IMDb > "The Unknown War" (1978)

"The Unknown War" (1978) More at IMDbPro »TV mini-series 1978-

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Rod McKuen (script adaptation)
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Release Date:
22 June 1978 (USA) See more »
Documentary film history of the Nazi-Soviet conflict in world War II. Full summary »
Plot Keywords:
DVD Playhouse--May 2011
 (From The Hollywood Interview. 9 May 2011, 12:13 AM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Great Archival Film Long Unseen - but propaganda to put it mildly See more (15 total) »


 (Series Cast [1])

Burt Lancaster ... Himself (unknown episodes)

Series Directed by
Zoya Fomina (1 episode, 1978)

Roman Karmen (unknown episodes, 1978)
Isaac Kleinerman (unknown episodes)
Series Writing credits
John Lord (1 episode, 1978)
Rod McKuen (1 episode, 1978)
Ivan Mendzheritsky (1 episode, 1978)
Fred Weiner (1 episode, 1978)

Series Produced by
Bruce Fogel .... associate producer (1 episode, 1978)
Isaac Kleinerman .... executive producer (1 episode, 1978)
Kalman Liebowitz .... associate producer (1 episode, 1978)
Series Original Music by
Vitali Geviksman (1 episode, 1978)
Series Sound Department
Igor Gunger .... sound (1 episode, 1978)
Series Music Department
Evgeniy Evtushenko .... lyrics: Russian (1 episode, 1978)
Mark Goldman .... music coordinator (1 episode, 1978)
Rod McKuen .... composer: additional music / lyrics (1 episode, 1978)
Bulat Okudzhava .... lyrics: Russian (1 episode, 1978)
Series Other crew
Pavel Kurotchkin .... historical consultant (1 episode, 1978)

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
1040 min

Did You Know?

Produced with Soviet cooperation after the release of The World at War, which the soviet government felt paid insufficient attention to their part in World War II. Released in 1978, The Unknown War, sympathetic to the Soviet struggle against Nazi Germany, was quickly withdrawn from TV airings after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.See more »


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10 out of 23 people found the following review useful.
Great Archival Film Long Unseen - but propaganda to put it mildly, 8 September 2006
Author: theowinthrop from United States

I have to give this series, broadcast in 1978, an "8" - almost a "9" because of it's remarkable televising of long unseen Russian newsreel and movie photography of the war effort on the Eastern Front from 1941 through 1945. In a sense the release of this material in 1978 was a kind of harbinger of the release of long secret Russian historical records and archives in the "Glastnost" period, until even today. The most notable effect of this tendency was the cooperation of the post 1985 governments to assist in finding and restoring the family remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his slaughtered wife Alexandra, and their children, to the Romanoff Family for proper burial. There are other examples, such as tracing the fates of millions of Stalin's purge victims. But the first feeble attempt at this was the photography released for this series on the Russian sacrifice (20 million dead!) in the Second World War.

But the film was released at a heavy price: The Russian Government of Leonid Brezhnev insisted that they control the narrative. Now, while nobody in their right minds would deny the terrible losses and trauma Russians and other Soviet Peoples suffered at the hands of the Nazis (example on a "small level, shown in the series: the destruction of the home of the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tschaikoswki by Nazi goons and the burning of original musical manuscripts to show their contempt for Slavic culture), the narrative went to the extent of almost denying the losses of Britain and Commonwealth, China (Communist and Kuomintang), the United States, France, and others (Jews, for example), as being on a large level too. The result was, at the least, annoying. In the opening episode the Western Viewer was told by the narrator (Burt Lancaster, managing to give a good accounting of his delivery - even when speaking the worst nonsense) that the so called "Winter War" of 1939 - 1944 between Finland under Marshall Mannerheim and Stalin's Russia was due to Finnish aggression.

I don't think I ever heard before about this theory of "Greater Finland" or the hitherto under-discussed "Finnish Baltic Supremacy Theory" that shook up the globe. Somehow it escaped most of us.

To be fair Mannerheim did get aid from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, but he was not a puppet of the former (say like Vidkun Quistling of Norway) nor a collaborator like Pierre Laval of France. In fact, Mannerheim threatened to make peace with Stalin, and even join forces with Russia against Germany, if any attempt was made to deport Finland's small Jewish population.

It is instructive that in the general "clensing" of neo-Nazi stooges in Europe following 1945, like Franco in Spain, Mannerheim was not bothered. But unlike Franco Mannerheim was honored as a great hero - even getting on an American postage stamp in the 1960s.

Similar twisting of history distort the good of the series. Little is said of such off stage incidents as the blitz or the later V2 campaign against London. While aerial warfare is given good treatment (particularly showing the loosening of sexual role playing in the war - like America's "Rosie the Riveter", Russia's women played an active role in the war machine, even as pilots of the Russian air force), the Russian's willingness to sacrifice anything for victory is underplayed. Stalin is not shown as the monster he was - his Nonaggression Pact with Hitler is barely touched on. Nothing is said of the Gulags or the Purges, except to extol certain public works projects that were valuable (that we now know were built by slave laborers from the Gulags.

The series was not fully shown. Russia invaded Afghanistan, and the U.S. public lost interest. It has not been brought back with a fixed narrative, but it probably could be now. Russia did sacrifice on an unprecedented scale. But the story of that hard, terribly hard and bloody victory of the Russian People still needs to be told without propagandistic lies for the West and the rest of the World to know of, and appreciate. Those lies prevent this from being a "10".

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