The Winds of War (TV Mini-Series 1983– ) Poster

(1983– )

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Impressive Achievement
jimconnell-229 December 2005
There are a few things to love about this ambitious World War II epic, many things to like and one thing to loath.

In terms of production values, scale, scope and sweep, "Winds of War" and it's sequel "War and Remembrance" are unparalleled. WoW consists of two compelling narratives: The larger back story of WWII itself (propelled by the leaders of the era, Hitler, Roosevelt, Churchill, et al), and the smaller, personal stories of the Henry family and friends. The former far more interesting than the latter.

These two story threads are seamlessly woven together by the Henry Patriarch, Victor 'Pug' Henry (Robert Michum) who conveniently Forrest Gumps his way into a half dozen major policy meetings of both the Allies and Axis powers. Believing that a Navy captain could (in the span of 2 years) befriend Roosevelt, chat up Churchill, negotiate with Hitler & Mussolini and toast a bit of a stretch, but here, it works. This is due in no small part to the credibility Robert Michum brings to the role, carrying himself with the kind of dignity and charisma that could indeed curry the respect of these world leaders.

Scenes set within the upper echelons of power (White House, 10 Downing, Wolf's Lair, etc) are far and away the best of the series. While Roosevelt, Churchill and Mussolini all receive effective portrayals, the interpretation of Adolf Hitler by Gunter Meisner tops them all. Balancing the cagey, political brilliance of Hitler with the twisted, maniacal evil has always been a challenge for actors, but Meisner pulls it off nicely. Yes, we see screaming, red faced rants, but they are usually accompanied by creepily engrossing soliloquies (outlining his rational for invading France, and later the USSR) that add depth and dimension to the madness.

The story of the Henry family is only interesting in so far as it connects to the larger WWII narrative. Seeing the direct, human impact that Hitler's aggression and tyranny has on the Henry circle is effective and instructive. However, almost every other aspect of their family story is inconsequential and trite.

Which brings me to the loathsome of WoW: Ali MacGraw. As Natalie Jastrow, the love interest for Pug's son Byron (Jan-Michal Vincent), Ali delivers quite possibly the worst acting performance ever filmed opposite Jan-Michael (and yes, I am including the Airwolf helicopter). Her performance manages to be both bland and shrill, sucking the life out of every minute she's on screen (which, when added up, sadly accounts for about 1/3 of the 15 hour running time). Watching her slack-jawed, one-note performance, I felt pity for the other actors dragooned into her orbit and mourned for the movie that could have existed in her absence. For a glimpse of that movie, you need only rent "War & Remembrance" where her character was thankfully recast with Jane Seymore.

However, one long, grating, bad note cannot spoil what is still an impressive achievement and worth the investment in time.
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Top Television Production
DKosty12319 August 2007
ABC made a very large splash with this production in 1983. It represented a very major project for the network & it drew big ratings. Dan Curtis did a very credible job within the constrictions of this. It has the look & feel of a major film in spite of it's small screen origins.

The total series is done from a world perspective on how things looked in the time leading up to Americas entry into World War 2. While the battle sequences are limited by what the budget could produce, they are effective.

The cast, while good is somewhat our of place. Robert Mitchum is a fine actor but is too old for the role of Pug Henry. Ali Mcgraw is attractive, but has difficulty bringing off the acting in her role. For a network mini series, this is very well done given these leads & a very large cast of supporting players.

As this series does move among several locales involved in the conflict, you get some feeling for things that happened like being in the Kremlin when Germany was bombing it. A short sequence of the German front line within sight of Moscow in 1941 is interesting. A Nazi party in Germany with Hitler & a group of American guests is unique.

The Russian sequences are some of the early feelings of the Russian front given to Americans historically before World War 2. Sadly, Americans were not exposed to what really happened on that front until after the 1980's when the Soviet empire split apart & some of the Russian archives were finally made public. Still, Stalin's portrayal in this is more balanced than some, almost creepy.

This film was the first to present FDR & show physically what a miracle it was that he was leading the US. It showed how he led but how his fragile leadership was hidden from the American public.

Overall, for television a crowning achievement. As far as art, Herman Woulks novel is better in spite of how much work went into this production.
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A terrific yarn, tarnished by miscasting and one awful performance.
jond-726 June 2005
The novel Winds of War is so engrossing that I've read it several times. The mini-series tries hard to put it on the screen, and has some notable success. The screenplay, written by Wouk himself, is faithful to the book; the location shooting and production values are first rate; and many of the performances are excellent. Unfortunately, several of the main characters are way too old for their parts.

Robert Mitchum is a tired looking 66 year old senior playing the part of a vigorous 50 year old naval officer. Jan-Michael Vincent is a 39 year old man playing a 23 year old youth. But the real stick-in-the-eye is Ali MacGraw. Not only is she a 45 year old woman playing a 30 year old, but she is so bad, so monotone, that it's like she was never in front of a camera. Very distracting, and puts a serious flaw in every scene that she ruins.

Lots of other performances are right on. Polly Bergen, Peter Graves, Topol, and David Dukes are all perfect in their roles.

In spite of the defects, the mini-series is like the book. Once you start watching, you're hooked.
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great movie !!
linga_9710 March 2004
I saw this a second time after reading the Herman Wouk novel and liked it much more.

The acting, scenes are wonderful and adhere closely to the book.

My only comment is that Ali McGraw is too old for the Jewish girl she played. In addition, Victoria Tennant is really terrific. Difficult to see how anyone could ignore her after her charming appearances.

I wish this video(or DVD) could be lumped up together with those for 'War and Remembrance". That would be great !!

I am not sure how Mr Wouk got the information. Historical facts, imagination or inside information ? They all seem accurate and credible.

Don't miss it.

Make sure watching it several times.
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Great Movie!
gschlager20 September 2001
After reading the book in high school and seeing the movie on ABC I would say it's the best made for TV series I have ever seen. The Hallmark Channel has bought the rights to "The Winds of War" and I am looking forward to viewing it again. I also look forward to "The Winds of War" & "War and Remembrance" coming out on DVD.
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Gunter Meisner is terrific
jameshagerty28 December 2004
As I review the comments of others, I see little reference to Gunter Meisner's work as Adolf Hitler in this series. Well, I see where someone thought it overdone. My own reaction was to wonder if this actor won any awards for his performance. Anyone know? Every time he appeared, I commented to my wife how impressed I was at how striking and forceful and commanding he was. Particularly in his scene with the General about the invasion of France. Overall, the Winds of War is a very compelling piece of work. I don't know how I managed to miss it when it first showed as a miniseries, but I'm sort of happy since I can now appreciate it on DVD without commercials. I bought it for my wife for Christmas. She kept mentioning it as the best TV movie she ever saw, and darned if she isn't right.
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Excellent, well acted & directed, not too long, a must see
JohnSanford14 January 2004
This movie gives the viewer a very good basis for understanding the events that led up to WWII. Each character gives a unique perspective on the times, events and conscience of the countries involved. This movie holds your attention from start to finish, is never boring, and leaves an impression that will remain with you for a long time. It is also good for classroom use at all levels, especially if WWII is being covered with students. Personally, I anxiously await its release.
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Holy COW!
grahamsj329 June 2004
POWERFUL! POWERFUL! POWERFUL! Herman Wouk's novel is nearly as good adapted to the screen as it was a novel. The mini series was perfectly cast and superbly acted. I'd forgotten how beautiful Polly Bergen and Ali McGraw are in this film! Robert Mitchum's performance is absolutely flawless. I recall seeing this several years ago and I loved it then. I love it even more on DVD! I am now trying to find the sequel, War and Remembrance. If I recall, it is every bit as good! Back to this one, however. Ali McGraw does a fantastic job as a jewish woman trapped in a Europe dominated by the jew-hating Nazis. She is trapped because of the trepidation of her uncle, who hates to leave his beloved Italy. As a consequence, she ends up stuck as well. There are many complications, not the least of which is that she is married to an American Naval Officer, Byron Henry, superbly played by Jan Michael-Vincent. This is a long one (>15 hours!) but is well worth the time it takes to watch it.
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A great mini-series - despite Ali MacGraw
Steve Riley3 July 2007
I've just revisited this mini-series on DVD for the first time since I saw it when it was first screened on TV back in 1983, so my memory of it had been very vague and I'd forgotten pretty much all of it.

I'd also forgotten just how singularly dreadful Ali MacGraw is in this.

I've not read the book, but I have the impression that the character of Natalie Jastrow is supposed to be strong-willed, spirited, feisty and sexy. If that's the case then MacGraw failed on all counts.

Instead of being strong-willed, spirited and feisty, MacGraw's Natalie comes across as spoilt, petulant and generally obnoxious - constantly complaining, throwing hissy-fits and looking down her nose at people (both literally and metaphorically). And when she's trying to be all coquettish for the benefit of Sloate and Byron, her performance is about as sexy as a bad case of athlete's foot.

All in all a horrible piece of miscasting by the producers, and I'm not in the least bit surprised that she wasn't rehired for the sequel "War And Remembrance" (in which Jane Seymour's Natalie was a quantum leap improvement over MacGraw's portrayal). At least Old Bleary Eyes himself, Robert Mitchum, brings gravitas, presence and start quality to his role, even though he looks all of his (at the time of filming) 66 years and was really about 15 years too old and several trouser sizes too large for the character he was playing.

Looking beyond the presence of Ali MacGraw though, this classic mini-series is a great way to while away a week's worth of evenings in front of the TV, and the way in which historical events and characters are interwoven with the more personal story lines of the main fictional characters is very nicely done.

The sequel is even better (and longer), and I'm looking forward to starting on that soon.
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Best Movie and Love Story I have seen!
dwillard117 November 2005
If you like war movies and love stories this is the movie for you. Multiple plots and love stories going on at the same time. Great movie I have watched it now more than 12 times. Touches your heart along with giving an idea of what that time was like for people. The story of what different parts of a family go through during the time before the beginning of World War II. I found this movie to be very informative for me in particular about the things that happened in Poland. Robert Mitchem was his normal great self in this movie. Especially the scene where he stops the German waiter and makes them apologize. Jan Michael-Vincent again was in his Element as the son of Pug Henry falling in love with the beautiful woman who Natalie who has not been home to America for years. For me it was the greatest love stories and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. I give it a Ten and more.
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MartinHafer11 February 2006
I loved the Herman Wouk novels THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE. They are brilliant books and are among the finest fictionalized accounts of war available (i.e., the places and events are real but the characters are fictionalized amalgams of real people). Each book is about 700-800 pages long and it was wonderful to see them brought to the small screen instead of the theaters. That's because some magnificent person at the TV networks decided that the books MUST be made into 2 separate mini-series mega-events. And, even more impressive is that the movies are so true to the books and fascinating. I loved how the series bounced back and forth to the different characters and locations. It really was a major work of love that probably will never be repeated again. Brilliant and wonderful throughout--my highest possible rating. AND, be sure to see the follow-up series WAR AND REMEMBRANCE!
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Great Movie Watching
WWIIFan2 July 2011
I recently watched Winds of War for the second time. I agree that some of the actors were miscast (definitely Ali McGraw) but for all that it is a great mini-series. If you haven't read the book, McGraw may not annoy you that much. I agree with the reviewer who said to look for acting gems in the supporting cast. I especially liked Jeremy Kemp as General Armin von Roon. Robert Mitchum did do a great job despite his being over the age of the character Victor Henry. Historically, the major events were accurate and besides a good story it is also a good history lesson.

Highly recommend.
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"Winds" sometimes blew hot and cold
norton271 July 2011
Ms. Ali "should have called it day with Love Story" McGraw? Sorry but all I could see was the same whimsical, throw the head back, monotone replies through most of the movie. Reminiscant of her Love Story performance. It worked well there but not in the streets of Warsaw or D.C. Especially the scene with the embassy person while trying to get her Uncle's passport reinstated. Her attempt to change mood and win over the ambassador was laughable. Poor casting on some of the characters, especially McGraw. The actor playing Hitler? Worst Hitler I have ever seen. The guy was grotesque and over acted. Mr. Mitchum and his counterpart the German General did much to save the day. I rate the movie based on story line, history, etc. = 9. Ali and some of the other cast pull the rating down to more of a 7.

Top billing stars like Ali, just not believable or memorable. Mitchum, Houseman and the supporting cast such as Kemp and Topol (minor parts) performed exceptionally and made the movie. Characters like the Jewish businessman who rented his home to that was acting...powerful. You look for those memorable moments in a movie that make you want to watch a second, third or more times. This one is a toss up for me and unfortunately not a first pick for as a "watch over".
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Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it
nbd21 February 2001
Winds of War and War and Remembrance are productions that rank with the best ever made. In addition to the accuracy of historical data, the casting, direction and all around production values are terrific. Too bad they can't be included in history courses in the high schools. Also too bad we can't have them on DVD w/Dolby. I watch them every few years on my original grainy home tapes, but still enjoy every minute.
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Unusual, yet quite complete WWII account
konstant-49 January 2001
I've seen the series when first transmitted by the Greek TV some years ago.

I liked the unusual account of the complete WWII era through the lives of various people, involved in it in different ways. Tight storytelling, action, romance, suspense, everyday life, everything is in.

A real treat!

Pity it's not available in VHS-PAL
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History. Bad acting.
deschreiber29 November 2011
This is an attempt to produce a big epic about World War II. Its strengths are the location shooting, with lots of variety of settings, costumes and background incidentals, a huge cast of extras to make city and crowd scenes effective, and a story that weaves the narratives of a number of individuals into the great events of World War II.

It does not, however, have much in the way of special effects or the kind of spectacle that we're generally used to seeing in big war movies. We see the bombing of Warsaw, for example, by watching two characters sitting on a couch with some plaster falling from the ceiling while the sound track plays booming noises. Completely inadequate.

The worst weaknesses are in the acting. (I do wonder, though, whether maybe the bad acting had something to do with weaknesses in the script, as Wouk was not exactly a Shakespeare.) In any case, two of the main females, Ali McGraw and Polly Bergen, are immensely irritating. While McGraw is the chief love interest, she does not manage to make herself in the least bit attractive. In order to make her character appear spoiled and willful, McGraw makes far too much of a very annoying self-satisfied smirk and a way of flouncing around that made me want to scream "Stop!" Polly Bergen plays an older woman, wife of the protagonist, Robert Mitchum, who in the middle of very serious political situations is concerned only with the surface of things. She could have made the character someone you felt a little sorry for because of her shallowness, her pathetic failure to grasp the world around her, but in Bergen's characterization she becomes someone for whom I felt only anger and contempt. Mitchum has always had more screen presence than acting ability; in The Winds of War he makes very little use of what acting ability he does have, most of the time merely looking like Robert Mitchum. Jan-Michael Vincent, playing one of McGraw's love interests, seems only capable of looking handsome and occasionally raising an eyebrow as a mark of insubordination. John Houseman's elderly scholar speaks. like. THIS. pronouncing. each. word. SEPARATELY. and. EMPHASIZING. about. every. THIRD. word. in. a. MOST. annoying. WAY. The director thought that the right way to depict David Dukes as a career diplomat who might not be quite as manly as the big, brave soldiers around him was to have him carry a pipe absolutely every second of his life. All this bad acting seriously undercuts the tone of the film.

As long as I am listing annoyances, I must mention the music whenever the U.S. president is about to come on stage, or even when Mitchum picks up a letter from the president. The music is heavenly, prayerful, worshipful in an offputting, even disgusting way--not so very different, in fact, from the kind of musical accompaniment you might get in a North Korean propaganda film about Great Leader Kim Il Sung. Horrid moments.

All in all, the movie is worth watching because it includes so much historical background and for the variety of scenes. For me, though, the enjoyment came at a significant cost.
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Way, Way Too Much Filler
affromva22 August 2012
The miniseries could have been easily condensed to six-to-eight hours.

So many "fluff and stuff" scenes ... that drag on for what seems like hours.

Mitchum carries it. MacGraw, Graves, Bergen, and Vincent are horrible; when they hit the screen, the show slows to a crawl. Tennant and Dukes deliver respectable performances as do everyone of the "baddies".

The character portrayed by MacGraw ... nobody is that stupid.

And why introduce the second son ... maybe to create the suspense that eventually he'd play into the plot?

The ending is anticlimactic.

I'd like to see it remade.
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Wouk's version of War and Peace
Andre Raymond3 October 2009
Fans of War and Peace will see the obvious parallels between Wouk's two novels and Tolstoy's epic Napoleonic saga.

Both tell the story of two families (in Winds of War we have the Jastrows and the Henrys, in War and Peace we have the Bolkonskis and the Rostovs) and their friends swept up in the events just prior and during epic wars. The destinies and stories of the fictional members of those families are intertwined with those of historical figures. In each of the novels there is one character who gives a historical overview in long dissertive essays. In War and Peace there is the unflappable general Kutuzov. In War and Remembrance there is the stolid German soldier, Von Roon.

The problem of adapting both authors to the screen is one of scope and length. Do you remember Snoopy's epic adaptation of War and Peace with sock puppets in Charlie Brown? Well, Dan Curtis did a credible job of bringing Wouk's vision to the screen. He replaces Von Roon's larger post-war essays from the novel by the third-person narrator. Had he still been alive at the time I could see Curtis choosing Lorne Greene (the so-called "voice of doom" from those old WWII propaganda documentaries).

Aside from the endless redundancy of Nathalie and Aaron Jastrow's trying to get out of Europe and the equally repetitive and saccharine love story between Pug and Pamela, the story goes along pretty well.

The portrayal of Hitler has been widely criticized, but needs to be placed in the proper perspective. Hitler is seen through the eyes of the very aristocratic Prussian Von Roon. He would be perceived as a buffoon.

As far as historical narratives go, this production gives the next generation a good overall impression of why and how World War II came about. War and Remembrance was more problematic in that it relied a great deal on stock footage and footage purchased from other movies (in particular from Tora! Tora! Tora!) to show the big battles of World War II.
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Best example of "Who Did She Sleep With To Get The Role?"
IslandMadMacs23 March 2008
A wonderful television mini-series completely ruined by a 45-year old woman trying desperately to pass herself off as a 16-year old ingenue! No exaggeration - that's the ACTUAL age of the character played by Ali MacGraw when the film opens just prior to the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. This TV mini-series really is the most classic example of the title of this post and one I refer to whenever the topic comes up.

That alone makes this completely unwatchable, despite the fact it's one of the best filmed WWII 'global' dramas TV has ever produced. If you have the stomach - or a decent fast-forward ability - you might be able to enjoy the late Robert Mitchum in a very strong performance.

I'm stunned at some of the comments referring to the love story (pun intended). Did they watch the film with their eyes closed? Or are they aging boomers who never cease to amaze me with their "selective memories" and "selective vision". I'm a Boomer myself so don't think for a second I'm some hubristic young punk. 45 WILL ALWAYS LOOK 45. Get used to it. Deal with it. Age gracefully damnit.

The Winds Of War could have been... so good. How much more would we be talking about this mini-series today, some 25 years later, had an ACTUAL ingenue been cast in such an important & critical role? Right now, with the constant haggard old biddy distraction, that alone cancels out most of the wonderful aspects of The Winds Of War.
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Just like a dairy product....
JaredCSM15 May 2007
....this mini does not get better with age. I saw this and it's sequel when originally broadcast, and like so many others was blown away. In early 2002 I borrowed the novels for both WOW and W and R and was even more impressed. I then decided that I had to see both again and invested $200 plus on the DVD sets. I watched both minis again in painful detail and realized I had done things backwards - I should have purchased the novels and borrowed the DVD's.

Don't believe it is abysmally miscast? Read the novels and see for yourself. Don't think this is dated? Screen it for somebody not old enough to have seen it originally broadcast and watch the reaction you get (warning - reactions from such people range from looks of horror to belly laughs).

According to the trivia section for this mini - Dan Curtis himself chose Ali MacGraw and Robert Mitchum. Yikes!! Production quality, music scoring, dialog - a great story was turned into a late 70's soap opera by an overly ambitious producer/director who was in way over his head. This thing was dated the minute it was completed.

These two minis were great when original broadcast and to those of us who saw them then, tug at a nostalgic string that reminds us of younger days. IMO - this mini does not nearly live up to its reputation and severely disappoints.
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Why, they don't have younger actors and actresses in 1980s???
yu_stanley-115 May 2008
The novel "The winds of war" is no doubt one of the greatest World War II epic ever written, and fairly speaking, the mini-series is very well adapted (it is screenplayed by the novel author Herman Wouk).

Unfortunely, I am afraid to say the cast of this series is terrible. All of the major actors and actress are 15-20 years older than the characters in the novel, especially the cast of Baron Henry(22 years old in the novel, played by 39-years-old Jan Michael-Vincent) and 26-years-old Natalie Jastrow (played by 45-years-old Ali McGraw). You can clearly see the twinkles of these two on their faces, and when they made out, errrrr......
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The story outweighs the bad acting...
ETO_Buff18 January 2006
Aside from Robert Mitchum, the acting in this mini-series ranges from poor to bad, especially in the case of Ali MacGraw. However, the story and the high production quality balances or even outweighs the bad acting. Overall, it kept me interested, mainly because I liked seeing how the war gradually enveloped the world, and I gained a better perspective on how the war affected people in various circumstances.

One thing that put me off, besides the acting, was at one point, the character of FDR makes a comment that is supposed to lead the audience to believe that he wished he could change the immigration laws to allow more Jewish refugees to enter the U.S. Official government records show that year after year during the German persecution of Jews, the U.S. only filled a little over half of its immigration quota and turned away thousands of these people that the law would have allowed to enter the country.

All-in-all, I think it's worth watching if you enjoy this genre, and I'm glad to have seen it. It's eighteen hours long, and was in production for three years. Shot on locations around the world, and with over 300 speaking parts in the script, it's a big one!
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Excellent series but you need to watch others
kenlynes28 March 2006
This is a very good series but of course it should be followed by watching the second part which is called War and Remembrance. This Winds or War covers those things leading up to the war and should be watched prior to seeing War and Remembrance. There are other series which should also be watched if you are really interested in WWII and one of the best of that type is World At War which is one of the best documentaries about WWII I have ever seen. As someone suggested, this one and W & R and W at W should be watched along with Saving Private Ryan to get a good take on what war is all about. The plot line was based on true events in both books which were well documented in foot notes and the appendix in Winds of War and also War and Remembrance.
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Does not do the novel justice.
JaredCSM9 July 2004
I am commenting on this miniseries from the perspective of someone who read the novel first. And from that perspective I can honestly say that while enjoyable, I can see why it hasn't been rebroadcast anytime recently. More specifically, this mini has some serious problems, such as:

1) It is terribly miscast. The actors who played the younger generation were all 15 to 20 years older than the characters. Ali McGraw (45 at the time) was playing Natalie Jastrow who was supposed to be about 26. Jan-Michael Vincent (39 at the time) was playing Byron Henry who was supposed to be about 22. The other Henry children, and Pamela Tudsbury, were also played by actors way too old for characters who were supposed to be in their 20's.

2) Some of the acting was absolutely awful. Ali McGraw at times almost made this mini unwatchable. I have seen more convincing performances in high school plays.

3) The directing was poor. To be fair to Ali McGraw, the bad acting and character development were probably the directing. The portrayal of Hitler was way overdone. His character came off looking and behaving more like a cartoon villain than the charismatic, sometimes charming, but always diabolical genius Herman Wouk painted him as in the novel. Some of the other characters are done so stereotypically (Berel Jastrow) they do not gain the depth of character that Wouk created for them.

4) This mini is very dated. The hokey music, the pretentious narration (it sounded like a junior high school history film narration), and the entire prime-time soap opera feel of the mini made it almost comical at times. Also, too often Byron and Natalie are costumed and made up to look like they are in 1979 rather than 1939.

Someone who watches this without the benefit of reading the novel first will probably not sit through it all, because it will come off more as a late 70's / early 80's "take myself too seriously" prime-time soap drama, rather than the television version of what is certainly a modern American classic.

Remakes of older movies and the like are sometimes poorly done, but this is probably one case where a creative and inspired director could make a very stunning, memorable, and critically acclaimed production. I don't ever see that happening since a remake would have to be just as long (15 hours) or longer to do it right, and given the short attention span of most of the current American viewing public, it wouldn't fly.
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Superb movie. Only one drawback.
Star29014 February 2002
The scenery, storyline, and acting will draw you into this movie. It is surprisingly well done and acted. The only negative aspect at all is the actor portraying Adolf Hitler. I don't know how this slipped by the director and producer when everything else is perfect. Hitler is cartoonish in looks and action. His scenes are surreal in relation to the rest of the movie. Don't let this detract you from buying or seeing it. You WWII history buffs can easily get your spouses to watch this too if you can find moments totaling 14.5 hours to watch it together.
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