Published on June 21st, 2010 | by Chris0
WWII in HD (2009)
Last year the History Channel brought us "WWII in HD." A Compendium of (99%) color film, some never seen before, from the war (from all sides) digitized in high definition. Interleaved with interviews and stories from the people who were actually there, WWII in HD is likely the closest you will actually get to being there. In just about every respect.
This series is graphic and brutal, mostly because its all real-life footage, but definitely because the producers didn't hold back in showing the worst of the worst of what happened. A lot of this footage you likely haven't seen before because it is quite graphic, at times sickeningly so. This series is *not* one you want to have on with the youngsters around. I'd be hard pressed to recommend it to the older youth, unless they're suitably prepared for it. A lot of it I've seen bits and pieces of, but never in such clarity and never in its entirety. It was enough to make even me look away at times.
And that's really how it should be. The reality of what happened is really displayed quite well. Even if some of the footage itself isn't in the best of shape, the HD resampling puts you right in the middle of it, for good or bad. We need to have this kind of thing held up in our face from time to time, to remind us what the real costs of war are.
Not only that, the pacing and the way it unfolds actually holds your interest and keeps you watching. Unlike some documentary efforts which quickly become tiresome and repetitive.
The clarity of some of it is really quite surprising, given the age and likely deterioration it was found in. If nothing else, more projects like this are needed simply to preserve these bits of history from the ravages of time. It doesn't look like any effort was made to clean up or "restore" the footage, which in this case I think is actually a good thing. They are what they are, and to try and make them "pretty" would be a disservice.
The stories which are interleaved in, and through which the film is shown, come from interviews with survivors, and letters from those who weren't so lucky, or who have since passed on. They provide a necessary "connection" to the footage, and without them, it would simply be another documentary. To name a few, there are the Austrian Jew who fled to the US to fight in the Pacific, the Tuskegee Airman, the Navy Nurse, the B-17 pilot, and the Time/Life reporter. All from different walks of life and backgrounds thrown into the grinder.
I think there was a lot that was either left on the floor, either due to time constraints, not fitting in with the stories that were told, or just because of lack of material, but there were several key events that should have been explored more. Such as the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If they see fit to show time and again the mangled and rotting corpses (for example) on Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa, then why hold back here? A few cursory shots of the rubble and that's really about all. Not that I *wanted* to see it, (or any of it for that matter) but it seemed a conscious omission on their part. Especially considering that they brought in black-and-white footage of both the Tuskegee Airmen and the 442nd, some of which was clearly re-hashed from poorly digitized source, artifacts and all....
If the series has a failing, it is probably that it tries to be politically correct (as it can be) in its inclusions *and* its exclusions as stated above. The inclusions I don't have any problem with whatsoever, but if it comes at the cost of leaving other important events out, then there's an issue. There are plenty of scenes of the carnage of London during the Blitz, and an entire sequence on Attu Island, for example, but few if any of China/Asia before Pearl Harbor, the fire-bombing of Tokyo, Dresden (not even mentioned), the entire Russian front, or the above A-bomb drops. Editorializing on their part? Trying to please a certain demographic? I can't say, but...
If you're going in on something like this, what should be a historical record, you go all in, which they didn't do here.
Also somewhat disappointing is the "extras" that are present. A couple of *extremely* short pieces on the preservation of the films, and that's all. I mean *really* short, as in not worth the effort short. Oh, and on Blu Ray, be aware that (at least on my player) the audio defaults to 2-channel Master Audio. I didn't even realize that yes, there is a 5.1 Master Audio audio track on there until about half-way through. The difference really isn't that noticable, however.
So, while WWII in HD is a stunning portrait of what the war was really like, it is just a cross-section, and a US-centric one at that, rather than a true picture of the entire war. A definite must-see for history and documentary buffs, but be prepared for what you'll see, because it can't be unseen.
WWII in HD [Blu-ray]
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At first glance, the very concept of WWII in HD seems like an oxymoron. After all, isn't the footage from back then nothing more than grainy black-and-white newsreel? And really, how much definition can be added to film that was shot more than 60 years ago? The answers: no, and quite a lot, actually...
DVD InformationBinding: Blu-ray
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Manufacturer: History Channel / A&E
Original Release Date:
- Rob Lowe
- Justin Bartha
- Josh Lucas
- Gary Sinise
- Rob Corddry
- Factory sealed DVD
Summary: WWII in HD is a stunning portrait of what the war was really like, it is just a cross-section, and a US-centric one at that, rather than a true picture of the entire war. A definite must-see for history and documentary buffs, but be prepared for what you'll see, because it can't be unseen.