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|Category||Documentary||Time Line Main Menu with Audio and
Synopsis - Episode Summaries
Notes - Brief History of The World At War
Biographies - Major National and Military Leaders
Galleries - Photo
(Not 416 minutes as stated on the packaging)
|RSDL/Flipper||Disc 1: Dual Layered
Disc 2: Dual Layered
Warner Vision Australia
|Starring||Eric Porter (Narrator)|
|Case||Dual Black Amaray|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||No|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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:
Broadly detailing the rise of The Third Reich from Adolf Hitler's ascendancy to Chancellor and the impact the Nazis had on the restoration of Germany to its former (pre World War I) glory. Unfortunately you cannot consider the restoration power of the Nazis without also considering the darker side of the force, and that is broadly exemplified by the rise of the SS. However, up to the Anschluss of Austria in 1937, there were some positives from the changes wrought by the Nazis and through the words of people who were there, we get to appreciate some of the finer points of life in Germany during the pre-war period. Whilst there was plenty of emphasis on the concept of the community and the ordinary folk of the Reich, there were the seedings of the underlying tones of the elimination of opposition and the final solution with respect of the Jews.
If 1939 and 1940 represented the height of the military restoration of Germany, it also signalled the beginning of the end for the Nazis and their leader. The pre-war inclusion of Austria and Czechoslovakia into the greater German Reich was accomplished with little actual bloodshed and to some extent that is how an increasingly wary population hoped the seemingly inevitable war would go. Initial triumphs in Poland augured well for The Third Reich, and this was followed up by the surprisingly easy occupation of France and the Low Countries. However, that was the end of the expansion of The Greater German Reich, as declaration of war upon The United States probably gave the Allied Forces a far bigger lifeline than would otherwise be the case. What follows is the slow destruction of The Third Reich, initially through the disastrous campaign in Russia culminating in the defeat at Stalingrad, and then through the terror bombing by the Allies of the major German cities, with significant non-combatant losses. Whilst it might have been pay-back for England, the result was still harrowing. As the noose closed in on The Third Reich the leadership did the time honoured thing and beat the rap.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the the end of the war in Europe was the question of what happened to Adolf Hitler. Whilst there remain people today convinced that the man survived the war and went into exile in South America, the evidence of his personal secretary and personal valet conclusively suggest that he died by his own gun in the bunker. His body was then removed from the bunker with that of Eva Braun and was doused in petrol and set alight in the gardens above the bunker. However, this view was not accepted by the Soviets who set up their own investigation of the death, including an autopsy of the body of Adolf Hitler. The result was a slightly unusual report released only in German and English some time after the war. Here we have the recounting of the autopsy of Adolf Hitler by a man who took part in the autopsy, the man appointed by the British to conduct an investigation, a British expert who investigated the Soviet autopsy report and an historian who found vital evidence languishing in some archive in the United States. I think that we can now conclusively agree that Adolf Hitler died in the bunker by suicide in May, 1945.
There is perhaps no better way to approach the horror that was The Final Solution than through the often emotional recollections of people who actually survived the concentration camps. But this is not just about The Final Solution but also about the historical context of Anti-Semitism, and the way the German people were prodded in a certain direction with respect of the Jewish issue.
What truly amazes me at times is the fact that we have a vast body of evidence about the Holocaust, through film footage shot by the Allies upon liberating concentration camps, through the recollections of people liberated from the camps and from recollections and film footage from the Germans themselves, yet there are still people who insist that the whole thing was a huge con. Well, if you believe that after seeing the sort of footage that is included here, then you really are a sad excuse for a human being in my book. This final part of the special presentation really covers the period when the final solution was put into high gear and through the words of inmates and through some at times extremely disturbing pictures, shows the reality of what the final years in places like Auschwitz were really like.
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.
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.
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.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
6th May, 2001
|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|