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on 31 May 2011
My version of TOTW - the Synapse Special edition produced in 2001 - is technically good. So why, I wonder, are many people on this site rubbishing an updated version? Is the new edition really as terrible as they argue?

Let me say at the outset that I don't work for, or represent, Synapse films in any way. I've never had any commercial dealings with them. And I don't get a rake-off, or anything else, from them.

But I'm puzzled by some of reviews for this Special Edition produced by Synapse Films. There are many editions of 'Triumph of the Will'. Most are terrible - technically so bad as to be unwatchable. But the Synapse Special Edition I bought, which was issued in 2001, is something different. As it says on the cover it's a "brand new windowedboxed digital transfer from a 35mm fine grain film". The quality is good - the best I've seen of this movie. Ok, it's not as perfect as the best Hollywood films, but there's little to complain about.

My special edition contains the original German language with newly translated removable English subtitles. There's also an audio commentary, which you can turn on and off, by the historian Dr Anthony R. Santoro. This is a model of what a commentary should be. He avoids any enthusiam for the Nazis, or tiresome moralising. He just presents us with the facts and contributes considerably to understanding what's going on in the film. It's a real bonus and will help any student studying the period.

There's also a Leni Riefenstahl short film 'Day of Freedom' which is admitedly technically poor.

As I say my Synapse Special Edition was issued in 2001. What we're reviewing here is a later version remastered in 2006. This updated version has slightly better picture quality. It's been digitally cleaned-up more and has a new cover.


The reason I ask is because of the virulent opinions expressed by some reviewers. Some tell you this 2006 edition is the worst they've ever seen - technically so poor you should avoid buying it at all costs.

Is this true?

One way to find out is to look up this Synapse edition, which is an American import, on the Amazon site in the United States. There you'll find many more reviews. And guess what? Many say this is a good edition - the best they've seen. One person says, 'The DVD transfer is magisterial. Clean, sharp...And, as good a sound as one can ever expect.' Another says: 'Technically a wonderful transfer, pictures are of a very good quality...'

A third person remarks:- 'The DVD transfer of both the audio and visuals is astonishing in its clarity. In fact, it was so vivid, when the pizza man knocked on my door during the opening credits, I nearly hid in the basement.'

A fourth says:- 'The Synapse DVD Special Edition surpassed all expectations...this DVD is visually very crisp and sharp and the audio quality is fine. The DVD appears to be produced from an excellent original film print...This Special Edition is good as it gets.'

A fifth says:- 'The resolution is excellent to the degree that you can see the follicles in a close-up of Hitler's face. Unlike many similar documentaries of questionable quality, this DVD allows the viewer to appreciate facial expressions, uniform insignia, and other detail.'

Still unconvinced?...Then look up this edition on Amazon's Canadian site. There you'll find a similar reaction from viewers.

One person says this DVD is 'priceless. The narration is super...' A second agrees:- 'Very cleaned up and well done...'

A third adds:- 'I bought the Special Edition DVD. The quality of this black and white film is the best I have ever seen.'

A fourth says:- 'This DVD was recommended as the best version available for this film. It is...Sound is good. Everything is clear.'

Another admirer remarks:- 'TOTW has been lovingly and painstakingly restored here in a digital edition that should be a staple of any serious movie library or classroom film course. For years the only way to see the movie was in blotchy, multiple-generation interpositives that reduced the film's compositions and shots to mud. The veneer of decades of abuse and age have been removed with this edition. This is the first time the film has been seen anywhere nearly close to its original condition in a long time. For that reason alone this disc gets five stars.'

You can easily access Amazon's Canadian and US sites by clicking on the words at the bottom of this page.

Plainly many people who are buying this DVD from Amazon in Canada and the United States think it's good. So what's happening?

Is a bad quality pirate version of the 2006 Synapse edition upsetting UK customers?

Or have reviews for bad editions got mixed up with the good so the good are now being rubbished? You'll notice that some reviews - identical reviews - appear several times rubbishing various editions from different companies.

Or are some people trying to prevent UK customers from buying this controversial movie for political reasons? Are they rubbishing it technically in the hope they can stop people buying it when they have different motives?

One way to solve the problem is for people to name the company that produced their DVD in their reviews. If people do that their reviews will help customers avoid bad editions. At the moment things are all over the place.

UPDATE:- Synapse is working on a new Blu-ray edition for 2012.
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on 13 April 2008
Fully agreeing with the previous reviewers who've already pointed out that this edition is probably not the best one quality-wise and also lacks from any serious accompanying notes, I'd just like to add the information that the superimposed American subtitles were apparently already on the analogue master this DVD copy is based on, and therefore they cannot be switched off.

They're also always white, and frequently there's white subtitles on bright background - useless: you can't read a thing. And they even have misspellings: they say 'toady' at one point instead of 'today'.

So overall, I'd say this edition is probably all right if you just want to get an idea what "Triumph of the Will" is all about, but if you value a quality reproduction and don't like cheap bargain basement editions, better stay away.
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on 1 May 2008
DO NOT BUY THIS VERSION. The picture quality is terrible it is copied from a VHS tape so the American English subtitles can not be switched off. The spelling is often wrong, not just US spelling, actually incorrect in any version of English. Subtitle text is white in top of the picture which means it just disappears into the background until a darker part of the movie flashes up. BUY ANOTHER EDITION NOT RECOMMENDED
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on 9 February 2012
I ordered, and subsequently cancelled, no fewer than three different versions of this film as a result of reading widely differing reviews.
As Roger Clark has pointed out, the problem appears to be that reviews relating to several different versions of this film have all been lumped together in one place.
It seems such a shame that potential buyers might be dissuaded from purchasing a perfectly good product as a result of reading a review that relates to a completely different version.
I eventually settled for the 2006 Synapse special edition. This is the one with the brownish coloured packaging depicting a large close up of a german soldier's head in the style of the propaganda posters of the time.
For the record I can say that I am extremely satisfied. Both the picture and sound are of high quality, (well, as high quality as one can expect from a remaster of a film shot in 1934).
I have seen a website where someone has posted several stills from four different versions of the film, and from these it is clear that the Synapse versions are far superior to the rest.
There appears to be little to choose between the 2001 and 2006 Synapse versions. The 2006 version has slightly improved image quality, (although it is so slight that you would really need to freeze frame both versions side by side and examine them very closely to notice any difference). The later version has white subtitles and an active menu compared to the earlier version which has yellow subtitles and a static menu, however the content is exactly the same.
If you have never owned a copy of this film before, then the 2006 version seems to be the one to go for. If, however, you already own the 2001 version, then I do not think the differences between the two would justify rushing out to replace it.
I ordered my copy from the US site, but I am posting my comments here in the hope that it might save someone from having to go through the rigmarole that I did.
P.S. It would appear that the accompanying short, Day Of Freedom, has also been remastered because although it contains a few more defects than TOTW, the overall sharpness and clarity was just as good, which I hadn't been expecting. Although it only lasts 16 minutes it is well worth a look, especially the sequence where they assemble the flak cannon.
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on 21 October 2008
I fully agree with the previous reviewers. This transfer is, quite simply, awful. Terrible picture quality, sub-titles that cannot be read and laughable spelling. It does not warrant any star rating at time I'll believe what the reviewers tell me!
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on 16 July 2010
Leni Riefenstahl in her biography cited that: she was talked into making the film of the 1934 Nuremburg Rally by Hitler, who wanted an independant view of the event. From the aspect of Nazi propaganda, it is an excellent portrayal of Hitler and the Nazi Party, following the purge of Ernst Roehm and the SA. The quality is patchy as would be expected with a film of the age and the interference of Goebells in the cutting room. From the point of view of a historian the message is clearly defined, how one man's willpower could engulf a nation and set it on the pathway to destruction. To apraise such a film the viewers must distance themselves from the subject, and avoid emotional involvement in its retoric, as we became all too aware, and to late, of Hitler's evil intentions, once he had assumed complete power. An excellent lesson in the way that Hitler persuaded the German citizens to worship his presence and thus follow his aims of the destruction of the non German races.
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on 20 March 2008
Amazing film, but evidently the DVD has been made using a well used VHs tape as original! On TV you can at times see crystal-clear snips of this classic propaganda film, crystal clear! This isn't! Far from it!

Otherwise, amazing!

Maybe other versions are better?!
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on 21 June 2005
As history recedes from the fear and mad enthusiasms of this particular era it is becoming easier to view this work not exactly dispassionately - the passion and enthusiasm and the terrors they brought are integral to it - but with a degree of reserved understanding. As a child I lived surrounded by informed loathing of nazi-ism and fear of its consequences; we knew many German refugees; in 1939 my mother carefully burned some of her books for fear of what might be coming; for a while I had actually had a nurse maid who was a committed Nazi ... none of that helps towards a cool and balanced appreciation of Triumph des Willens; one is too afraid of yielding to its appeal. That appeal is hugely impressive and with all her technical and imaginative skill Fraulein Riefenstahl served it disastrously well ... so easy for her to be swept in the wave of enthusiasm of - as she says- 90% of the German people: I can understand that perfectly, and cannot blame her. Hitler promised, and in fact gave, so much that Germany needed - re-building of infrastructure; unity and organisation and pride; he did promise a "peace loving" nation founded in loyalty, hard work and great rewards ... and many believed him. It would be comical if it were not menacing and tragic to see such a mass of uniformed men performing weapon drill with their spades and shovels - we know that the real weapons and aggression were certainly to come. How many of these cheering masses and young boys (often strangely sad faced?) went on to die miserably at Stalingrad after betraying the more truly honourable traditions that Germany had?
One is bound to be overwhelmingly impressed by the sheer drilled organisation of the Nuremberg rally, as well as by its horrifying unquestioned militarism; Fraulein Riefenstahl's success in achieving a living representation of it is equally impressive. She was clearly pushing the technical capabilities of her cameras and film stock to their limits; one often wonders how she managed to insert cameras into positions where they could capture the pictures she needed. Unfortunately, in this copy at least, one feels that the film has aged and faded badly; some of that is no doubt due to her having to film big events at night in and in uneven lighting: here, surely, she was forced to push her equipment beyond its capacity? Viewed with any sort of sympathy at all, the effect is nonetheless hugely impressive, coherent and successful. An interesting study in the technical decisions she had to make. One thing to remember - and you cannot escape the morality or the politics - Hitler could never have made such a successful appeal to Germany ... and others outside ... if there had not been a vast substrate of truth and honest aspiration entwined into the monstrosity of his full intent and hideous destiny. We should know enough by now to understand this ... if not to be immune to similar false prophets in our own day. Name your own and watch closely at home. We too (let alone our American cousins) have a ferocious record of militarism and inolerance ... pretend what we will.
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on 2 August 2006
If you try and distance yourself from the subject matter of the film which i know is very difficult and look carefully at the sheer quality of the directors ability to captivate the audience then Triumph of the Will must surely rank as one of the most impressive pieces of propaganda film making ever made.

The camera angles and closeups of the peoples faces almost make you believe you are there even though the film was made 74yrs ago.

Watching the different sequences unfold from begining of the party conference to its closing you can understand the adulation Hitler was given by the German people all those years ago.
Perish the thought if this was the Tory party conference at the next General election then they would prabably win a huge majority in the poles.
When Hitler addresses the Hitleryouth at the Olympic stadium at Nuremberg you can almost taste the atmosphere,you may not agree with the subject matter but you must admit the emense loyalty shown to one man.

Just think WHAT IF THE WAR HAD ENDED DIFFERENTLY and the holocaust had never happened many more people would prabably watch this film and marvel at its spectacle.

Having recorded the film during its very rare televised events I can say the quality of my dvd copy is rather dark and grainy unlike the copy i recorded off the television.

Possibly the master tapes of the original 74yr old film are of poor quality.

What would be nice is to see a copy of Lenis film "Victory of Faith" become generally available.Its available on import but who knows what the quality or whether it will turn up.

Anyway for those who are put off watching this amazing film because of its adulation of the Nazi party,give it a go you may realise how brilliant a film it is and thankgoodness it is generally available for all to see whatever our opinions of 20th century history are.
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on 3 May 2010
Area around the border of the picture is missing, running time is a lot less than the original, image quality is terrible. This gives you cheap pirate copy look and feel. I have a VHS cassette of this title with better quality. This is only a cheap way to make money with Hitler's image. The DVD is practically unusable.

My personal opinion is that should stop selling this version immediately. I feel really disappointed for buying this one. This is the first time when I buy something from when I feel really, really disappointed. I wonder if they take it back if I ask?

If you want to learn about Leni Riefenstahls way to do movies, this version won't help you. It will give you a headache instead.
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