on 6 September 2012
I read all the reviews above and opted to buy the blu-ray version. Obviously anyone reading this knows what an incredible ground breaking series this is. I am simply looking at the Blu-ray version. The new edition is presented in fantastic boxset, with amazing sound and extras.
The cropping issue is just so difficult not to notice. I found it a continual distraction. Especially in each an every interview, with chins and tops of heads missing. The quality of the picture is fantastic with amazing clarity. Why oh why did they have to do a hatchet job and cut what looks like about a 3rd out of the picture. SURELY they could have released with both original 4:3 and 16:9 options on the Blu-ray. Supposedly the makers claim you are just losing "non-important" material. But even on opening scene of the devastated french town I had to cringe when I saw how tops of buildings were cropped and the wrecked car seemed awkwardly cramped into the screen.
I wouldnt consider myself a 4:3 "purist" and in fact am more of a 16:9 blu-ray enthusiast. I awaited keanly for the Blu-ray release. I read the reviews and kept my fingers croosed I wouldnt notice the cropping. However now I have to say I am reconsidering whether to sell the blu-ray in favour of the DVD. I am going to buy the 2004 DVD special edition now and compare them side to side. I think as long as the DVD looks acceptable I will probably switch to this. After all this is a historical documentary NOT a hollywood movie. Hence I favour lower def but with the complete documentary non-cropped. I hope seriously the makers read these reviews and consider using the high def material they have to re-issue a 4:3 version in blu-ray, although sadly I doubt it. I think the high def/cropping will be a 50/50 dividing issue for most people. Shame the program makers made us all have to make this choice! Otherwise this would have been an ultimate edition.
on 27 November 2002
In 1970, producer Jeremy Issacs wanted to create the " definitive televisual history of the Second World War" that "should balance out the 'view from the top' with the 'view from the bottom'". The World at War (TWaW) achieved this mammoth task and more, collecting nearly a million feet of interview and location film.
Preserved indefinitely on DVD format (on 10 discs), this series, as other reviewers have already commented, is impressive (to say the least). Added gravitas is provided by the great Sir Laurence Olivier as narrator. There seems no need to re-iterate the praise this DVD very much deserves/
The full episode contents of the DVD special edition are as follows:
* The Making of World at War (exclusive to DVD)
* A New Germany : 1933 - 1939
* Distant War : 1939 - 1940
* France Falls : May - June 1940
* Alone in Britain : May 1940 - June 1941
* Barbarossa : June - Dec 1941
* Banzai - Japan Strikes
* On Our Way - America Enters The War
* Desert - The War in North Africa
* Redstar - The Soviet Union : 1941 - 1943
* Whirlwind - Bombing Germany : September 1939 - April 1944
* Tough Old Gut
* It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow
* Home Fires
* Inside the Reich : Germany 1940 - 1944
* Japan 1941-45
* The Bomb
* Secretary to Hitler
* Who Won World War II?
* Hitler's Germany: 1933 - 1939
* Hitler's Germany: 1939 - 1945
* The Two Deaths of Hitler
* The Final Solution - Auschwitz Part 1
* The Final Solution - Auschwitz Part 2
Not only for the specialist or enthusiast, this is now a crucial collection of material that the forthcoming generations who should learn about their ancestors and the value of peace. This is a non-patronising series that is a must for every DVD collection.
There are really two main considerations you need to balance over whether the new restored version of The World at War is worth purchasing on Blu-ray - on the one hand is the question of it being pan-and-scanned to fill 16:9 televisions, on the other is the fact that it is one of the most important and brilliantly-made documentary series you'll ever see.
On the question of the reformatting of the original 4:3 picture to widescreen, well the justifications made by the DVD distributor are spurious. If people really want to see the image fit the screen, let them do what they already do themselves and stretch it to fit. It's a horrible distortion of the image, but apparently a lot of people can't even notice the problem and don't particularly care. For those who do care, the cropping the top and bottom of the image by the DVD producers is nothing less than vandalism. Admittedly, before watching the new widescreen presentation, assured that it was carefully handled, I was prepared to make an exception to the Original Aspect Ratio only rule. After all, this is a series that consisting largely of talking heads and documentary footage that was hardly cinematographically composed. Well, I was wrong - the cropping is obvious and blatant, cutting the tops off buildings and heads. Framing isn't carefully done and it can't be. When there are captions on the screen (the original shaky captions, which suggests moreover that it's the original video masters that have been restored rather than the series being remastered from the original source materials), the image tilts down to the lower part of the screen, causing severe cropping at the top. The attempts to re-frame are obvious and obtrusive, the movement noticeable even as it tries to take in the credits at the end of an episode.
On the other hand, does any of this really take away from the quality of the series? The image has certainly been butchered, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from watching one of the most important documentary series ever made. Spread across 26 episodes, on 9 Blu-ray discs, The World at War is an extensive, comprehensive and accessible look at one of the most defining events in the history of the modern world, one that captures the scale of the whole undertaking, looking at the underlying causes, the social and political context, and also the almost inconceivable cost of the war in monetary as well as in human terms. But it also reminds us that there was much more to WWII than the Holocaust and the war in Western Europe, and that the impact was far-reaching, and still has an impact on many aspects of the world we live in today - for better and for worse.
There are certainly gaps and questionable editorial decisions that place curious emphasis on some aspects and cause omission and imbalance in others, but this is a war that can be viewed in many different ways, and it will no doubt be constantly re-evaluated with the passing of time. What makes The World at War so important however are the first-hand eye-witness accounts of many of the key figures still alive around the time the series was made in the early seventies, testimonies not only from important political players, but also from ordinary people from all parts of the world who had to endure something that we can now scarcely imagine. As the years go by, that testimony is invaluable, as is this documentary into the defining years of the 20th century, which should be compulsory viewing for everyone, politicians and world leaders included.
The restored series looks exceptionally good on Blu-ray, at least as well as the quality as the original source materials allow. Those materials however have not been re-sourced - a meticulous reconstruction of such a huge series would obviously be impractical and costly - but the original series masters have clearly been extensively cleaned-up and they look quite good. It's pleasing also to see that the whole series has been given optional English HOH subtitles. The original materials perhaps don't quite have the full High-Definition resolution to merit a Blu-ray release, and consequently I doubt that there's a significant difference in quality between this and the standard DVD edition. It is worth having however for the extra materials and features that are included on the set.
One of those extra features covers the restoration and a great deal of care and attention has gone into making the series look as good as it possibly can, but there is no justification for the cropping of the image. While that decision is regrettable however, it doesn't unduly ruin the series or its purpose. If you're concerned about the messing around with the aspect ratio and the pointless surround remix, go back and look for the original DVD release, but whatever you do, you should own this series.
When first made many of the people directly involved at high level were still alive and their views, with hindsight, are fascinating. Many ordinary people, from all the countries involved (except USSR - behind the Iron Curtain at the time) give personal accounts. Not a boring history, this wonderful programme gives a clear view of the build up to, the progress of and the problems after the War that had a huge impact on my parents generation. Look at the "men" involved. 19 - 20 year olds - its unimaginable today. For any one who has only a limited idea of what went on, this is very revealing and instructive without being in any way like a school lesson. To be able to watch an episode whenever you want to is a joy and this quality of production goes to show what drivel we are now being fed.
It also gives an intriguing insight into why post war Europe has become what it now is and the whole film is, in my view, probably the most unbiased account you will get of such an event.
It stands, shoulder to shoulder, with "The Great War" which is another epic production this time covering World War 1 and produced by the BBC. Both should be compulsory viewing for schools.
on 27 December 2005
The World at War (30th Anniversary Ed.) has 26 films that give a unique insight into the war as well as 8 presentations. The films have 3 elements. The archive black and white film runs for the majority of the programmes, the interviews of people who survived and lastly the narration of the story of WW2. Compared to modern series of WW2 these films have several attractions: Thoroughness, there are no general outlines of events with the whole war packed into 50mins. There are no actors. The narration is first rate and well researched. There is originality, even if you’ve read books on WW2 you will still find interest here, things you didn’t know, a memory, idea or opinion that makes you think.
These films portray the horrors of war with executions, concentration camps and bodies lying. This is war in its vulgarity. It is something that makes you feel sad. It also shows the form of this war in infantry, naval, aerial combat, and tank warfare to name a few. People interested in computer simulations of this period may be interested to see what these sims are aiming for. I found the main 26 episodes to be a great insight into WW2. The additional 8 presentations I didn’t like so much. This was mainly due to repetition. Even with my memory I recall previous interviews and archive scenes that were on the original series. This takes some of the originality away. If the 8 presentations are watched in isolation then this is fine. I did like some of the presentations and they are well researched, its just after the original I found them a little disappointing. I did find some trivial dislikes of the DVD package: The making of the series as the first film - this should be at the end. Anything narrated has a low signal level whereas music or explosions has a high signal level, this might be great for a cinema but I can hardly hear whats said. When you highlight the episode you want it changes colour but not by much. These things pale into insignificance compared to the towering achievement of the series. If you want a glimpse of what WW2 was like then this is a classic.
Depth of research
Full of archive film of the conflict
Interviews with large section of survivors
Repetition in later presentations
The World at War never looked better. Digital re-mastering has made archive footage and colour interviews appear freshly-minted, and certainly justifies the upgrade if you already own the series on video. The sheer, moving quality of this documentary continues to deliver a powerful message over 30 years after it was made. The extra material is more than enough for the die-hard war documentary watcher. And it all takes up less room than one of those old plastic double video packs. Every world leader should be given a copy of this magnificent, essential series, and made to watch it before deciding on launching the world into another conflict.
on 26 March 2015
This is an awesome series, first seen by me in the early 80s and watched again recently on BBC in original 4:3 format. Imagine my horror when this turned up and I popped the first disk in - the original has been letterboxed to fit a widescreen TV. My TV is 51" and the program is nearly 40 years - zooming in to fit the screen effectively zooms in to show you the pixels of the original.
This is advertised as "Restored" but surely that means to "bring back or re-establish (a previous right, practice, or situation), return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position or repair or renovate (a building, work of art, etc.) so as to return it to its original condition."
If I restored a Rembrandt, you'd expect to see more vivid colours, if I restored an early Rolling Stones album you'd expect to have better clarity in the sound. You wouldn't expect that Rembrandt to be missing the top and bottom quarters of the painting, you wouldn't expect that drum and vocal tracks to be removed from the songs. Whatever possessed the producers of this DVD to ruin the video image is beyond me, someone somewhere must have realised what a stupid idea it would be. The sole purpose of this series is to document in video and word the horrors of war, with original hard-to-watch camera footage (which REALLY brings home the horror of war) and the heart breaking testimonies of those involved and affected.
I cannot say enough how much the conversion of screen format has destroyed this for me. I would advise you steer clear of buying this.
on 27 December 2010
I was given this as a Christmas present and was looking forward to watching ... though I must say that the phrase "digitally remastered" had me a little worried (few things are actually _improved_ by being "digitally remastered").
To say that I was disappointed is putting it mildly. Frankly, one star is two too many.
I watched the first few minutes of the first disk, hoping to see a faithful - but 'clean' - reproduction of the 1973 original, with its unique and powerful combination of archive footage and (then) contemporary interviews. After the titles and credits (which look as though they have been re-made), the opening sequence is a colour film of a ruined village in which the (historically accurate) graininess of the original has been replaced by highly intrusive (and distracting) digital noise, and the use of pan-and-scan has introduced juddering motion that makes me feel seasick. This is followed by a sequence of monochrome archive clips from the 1930's that have been butchered beyond belief. The outline of each individual person in the frame has been picked out in the way a child draws a line around objects in a picture, and the attempts to sharpen the images just make them look like cartoons. Honestly, it makes me want to cry. The soundtrack is clear, but Laurence Olivier's voice sounds strangely cold and distant, and lacks impact. I don't have surround sound, but I cannot see any point in faking it here. When will people learn that there's nothing wrong with monophonic sound?
To make matters worse they've chopped off the top and the bottom of the picture (which was shot in 4:3 rather than widescreen). What idiot thought that it was a good idea to _reduce_ the amount of available picture when moving to a higher definition medium? This is an insult to the original film-makers, and to the intelligence (and wallets) of the audience. What we WANT is the original with the warts removed from its face; what they've done instead is shoot the thing full of BoTox and hide everything above the forehead and below the mouth. The thing I find hardest to understand is how anybody could have thought that this was working, and why they didn't check what it was like after they'd done the first half an hour's worth. If they'd kept it simple they would have spent much less money and made far more people happy.
This was one of the finest TV series in history, and it looks like it's been badly "re-imagined" by Disney. The artefacts are so distracting that I find it almost unwatchable, and I do not want to show it to anyone else. The digital noise is intrusive, the motion is jerky, the picture has been 'enhanced' so that human beings look like cardboard cut-outs moving against a cartoon background, and the soundtrack sounds artificial. And they want twice as much for the Blu-Ray version as for the DVD, when the defects are bound to be more obvious on Blu-Ray.
I'll be trying to trade this in for the DVD version, in the hope that it is at least watchable, but I'm not very optimistic. My real hope is that they will one day re-release the original DVD box set, because I'd like a chance to get hold of it.
on 4 November 2010
An amazing series, one of the best documentary series ever. Epic and intimate, full of tragic poetry, with a moving score and a perfect narration by Laurence Olivier, everybody should see this. But this bluray transfer is an insult to the viewer and the program makers.
Military and news cameramen braved dangerous circumstances to document the war. In spite of the risk, they often composed and framed their shots beautifully. 30 years later and an expert crew of BBC cameramen and DPs shot modern day footage, again taking care to compose for a 1.33:1 frame.
40 years later, and some twit says, 'let's just crop it all'!
"the broadcasters expect widescreen material. As the aim of the project was to create restored masters (at great expense) for multiple use (ie Blu-ray, DVD and broadcast), there was no option other than going down the 16:9 route." Absolute nonsense, which only serves to highlight FreemantleMedia's lack of respect for this content and their overriding urge to make money.
I'm not a purist for purist's sake, but this kind of stupidity applied to such a great work is frustrating. Stick with the uncropped DVD set.
on 6 November 2002
For the modern viewer the series may look a little dated but in fact it has now become an historical document. Just like the footage from the war itself that dominates most of the running time, the interviews conducted for The World At War in the 1970's and often accompanied by hideous wallpaper and garish ties fitting for that decade have now become just as important. Appearances from such monumental and now deceased figures as Speer, Donitz and Mountbatten to name but a few, make it so. But also vital are the contributions of those who worked around the main players and those who actually fought the war or suffered its consequences. Their stories and experiences bring the war to life decades on from its conclusion.
The narration from Sir Laurence Olivier is superb. If ever someone were to be chosen to represent the English spoken language it surely would have been him with his perfect pronounciation and accent. He takes us through the story of World War Two with superbly delivered and well written dialogue. The various episodes, usually around 8 per each two disc set of which there are 5 in this special box set are well thought out and cover all aspects of the war in good detail.
I bought the individual DVD's over time rather than this box set but in terms of cost, if you are willing to spend on an intial outlay you save in the long run and can start watching the entire series straight away. Certainly worthwhile! The VHS version may be cheaper but for such a huge documentary series the easy accessability and high quality of DVD make it the only format worth buying. Extras wise it has virtually nothing but the episodes are more than enough for me.