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As someone with an extremely limited knowledge of the first World War much of what's presented here is staggering. As Sir Michael Redgrave's booming, authoritative narration reels off endless lists of figures - 300,000 dead, a million wounded, etc. - it's hard not to feel a real sense of despair at the total insanity of "total war." The industry of entire countries switching to the production of materials of war; entire towns and villages across Europe decimated either by shelling, starvation or the loss of all the men - or all three, and more - it's frequently too much to absorb, the sheer magnitude of such an event overwhelming.
If as the episodes roll by footage is recycled - rather diminishing the impact of seeing THAT cannon being fired on THAT battlefield - and much of it is clearly more modern recreations with some of the footage a little too convenient - again, diminishing the impact - it's still far and away the greatest documentary series I've ever seen. Superbly written, eloquent and often poetic at times, I had to resist the temptation to watch it with a pen and paper to hand so I could jot some of the more powerful passages down. The score is similarly impressive: by turns rousing and powerful, usually desperately sad (and I'll bet John Barry was at home watching too.) Jaw-dropping in the truest sense, this landmark classic in British television is thoroughly deserving of its status, and I can understand why the streets of this country were empty once a week for six months when it was first broadcast.
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