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97 out of 107 people found the following review useful:

Unmissable

Author: motor89 from Lancashire, England
13 September 2003

Even thirty years later this documentary has lost none of its power. Quite the opposite. It serves as a superb introduction, for those born after WWII, to an enormous conflict that radically re-shaped the world around us and subjected our grandparents/parents to dreadful hardship.

The series begins slowly, with an episode on Hitler's and the Nazi party's rise to power. It does skip a great deal of material on the origins and growth of National Socialism... but I suppose that is only to be expected. Despite being an epic thirty-two hours in length there is only so much time, and much material not directly about the war had to be skipped.

It is a fine antidote to the drivel put out by film studios... which, for the most part, show the war being almost entirely fought by the U.S.A, with the British involved in a few skirmishes here and there. Little do they realise the scale of British fighting and loss. Perhaps even more importantly it gives coverage of one of the most undervalued (particularly by Commie-bashing Hollywood) that Russia suffered more losses than any other country in WWII. Without their sacrifice it would have been a different outcome.

I can't stress enough how good this series is. From the title sequence with its stirring Carl Davis music and arresting images to the well-written and perfectly judged narration, it has the lot. If you get the chance to see it -- whether on DVD, or just a TV repeat -- do not miss it.

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80 out of 82 people found the following review useful:

Of unmatched significance in the library of video productions

10/10
Author: Mike from Hope B.C. Canada
22 January 2005

This series, produced at probably the most propitious time following the events of the second World War, is on a scale of value that stands far above any individual's presumption to criticize.

The timing of World at War's production in 1974, amounting to some three decades after the events of the war, permits an accurate relating of events in a manner uncoloured by residual propaganda and slant. The passage of thirty years allows the telling to be backed up by an impressive and fascinating panoply of the very individuals involved, ranging from some of the highest military and political figures down to the field soldiers, civilians, and such survivors of the death camps as have remained to bear witness to the unimaginable inhumanities of which civilized humans are capable. Most approaching or well into their senior years, the interviewed subjects have had enough time to reflect on their experiences and in most instances have had enough time for whatever propaganda and fervor may have affected them in the past to have receded away, leaving only the memories of what they saw and what they did.

The information that these survivors give, strikingly reinforced by the postures and expressions they display while telling their part, give their stories all the more impact. Such names as Ira Eaker, Adolph Galland, Louis Mountbatten, Albert Speer, Gertrude Junge (Hitler's personal secretary)... the list is far too long to relate.

Today, within the lifetime of the survivors of this enormous lesson in the hideous price of political ambition, are young people who chant the same sort of militaristic and nationalistic war promotion as led to WW2. The DVD series we discuss here ought to comprise the core of a mandatory history subject in schools, that the lessons bought at such a horrible cost in those days should not have been wasted but should be taken to heart by those who did not see firsthand the terrible price.

I am almost done watching the 11 disk set, having seen most of the series when a local TV channel aired it more than 10 years ago. It has lost none of its poignancy to me, indeed has become even more of a magnificent chronicle of some of the very darkest days of human times.

The highest possible rating seems unworthy of being applied to this presentation. I think the value of this series is beyond counting.

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66 out of 70 people found the following review useful:

The war documentary to end all war documentaries

10/10
Author: Rich-315 from Whitley Bay, England
4 April 2001

Utterly brilliant. Powerful and evocative. The most compelling documentary series ever made concerning war. It's tone offers a stark contrast to the often gung-ho attitude towards World War 2 that the media exhibits. Rather than opting for screaming about the horror of war, it allows Sir Laurence Olivier's quiet voice to take a back seat to the true images of war: corpses everywhere, explosions, terrified citizens and soldiers, broken men, indifferent politicians, mistakes that cost thousands of lives, the suffering of the innocents. Most of all it truly brings home that mankind is capable of when all normal rules of "civility" are removed. There is something distinctly Hobbesian about man in a true state of nature, he will return to a more beastly form capable of crimes that will still shock and fascinate 60 years on. Perhaps there could be a follow up series called "The century at war" for the twentieth century was truly the century of horrors. I feel it is an irony of immense magnitude that it took an event which caused the death of 50 million people to produce such a compelling and excellent series such as this.

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53 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

Far Superior to any other documentary. Should be an 11 * rating.

10/10
Author: dm_451 from United States
22 April 2005

Theo Robertson has commented that WAW didn't adequately cover the conditions after WWI which lead to Hitler's rise and WWII.

Perhaps he missed the first ONE and a quarter HOURS of volume 8? Covers this period, and together with the earlier volumes in the series, shows clearly the existing conditions, I feel. A friend of mine grew up in Germany during this period, joined the Hitler Youth even, and his experiences were very similar to that mentioned in WAW.

This documentary is SO far above the History Channel's documentaries I also own, that there is no comparison.

The ONLY fault, and it is a small one, that I have with WAW is this: the numbers are not included, many times. For instance, if you're talking about lend-lease, then how much war material was lent/leased? How much to Russia, how much to Britian? How many merchant ships did the U-Boats sink, and when? How many ships did the German or Japanese Navy have, total, in 1941? What type were they? How many troops? How many troops did the allies have, in total, and by country? Lots of numbers could have made a lot of viewers nod off, but I would have preferred MORE! And naturally, I always want to see more military analysis. Like WHY didn't Patton & Clark trap the German army that was at Cassini, after they had it surrounded, instead of racing Monty to Rome, and letting it escape? I don't think you can begin to understand war until you've seen some of these video segments on "total war", like the fire bombing of Dresden. It's like trying to understand Auschwitz, etc., before you see the clips of the death camps: you just can't wrap your head around it - it's too unbelievable.

Unknown at that time, and of course, unfilmed, were the most egregious cruelties and inhumanities of the Japanese, including cannibalism, (read "Flyboys"), and some LIVE vivisection of medical "experimentation" prisoners, w/o any anesthetic!

Dave

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47 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Best overall documentary of WWII

10/10
Author: talley-1 from United States
13 October 2005

My wife and I have watched this whole series at least three times. I can't imagine how it could be better. This isn't the "complete" history of WWII—no library could hold such a history—but it is the best summary of that history. Lots of detail, lots of personal stories, and still keeps the overall picture in view.

Olivier's narration is excellently written and, of course, superbly given. The interviews are from all sides, except the Russian, because the producers were not allowed to talk to many Russians. It is very much worth owning this complete program on DVD. We treasure our copy.

The producer's do an excellent job of providing pictures and action where there was almost none extant in any archive: There are almost no films of convoys and submarine battles, for instance, but still, the episode on this subject is very well done.

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49 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

still mesmerizing after 30 years

10/10
Author: widescreenguy from London Canada
28 April 2004

The music and Laurence Olivier's sombre delivery set the tone perfectly for this outstanding documentary. This is still a must see for WW II buffs, descendants of the participants of that conflict, politicians who think things always go their way when they extend their foreign policy via the deck of an aircraft carrier (did you hear that George Bush?) and anyone else curious or needing to know the whys whos and hows of some aspect of that conflict. The 26 episodes are roughly in chronological order but can be seen out of sequence since they are more or less self contained. There is bound to be new insight for the new viewer because of the sheer volume presented. Actual footage of the battles is interspersed with interviews of those involved in the stories. Many of the interviews are with second line authorities, that is, support personnel to the main characters, privates, captains, secretaries, eyewitnesses and the like. You get a real upfront taste of what war is all about.

I am presently watching the DVD version of the original television documentary. I strongly recommend this over the worn out, gaptoothed, overpriced VHS offerings available on eBay. I paid $120 Cdn for five 2-sided DVD discs. This new release includes bonus material and is in full screen mode. The menus are easy to follow, there is first a choice of which episode you want to view and then after selecting that you are given the option of various chapters in the episode or to play the whole episode. It is understandable with such a comprehensive presentation there is a tiny amount more of navigation in the menu but the impact of what you will see is not diminished after 30 years, nay, after 60 years since the war finished.

I remember watching the first broadcast on the Buffalo PBS station just before moving from London in 1975 and wishing right from that time that I could have a copy. Now my wish has finally come true.

See this documentary. Tell your friends. Buy a copy for your library. Remember and honour the sacrifices and challenges overcome by those from America, Russia, Britain, Canada and all the other nations and peoples involved in the final victory. What an eye opener.

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35 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

The Ultimate World War Two Documentary Series

10/10
Author: trickyascupart from United Kingdom
24 November 2005

Although too young to remember the first showing of the series (being just a baby) I later caught repeats of it on television in the late 80's, just when I was getting interested in the war and all of its aspects. It was my grandfather who first showed me the series and also gave me my first interests, relating tales of his time in the Royal Navy at Malta and later in the Pacific. Since then I have devoured many books and seen many television series about the World War Two era, with mixed opinions. The British television stations are generally very good at producing these, as The World At War can easily attest, with many gems made by both the BBC and independent companies. I strongly recommend such titles as "The Nazis - A warning From History", "Blitz" and the BBC series about Dunkirk. "Britain At War In Colour", with its companion series "Japan", "Germany" and "America" are of a very high standard. The World At War is by far the best and, despite its age, never fails to deliver. There will always be new revelations about the war that will keep cropping up that obviously aren't included in the series and of course World War Two took place over such a large canvas that to produce a series with EVERY detail would take more time and money then any other, even if such an undertaking was even possible. What I feel I must say to those who decry that it does not include everything is that The World At War can't physically do that as a series but it sure as heck can prompt you to do further research - and make it enjoyable. That certainly worked for me: I now have a very comprehensive library of books, videos, DVDs and tapes and CDs. Recommend to anyone with even a passing interest. The series was so well made that they'd find it hard not to agree that it is quality programming and highly informative.

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32 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Still the benchmark WWII Documentary

10/10
Author: strek1 from Hartford, CT
9 April 2005

After all these years I still consider this series the finest example of World War II documentary film making. The interviews with the many participants from all countries set this apart from any other project. It would be great to see a contemporary documentarian(Ken Burns ?) take on this topic and try to gather information from veterans before they are all gone. With modern technology to improve old archival footage and lots of information that has been unearthed since 1974 when The World At War was produced, an updated version of this series would be welcome. The History Channel has made some fine shows dealing with many aspects of WWII but an expansive series such as the World At War has not been successfully attempted since the original. If you are interested in this era don't miss this series. It is required viewing.

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33 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

This is THE WWII documentary....

10/10
Author: katey525 from United States
9 April 2006

If you want just about everything you want to know about WWII from multiple perspectives, this DVD delivers, you WILL learn new things guaranteed, so much so that you won't need any other documentary's on the subject. Get this, watch it, learn from it. Good for school use as well. As a bonus, watch this with Tora tora tora, saving private ryan, patton, band of brothers, a bridge too far, the longest day and other WWII epics along with this to make your knowledge of WWII even more complete. Sir Laurence Oliver's voice adds to the overall atmosphere of each episode in this 26 part series. Seriously you won't find a better WWII documentary set on the subject. PERFECT 10!!!

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30 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

The most authoritative Second World War documentary series

10/10
Author: Varlaam from Toronto, Canada
4 September 1998

Certainly any others I have seen pale in comparison. The series gives balanced coverage to all theatres of operation. No one country is given undue credit for the Allied victory. Laurence Olivier brings great weight and dignity to his role as narrator.

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