packaging) 
RSDL/Flipper Disc 1: Dual Layered
Disc 2: No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Various
Warner Vision Australia
Starring Sir Laurence Olivier (Narrator)
Eric Porter (Narrator)
Case Dual Black Amaray
RPI $59.95 Music Carl Davis

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio No
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    This is a slightly different entry in The World At War series, as it provides the concluding episodes to the series itself and also provides a few of the special presentations.

   Since there is little need for further preamble regarding this landmark series, straight on with the contents themselves. The episodes and special presentations making up this two DVD set are:

    Disc 1

    Disc 2     There is nothing more to add that was not said in my review of The World At War - Part Three, except to say that should you be looking for a single set as a representative of the series, this is perhaps not the one to choose.

Transfer Quality


    This is still a television series made in 1974 using extensive original material dating from the 1940s, with interview material recorded in the early 1970s. There remains enormous variety in the quality on offer in the transfer. Having said that, this effort does at times disappoint more than the previously reviewed DVD.

    The transfer is of course presented in a Full Frame format that is obviously not 16x9 enhanced.

    With the same preamble that applied to The World At War - Part Three, we pretty much run the same gamut from almost non-existent definition and clarity, with lousy shadow detail, through to actual better than expected definition, shadow detail and clarity. Most of the material demonstrates reasonable enough detail and definition, with average shadow detail. The noticeable difference in this effort is the fact that grain is far more prevalent than in the earlier DVD reviewed and clarity suffers even more than before. Add to that the fact that the filmed interview of Stephen Ambrose is quite poor in general, and the overall result is one that is quite noticeably worse than the earlier DVD. There would appear to be some low level noise problems at times.

    Most of the programming is black and white archive footage with the interview material in colour. However, since more of the footage comes from the latter stages of the war there is more colour footage on offer here. The archival footage is again pretty much all over the place in terms in colour. Some material is quite decent with nice tones, whilst other material is quite poor with basically various shades of murky grey on offer. The interview material does not display great colour and is a little undersaturated throughout. The colour footage from the war displays the general lack of quality expected in such footage, with colours being rather poorly rendered.

    There does not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, with the same proviso of being hidden by the grain. There is nothing significant in the way of film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There is plenty in the way of film artefacts in the transfer and in this respect some of the interview footage is far worse than expected.

    The first DVD is presumably Dual Layer formatted since there was no obvious layer change noted during the programming. The second DVD is a single sided, single layer effort.

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


    There is just the one soundtrack on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This principally comprises the narration from Sir Laurence Olivier and Eric Porter with sound effects and music added for effect.

    The narration comes up well in the soundtrack and is easy to understand. There did not appear to be any real issues with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Carl Davis, and remains at the high standard set for the series in general.

    Basically you can forget about the technicalities of the soundtrack. This is designed purely to convey the narration and other dialogue, which it does well enough. There is no real problem at all with the soundtrack, even though it is a fairly basic. It is free of any significant distortion, surround channel use or bass channel use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Well at least there is an effort made, but frankly it is hardly worth the effort. This is one of those instances where the extras simply cannot really do any justice to the programming or the events and people involved.


    The Time Line Menu is slightly modified in this instance to have a preceding static menu for the special presentations but is otherwise consistent to that seen already in the series. The same comments apply in general. It demonstrates the relationship of each particular episode to the overall war. It does mean however that you need to know the name of the episode you want to watch in order to select the right one (only valid selections for the DVD playing can be highlighted though), and they are not listed in episode order so if you miss the introduction to the menu, you might have difficulty in selecting the episodes in the right sequence if you want to so watch them. It does take a little while to get the hang of the menu. There is some decent introductory animation and audio enhancement.

Synopsis - Episode Summaries

    Provides a very short summary of each episode.

Notes - Brief History of The World At War

    A brief, five page, history of the series itself, which in all honesty could have been left off the package.

Biographies - Major National and Military Leaders

    Given that these comprise single page bios for 17 of the major political and military leaders of the main combatants, with a photo of each to go with it, one does have to question whether it was a worthwhile exercise. After all, how exactly do you condense the entire lives of some of the major figures of the Twentieth Century into so little space and still be meaningful? On the balance of things, pretty well meaningless and of no real value at all.

Web Link

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

Galleries - Photos

    Since these at best comprise between one and seven photos per episode or special presentation, they once again hardly rate on the worthiness scale. However, they do again generally have some decent annotation!


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there has been no release of this programming in Region 1.


    The World At War provided an excellent broad scale overview of the Second World War when first aired and still is virtually unexcelled in all the years since. Forget the technical qualities on offer here, for there is little that an excellent transfer can do with some marginal source material. Having said that however, this does smack a little of some sloppiness in the presentation: end credits not fading to black before the DVD searches for the menu, meaning that a ghost like image remains being one example. Another is the bad truncation of the third episode credits on disc one before the music finishes, repeated to a slightly lesser degree on disc two. Still for the collector of the whole series this remains an essential purchase.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
3rd April, 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL