|Index||5 reviews in total|
In going through my decaying collection of videotapes, looking to
dispose of as many space-hogging VHS tapes as I can, I came across the
VHS tapes I made of The Great War, when the PBS National feed broadcast
it on Saturdays in July 2000. Technically great, this four part
documentary series looks at World War One through the writings of
eyewitnesses and the use of rarely seen film footage (probably from the
Imperial War Museum's film archives). In the prologue to the closing
episode, War Without End, the narrator reads excerpts from journalist's
Stephen Graham's report after touring the battlefields of Europe in
1920. He described the goals of the soldiers from the different warring
nations, one goal he said was "a victory for humanity," all ended by
what happened at Versailles. Then, Graham wrote that it was "night
again in human history, deep night" with a "succession of phantoms
stalking" Europe. Recent events, including the bombings in London, show
that Graham's stalking phantoms are still with us.
This series makes harsh judgments of many of the protagonists in the war and it does not gloss over the horrors of the war. Footage of a line of soldiers on crutches or using canes, all missing legs, is not the sort of unsettling stuff you usually see in a documentary. The effort that went into this production has had no effect on PBS, which has not rebroadcast the series since 2000 and has let the series VHS 4 tape set(list priced at a high $100.00) go out of print. The website for this series seems to be active, so maybe PBS will license out The Great War for a DVD release. With some effort and using plenty of my time, I transferred my VHS tapes of the series to DVDR. The political climate at PBS now militates against that group of bureaucrats re-releasing an anti-war documentary, even one as well done as 1996's The Great War. If PBS ever shows this documentary series again, it is recommended viewing, though is can be depressing at times describing the horrors of World War One and the incompetence of the government and military leaders then.
--- 28November2008: A British bittorrent index site, UKNova, has for few days more the UK version of this series, 1914-18, in XviD file format. As a member, I downloaded the files. BBC4 showed this series as part of its programming for Ninety Years of Remembrance 1914-1918. Someone transcoded six of the seven parts of this series from these broadcasts, and uploaded them to UKNova. The final episode, Legacy, came from a previous broadcast on UKTV history channel. The Legacy episode upload of the BBC4 version got lost in cyberspace. Having gone through some of the broadcasts, my opinion is that Salome Jens did a much better job as narrator than Judi Dench. Jens' commentary did not attract attention to itself, it sounded like an observer, not a teacher. In addition, the KCET version ended better with two episodes, Hatred and Hunger (E07) and War Without End (E08), not one episode as the BBC did, with Legacy (E07). If Walt Disney can finally release Dr. Syn on DVD, then maybe KCET can pony up the money from contributors to get The Great War on DVD. A grim documentary series on dark events in the world, something we are all too familiar with.
This series chronicals the first world war from start to finish. Using first hand accounts(via letters read by voice actors) and rare footage, this documentary is very fair and thourugh. I particularly liked how the makers explained the events of The Great War in the context of history as it related to europe's past and future (WWII). At times, the letters can be quite moving, bringing the viewpoints of unsung heroes and victims as well as political leaders to the forefront in a very personal way.
I found this DVD boxset by accident as I was looking into information
concerning WOI which is in the Netherlands not that much of a big deal
history wise as we were neutral (and were left to our selves by the
It does give some serious insight into the history of the first big War and does place it well into context, doesn't fall into the trap of focusing to much in one particular battle but tell enough, so that if the viewer is interested he/she can go and find out more themselves on the specifics.
The shocking bits are the actual images of real footage from that war, that make it so much more dark.
A very well balanced documentary on one of the largest wars of the last 100 years. Should be considered watching for all.
This movie is one of the only reasons I finally broke down and bought a
VHS-DVD dubbing recorder. Bar none, it is the best documentary ever
produced on World War I. And I've been worried the VHS tape would
dry-rot and crinkle and prevent my future enjoyment of this
From the all-star cast for the voice-over work to the beautifully restored vintage video to its hauntingly eerie soundtrack to its historically exacting accuracy and insightful commentary, there is absolutely nothing negative I can say about this documentary other than it's a shame it's not out on DVD, in the classrooms and libraries and available for future generations.
If you're lucky, you'll find a vintage VHS copy on one of the auction sites but be prepared to pay for the privilege of ownership. I've seen used sets sell for $300 and more. But, honestly, it would be worth the price in either the 4 2-hour tape or the 8 1-hour tape versions.
I can't really add to the other reviews. This is one of the best
documentaries I've seen, and the best on this subject. It really was a
case of lions being led by donkeys. I am including a poem by Wilfred
Owen (killed a few days before the end of the war in a meaningless
assault) that sums up what happened:
The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went, And took the fire with him, and a knife. And as they sojourned both of them together, Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father, Behold the preparations, fire and iron, But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering? Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps, And builded parapets and trenches there, And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son. When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven, Saying, Lay not they hand upon the lad, Neither do anything to him, thy son. Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns, A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son, And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
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