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DF McCleland (Johannesburg, South Africa)

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Unsolved Mysteries Of World War Two [DVD]
Unsolved Mysteries Of World War Two [DVD]
Offered by Not2day Media
Price: £4.95

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many unusual & arcane aspects of WW2 handled competently, 12 July 2009
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Generally Pegasus productions are not of the highest quality for a number of reasons. They generally use the same range of stock footage over a whole range of productions. Secondly unless one is a neophyte with regard to WW2, the level of commentary tends to be inane & mediocre.

Maybe due to the nature of the topics, they could not use stock footage to the same extent as normal & secondly possibly because this reviewer is not au fait with certain of the topics, this series of 13 episodes was found to be of greater interest.

The format is similar to all Pegasus productions on WW2 in that they contain no expert commentary, no recounting of the experiences by dramatis personae or which is becoming more prevalent, CG representations of key [unphotographed] moments.

The weakest episodes include the following:
* Stalin's Secret Armies
* The Secret War
* The Phantom Invasion

All these episodes offer trite & inconsequential commentary.

The episodes which I found to be of the most interest possibly due to lack of familiarity with the content were:
* The Death of Geli Raubal
* The Enigma of the Swastika
* The Riddle of Rudolph Hess

Overall, this DVD rates between a 3 & a 4. If this production had been produced by say the same producers as the Secrets of War or BBC for that matter, the standard would have been considerably higher.

There being no series in a similar vein, I will have grudging have to recommend this series instead.

Clash Of Wings [DVD]
Clash Of Wings [DVD]

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best chronicle of the development of airpower during WW2, 4 July 2009
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This review is from: Clash Of Wings [DVD] (DVD)
Most DVDs on airplanes will feature a series of clips on these aircraft in various poses: dropping bombs, strafing hapless troops or more prosaically just flying around. Often in addition to this there will be some explanation of where these aircraft were deployed & perhaps their effectiveness.

What all of these all have in common is that they relate purely to the tactical rather than the developmental & strategic milieu! Instead this DVD concentrates on these factors. Over 9 hours & four disks, Walter Boyne, the writer of the eponymous book, expounds his hypothesis of the waves of development of aircraft during WW2 & whether the aircraft industry's output was developed timeously for the need at hand.

For this reason, I found this series of DVDs the best of this genre. In fact I found it deeply satisfying. Normally I would watch a DVD on say the Hawkers Hurricane. Because of the lack of depth, I would cast it aside & perhaps never watch it again whereas with this series, I keep on re-watching it. It marshals a myriad of facts to support its central thesis. An example of such a nugget is the factoid that Germany was deeply satisfied with the Luftwaffe's performance during the Polish campaign. Instead of increasing production to meet its future & more strenuous requirements, it kept production at 700 aircraft per month. The British in contrast, had quickly grasped the nettle of Total War & already increased their aircraft production past this level. This myopia & lack of strategic thinking ensured that the Phoenix of the Luftwaffe would ultimately succumb to overwhelming odds!

Failures of development are highlighted such as the failure to remove the deeply incompetent Udet & in fact Goering himself from the Luftwaffe. And so the series goes on - fact after fact to bolster the theme.

Of course there are a myriad of clips of these self same planes in their poses as one would expect in the other DVDs but their strategic & tactical context is contextualized to produce an understanding of a plane & its environment.

Of all the DVDs of this genre, this one is undoubtedly the best by a wide margin. Even if I had to nitpick, I could scarcely find fault with this DVD. If I could venture a criticism, it would not be at the production itself but rather the marketing thereof. With such an excellent production, I find it odd that there was a lack of aggressive marketing of it.

North Face [DVD]
North Face [DVD]
Dvd ~ Florian Lukas

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Experience vertigo yourself while watching the disastrous attempt on the North Face of the Eiger in 1936, 14 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: North Face [DVD] (DVD)
Initially I found it distracting that one had to read subtitles in English - this being a German movie - but once the movie started going, this fact was quickly overlooked.

Loosely based upon true events, this DVD tells the attempt by two friends, Toni & Andi to scale the treacherous north face of the Eiger. That part is true. The part that is added to enhance the story is that of Luise, an aspiring journalist & long-time friend of these amateur mountaineers.

Being amateurs not with a surfeit of money, they have rudimentary equipment comprising home-made pitons & crucially, a lack of crimpons.

What becomes their nemesis are two Austrian climbers who they reluctantly allow them to join on their climb. This precipitates a series of disastrous events which eventually culminates in the death of all four climbers. Their attempts to extricate themselves from this predicament results in heart-stopping & gut-wreathing moments when one feels the effects of vertigo one self.

What I cannot understand is why human beings would want to put themselves into so much danger?

Overall this is an excellent production

Operation Valkyrie: Stauffenberg's Plot To Kill Hitler [2004] [DVD]
Operation Valkyrie: Stauffenberg's Plot To Kill Hitler [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jonathan Barbee
Price: £4.96

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of Stauffenberg's plot mainly through re-enactments & CG reconstructions, 14 Jun. 2009
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Most people with some knowledge of WW2 are aware of the plot to kill Hitler. This DVD will fill in the detail. Obviously there would never be extant footage of the of the dramatic events being the final 15 minutes when the bomb was placed in the conference room. All of these events are re-enacted or reconstructed using CG.

Even though there are interviews with relatives & one co-conspirator, most dramatis personae were either executed in the aftermath of the events of 20th July 1944 or they have subsequently passed on.

Even though the subtitle explicitly states that the DVD relates to Stauffenberg's Plot, the DVD does actual cover the two other known plots viz the bomb in Munich in 1938 & the bomb of the plane in Russia in 1942 both of which were failures.

The DVD is well made & cannot be faulted per se. The rating of 4 instead reflects the reviewer's disappointment with the lack of "heft" or substance. As such it will not be a DVD that will be re-watched too often.

The Thunderbolt [DVD]
The Thunderbolt [DVD]
Price: £2.37

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars War time film of 65th Squadron in action in Italy, 7 Jun. 2009
This review is from: The Thunderbolt [DVD] (DVD)
This film is one of a series made on the express instructions of the US War Department whereby well known Hollywood directors were used to make films explaining the war.

This is one of two that William Wyler made; the other being the well known Memphis Belle. The film relates to the activities of a squadron of Republic P47 Thunderbolts which was based in Corsica.

This DVD comprises the whole gambit of the squadron's activities over the period of filming from the most mundane such as the washing of clothes, shaving & playing with their yo-yos to their intended purpose - attacking the Germans.

The interesting part from a military history perspective, are their attacks on strategic targets north of the Gustav line as part of the self explanatory Operation Strangle. The objective of the attacks was to prevent the reinforcement & replenishment of the German forces some 200 kms further south.

With cameras mounted at various locations on the aircraft some interesting shots are obtained of the aircraft & their activities.

This is undoubtedly a well made documentary but one must bear in mind the times in which it was made - during the war, in support of the Allied war effort & the style of the period. If one ignores that fact that the style which is rather dated & the display of various mindless mundane activities, the video is of great interest with lots of interesting shots. Secondly the video could so easily have slipped into a jingoistic & propagandistic mode which it does not & glorify war but it does not.

Overall despite these shortcomings it is an excellently made video but bear in mind that it is a very dated production.

Live At Montreux 1996 [DVD] [2006]
Live At Montreux 1996 [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Deep Purple
Offered by Hardliner-music
Price: £8.09

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep going strong after all those years!, 7 Jun. 2009
First the line-up for this (these) show(s) - more on that later: It comprised the Mark VII team of Jon Lord, Roger Glover, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan plus Steve Morse on lead guitar. Apart from Steve, this is the team that represents Mark II Deep Purple & arguably the period of their greatest creativity.

One also gets a sneaking suspicion when comparing this performance with say their Live in California 1974 DVD that they are enjoying it more - vide Jon Lord mouthing the notes that he is playing - that the team is more cohesive & that they are more self confident. The end result is a tighter more polished performance. An interesting aside is watching Ian Gillan stumbling over the words of Highway Star & the other band members giving him a quick sideways glance as he does so! I would have thought that after 35 years he would have known the words implicitly!

The first half of the DVD comprises their 1996 performance whereas the second half - well actually quarter - comprises their 2000 performance. For the additional tracks I am willing to forgive the 1996 in the title.

The mix of songs is mainly from their Mark II period, but does include later songs from the 1990's such as Ted the Mechanic, Cascades & Hey Cisco. If there is one regret, it is the lack of songs from the Mark III period when Dave Coverdale & Glen Hughes drove the band in a more bluesy direction. Will we ever again hear the likes of Mistreated, Burn, Stormbringer or the Soldier of Fortune ever again from Deep Purple? Morse does slip in a riff off Burn into one of the songs however!

Overall this is an excellent addition to the pantheon of Deep Purple releases & well worth buying with only one weak track - Sixty Nine.

For those whose prevailing dogma is that Deep Purple is not Deep Purple without Ritchie Blackmore, think again! Get over it. Steve Morse provides more than an adequate replacement. He has been doing a sterling job for many years now & by now has earned his right to be considered as part of Deep Purple! Without Ritchie's arrogance & self importance, he just quietly & efficiently gets the job done!

The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace
The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace
by W. Timothy Gallwey
Edition: Paperback

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple but profound insights about learning, 7 Jun. 2009
In 1976 the author Timothy Gallwey, gained a remarkable insight when trying to coach tennis. He pondered whether he was aiding or preventing the learning experience. This revolutionary thought process was provoked when he discovered that by asking the learner to focus on the ball & not the shot - by stating out aloud what the ball was doing - immediately improved the person's ability to play the ball.

In fact he found that the generally accepted method of providing advice as a coach on how to improve the shot was having the converse effect viz preventing the shot from being played correctly. This insight calls into question the role of the coach in the learning process.

From this profound insight arose the concepts of Self 1 & Self 2 where Self 2 was the non judgmental & intuitive part of oneself whereas Self 1 was the judgmental part which was invoked or provoked by traditional methods.

Typical training invoked the Self 1 which hindered the learning process. Evolving from this is the concept that in most situations the person had the innate ability to perform the task themselves. To prevent the Self 1 from automatically kicking-in, the role of the coach would instead focus on invoking Self 2.

Gallwey then expands this concept & demonstrates into applicability in the world of work. His first assignment involves the improvement in the tedious job of call centre operator.

Gallwey discusses how one can maximize one's enjoyment of even mundane tasks. By enjoying a task one is in a "state of flow" or "in the zone".

Other concepts are also introduced viz STOP when "renewal" is required. This relates to STEP BACK, THINK, ORGANISE YOUR THOUGHTS & then PROCEED. This is also a powerful concept to employ when floundering under pressure.

However what resulted in a score of a meager 3 is the attempt to philosophize. Maybe it's Mr. Gallwey's attempt to shed light on the application of these concepts, but instead I found them tedious & repetitive.

The concept of Self 1 & 2 undoubted has wide applicability & will no doubt gain greater acceptance with quality of work life issues on the ascendancy in the Western world. This is useful book for the collection as one needs to "dip in" every now & then. Overall there are some powerful & appropriate concepts which can be learnt but it could have been covered in half the number of pages.

The War File - Tanks!: Panzers At War [DVD]
The War File - Tanks!: Panzers At War [DVD]
Dvd ~ Special Interest

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD superbly chronicles the German tracked armoured vehicles during WW2, 7 Jun. 2009
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A number of misconceptions about Germany's tracked armoured vehicles are exposed during this series. As compared with their contemporaries, this DVD is not just a collection of great shots of the most famous of the German tanks such as the Tiger but rather this DVD contextualises it.

In the first episode, Steel Tigers, the state of the German Armoured forces is highlighted during their enigmatic or more correctly paradigmatic victories in Poland & Western Europe.

Rather than the quality of their Armour being the reason for the stupendous victories, it was the German's superior battle doctrine which was the linchpin. In fact, as is made clear, during the Battle of France, the Germans were in fact inferior both in terms of quality - their being a preponderance of the useless Mark Is & IIs - and numerically - 2500 versus 4000. The concentration of the armour into Panzer Divisions was the decisive factor. The allies on the other hand, squandered their resources in the penny-packet deployment of their armour. In addition the Germans had learnt some very valuable lessons during their Polish Campaign which they now used to great effect.

The continuing series of facile victories both in the desert & in the Balkans bolstered the German's feelings of invincibility. As a result, they failed to learn the ultimate lessons about tank design & although the future Tiger & Panther were on the drawing boards, gave their development no priority until they ultimately encountered the T34 in bulk.

In fact the superb Tiger & Panther were eventually only produced in extremely modest quantities & as such, despite their legendary performance, would never stem the tide of Allied armour.

The next episode deals with the Sturmgeschutze - the Assault Gun - and the Panzerjaeger- the Tank Hunter. All of these vehicles played a vital role in the German army of WW2. With the dearth of Main Battle Tanks, both these categories of vehicles found themselves being pressed into inappropriate roles. The reasons for the adoption of the Tank Hunter related to cost. With no costly turret, they could be produced in greater quantities. The best known were the Jagdpanther, the Jagdtiger and the Panzerjaeger IV. With their impressively low profiles, the Panzerjaeger probably accounted for more Allied tanks than their better known brothers although no where can this statistic be found to corroborate this assumption.

The last episode deals with the Sturmartillerie - the Armoured Artillery. Fast moving Panzer Grenadiers required mobile artillery to accompany them. This was provided by such vehicles as the Wespe & the Hummel.

Encapsulated in these three episodes is a complete resume of the German tracked armoured forces covering their development, strengths & weaknesses & deployment. Of all the DVDs on the subject this DVD tackles the subject from an intellectual viewpoint rather than a series of action shots without context.

Communism - The Great Belief Of The 20th Century [2002] [DVD]
Communism - The Great Belief Of The 20th Century [2002] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Berthold Bartosch
Offered by Quality Media Supplies Ltd.
Price: £7.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly produced & incorrectly titled, 31 May 2009
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With its grandiloquent title, I expected an overview of the rise & fall of Communism during the 20th Century with reasons for its rise & why it was considered the "great belief". Instead one gets a highly selective history focused mainly on the French Communist Party.

What I did find fascinating was the level of hero worship of "Uncle Joe" Stalin by all Communists, one of the world's greatest mass murders & paranoid leaders.

Do not bother purchasing but rather purchase the BBC production, "The Lost World of Communism".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 20, 2011 6:14 AM GMT

Ross Kemp: Return to Afghanistan [DVD]
Ross Kemp: Return to Afghanistan [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ross Kemp
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Close-up view of British military action in Afghanistan, 31 May 2009
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Most of the documentaries on war show the behind the scenes actions - jets firing, artillery pounding a distant target or troops moving up to attack. Not this DVD. Here Ross Kemp accompanies various units as they fight it out with the Taliban. On a number of occasions, he is actually under fire.

This documentary gives one a clear sense of what it is like to be fighting in Afghanistan. What was especially interesting was when the British patrols are accompanied by ANA - Afghan National Army & the ANP - the Afghan National Police. In his interviews with their commanders, one can obtain a sense of what the Afghanis albeit the government forces think of the situation. They come across as gung-ho but extremely brave. This is reflected in their eschewing the use of body armour. In additional their tactical doctrine appears to be "less smart" than that of the British.

Each war produces its own unmistakable landscapes, weaponry & feel. Vietnam had its jungles & choppers for instance but what will now be engraved in my view of Afghanistan is the fighting in the Compounds.

In the case of all 3 units that Ross Kemp accompanied, I gained the impression of extreme professionalism even under enemy fire. That bodes well but clearly with the lack of troops in Afghanistan, large parts of Helmand province are still under Taliban control.

For all those interested in military matters, this DVD will provide the best introduction to how the British are fighting in Afghanistan & as such it is clearly not an unbiased view of the war.

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