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Based on information derived from formerly classified documents and messages, coupled with interviews with experts, authors and eyewitnesses from all over the world, SECRET OF WAR is the most comprehensive documentary series ever produced on "secrets of war" throughout the last century. Narrated by Charlton Heston, this acclaimed series features declassified and rare footage, 3D graphics, on-location shooting, historical retracing shots and extensive reenactments. In all, 65 episodes were produced from 1997 to 2001. Written by
This long and well-executed series may not amount to everything you've always wanted to know about spying and sabotage in World War II, but it's the most you're likely to get from a documentary.
It's well done too. Charlton Heston's cadenced baritone take us through the 30s into the Cold War. Heston's speech is distinctive. It is, after all, the voice of Ben Hur, Michelangelo, and Moses. But it's an actor's voice, and Heston lends some nice inflections to the usual drone. He sounds at time as if he's improvising an interesting tale, not reading from a script. Heston himself served in the Army Air Force during the war and was stationed in Alaska during preparations for the invasion of Japan that, fortunately, I suppose, didn't happen.
I'm not a historian and I've only watched a few of the episodes but I expect the series will hold up as well as it has. I much admire the objectivity of the series. The narration (and the other elements) don't sound like a giddy announcer at a high school football game. Triumphs and disasters are presented even handedly. Fictions are exposed for what they are.
Eg., the Americans didn't capture that damned Enigma machine or whatever it was from a disabled U-boat; the British did, despite Hollywood. The CIA went nuts trying to kill Castro, poisoning his cigars and whatnot, and enlisting the Mafia in the attempt. They cooperated, of course, because, along with the United Fruit Company, they OWNED Cuba. The best intelligence system in WWII was under Stalin. If his agents slacked off, he had them killed.
The entire period of the war and the Cold War that followed, even Vietnam, seems to be fading from our shared cultural data base. I agree completely with the earlier reviewer's lament. I'm not sure it's exclusively our educational system that's at fault. There seems to me to be a decreasing interest in anything that does not impact the body or its welfare. Are we getting less curious because we think we know everything that needs to be known?
From the Chicago Tribune: "Recently Ron Grossman took a survey in the newsroom, asking colleagues to identify the iconic World War II photo of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima. While some recognized the image, others couldn't quite place it. "I know I ought to know it. It was in the movie, Flags of Our Fathers," one co-worker said. Some, seeing military uniforms, figured out it must be a war photo. Maybe Vietnam? One suggested it was D-Day. Journalists are probably more attuned to history than many people who have less motivation to keep up with the past (almost 25% of 17-year-olds couldn't identify Adolf Hitler in a survey)." More? One third of us can't identify a photo of Vice President Joe Biden. One out of five of us don't know which country we achieved our independence from.
How about if we show the entire series in every high school senior class as a prelude to graduation? We can staple their eyelids open.
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