The World At War

Part Five

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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
382:07 minutes 
(Not 416 minutes as stated on the packaging) 
RSDL/Flipper Disc 1: Dual Layered
Disc 2: Dual Layered
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Various
Warner Vision Australia
Starring 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

    And after some rather marathon viewing sessions from two reviewers we get to the final volume of the set of The World At War.

    It has to be said that I have found the last three volumes of the five volume set to be a difficult reviewing experience overall. I hasten to add that this is not for any great negative reasons as regards the DVDs themselves, but rather that the material making up the series is really beyond the scope of mere review. After all, we are talking about thirty year old footage being transferred to DVD almost thirty years after its first airing on television. After watching each DVD, I have dreaded sitting down to do these reviews, simply because we are in general talking about such powerful material that it should be seen by all - and that to a very large extent in my view, transcends the quality of the presentation and transfer. I simply have difficulty getting past the fact that this is the sort of material that needs to be in every collection and should be returned to on a regular basis. It is so important that we do not forget the horrors that man managed to unleash during the Second World War.

    At the end of the day, whatever I say cannot in any way convey the power and scope of the material that makes up the entire series. Of the vast material I have seen on television over the past forty years, I really doubt that anything matches the power and scope of The World At War. This is fundamentally deeply upsetting material and the day that this material fails to elicit a response in the heart of every person on this Earth will be a deeply saddening day for the future of humanity.

   The final volume in the series is comprised of five special presentations, as follows:

    Disc 1

    Disc 2

    There is nothing more to really say after watching the contents of Disc 2 in particular. This presents an interesting coda of sorts to the actual series itself and is perhaps in many respects the most essential purchase of this mammoth series of DVDs. It is not so much essential for any great reason apart from the fact that it shows in many ways the futility of not just the Second World War but almost any war - since most seem to have their basis in some aspect of religious or racial intolerance. In that respect, this is perhaps the high point of the series in damning the sheer idiocy of man. By no means are we the most intelligent species on Earth and this proves it. When this material stops disturbing people, I sure hope that annihilation of Homo sapiens follows very quickly, for I would hate any of my descendants to live in a world where this sort of madness is tolerated.

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 DVDs.

    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 here is far, far more prevalent than in the earlier DVDs and at times I found it very distracting. Clarity suffers even more than before as a result of the grain. This is quite noticeably worse than the earlier DVDs. There would appear to be some serious low level noise problems at times, especially during the opening interviews in Auschwitz Part 1.

    Most of the programming is black and white archival footage with the interview material in colour. 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 relatively poor with basically various shades of murky grey on offer. The interview material does not display great colour and is a little undersaturated throughout.

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

    Disc 1 of this 2 DVD set is RSDL formatted, with the layer change placed at 21:39 in The People's Community. Disc 2 is dual-layered.

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 Eric Porter with sound effects and music added.

    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. It should be noted however that the special presentations on Disc 2 have very minimal use of music and use silence most effectively to enhance the harrowing nature of some of the footage.

    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 and bass channel use. There is an audio dropout during the third special presentation on Disc 1: at about 45:30, the audio drops down to being very much centre speaker only rather than being a split left/right channel sound. The dropout is quite noticeable and a little annoying.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A similar package to that on the earlier DVDs in the series.


    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 to this release as the others in the series. 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 four photos per 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.


    As a coda of sorts to the actual series The World At War, this DVD provides an excellent broad scale overview of the topics covered. Naturally enough, within the scope of the length of each presentation, it is hard to provide as detailed an accounting as would perhaps be warranted. However, as an overview this is an excellent way to attack the topics discussed. There is again some evidence of sloppiness in the presentation in that the presentations seem to be slightly truncated at the end of the credits. In general, this represents a fine finalization of this monumental series and I can only revert back to earlier comments made about the pricing of the five 2 DVD sets. I really wish that these were at a more reasonable price as the material is of a nature that warrants including all five sets in every DVD collection. As an educational overview of the Second World War, we are never going to see anything to rival this.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
6th May, 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