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Customer Review

18 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Even worse second time around....very much so, 24 April 2008
This review is from: The American Civil War [DVD] (DVD)
First of all I most strongly protest at the censorship that is being perpetrated by this site. Why do you appeal to customers to give their honest appraisals of books, CDs and DVDs and then not publish the review they submit? Or is it that you only want 5-star reviews? Yes indeed, I did use some expletives in describing this product, but it was only very mild and would not even have upset the late Mary Whitehouse OBE!

So I'll post my review again, in the hope that you at the Thought Police Department will be gracious enough to publish it. Most reluctantly I kow-towed to your prudish sense of propriety and omitted the use of the terms "bl**dy" and "*ff*ng" (I used those terms in this same sanitised form, by the way, so no one would be too much shocked, but apparently, some people still were, honestly, I ask you....).

Anyway, on to the review.

I ordered this set of 3 DVDs on the assumption that it was the marvellous documentary series on the American Civil War made by Ken and Ric Burns for the American PBS network. Many of you may know of it or even have seen it: it hs been broadcast 3 times now on the BBC.

This DVD series on the Civil War which I'm reviewing wasn't the Burns one. That was quite a disappointment when it arrived in the mail.
A disappointment which grew even worse when I popped the discs in the DVD player, and watched about one hour of each one.

Unbelievable. In a way you have to give the makers some "credit": it is quite a feat to present such an interesting subject in such a thoroughly boring and annoying way!
It was even worse when I gave it another try after 2 days waiting, thinking it would grow on me. It didn't though. Again: what a huge disappointment!

What's wrong with it? Where to start!

1. The documentary is not narrated unobtrusively and profesionnally but presented by some overly tanned, bearded actor who speaks in a kind of Christmas gravy (deep, rich and dark brown) kind of "Voice of God". He uses all kind of cheesy actor-ish tricks: ominous, dramatic silences, heavy frowns, deep "meaningful" looks full of pathos.... it's very much over the top. For the first five minutes it's rather funny, but after that it gets very annoying indeed.

2. Apart from this bloke all they show you is arrows moving on maps (it's like the opening sequence to Dad's Army!!), and period photographs, mainly portraits. The burnses used many photographs and portraits too, but they let these pictures speak for themselves, they didn't try to make them more interesting by having them coloured in. It's true, they actually remastered those beautiful pictures by Matthew Brady and others and coloured them in! The effect is tacky, kitsch and ridiculous.
It's also very patronising: is the public to stupid and in possession of too short an attetion span to be able to look at more than five minutes of black and white images? Apparently they think we are.

3. The so-called "experts", "consultants" and "historians" who offer comment between the maps and the ghastly coloured-in piccies are all pasty-faced, unknown buffs and or academics who offer only hackneyed clichés instead of new insights or the latest in the ongoing historical debates concerning the subject. All that endless drivel about how the Springfield model 1860 rifled musket worked tired me out very soon.
Why not get in some real experts and proper, well-known historians, like Peter Cozzens, Robert Krick, Joseph Glatthaar, James MacPherson, or even the venerable old Ed Bearss? These people know what they are talking about, when it comes to the civil war, and they know how to talk about it!
Those nerdy fat gits who did the "expert comments" on these DVDs only droned on and on about calibres, powder charges, thickness of armour on ironclad ships, honestly.....

4. In order to spice the documentary series up, no doubt, the makers use lots of footages of reenacted battle scenes: "in order to make you feel like you are really there". It doesnt work. The sight of hundreds of grown men dressed up as Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs, have at each other with replica muskets gets very boring very fast. Far too many of these weekend Rebs and Yanks sport huge beerbellies (yes, even the starving blockaded Rebs!!) and wear 21st Century spectacles. All of them wear nice clean uniforms and equipment. It is not believable for a second, just very annoying, al the more so because of the fact that the same scenes are used time and time again for different battles!

I did order the Burns documentary and I hope it will arrive soon.
This one should be avoided if you have an intrest in the Civil War and if you enjoy well-made documentaries.
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Location: Groningen, Netherlands

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