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The Great War: The Complete History of World War I
The Great War The Complete History of World War I
Genres: Documentary
NR     2006     6hr 17min

Strong feelings of nationalism throughout Europe prior to the war created an atmosphere where war was imminent. The spark that finally ignited the flame was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria on Jun...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: World War I
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/04/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 6hr 17min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Disappointing series... Doesn't live up to its title at all
dooby | 05/17/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)

"This was a very disappointing series. It claims to be a complete history of WWI but it comes nowhere close. It seems to be put together solely for the purpose of showcasing archive footage from the war. The accompanying narrative is almost an afterthought. Little effort has gone into writing a narrative with any intent to inform, much less educate the casual viewer. It is split into 8 episodes, the first 5 chronicling one year of the war each, followed by 3 episodes dedicated to the technological aspects of the war; namely the air war, the sea war and the land war.

After the first episode, "1914," which chronicles the start of the war, I was tempted to quit and give it a 1 star rating like the other reviewers here but fortunately it does improve over time, if only minimally. The entire series is made up of archival footage. There are no interviews with historians, experts or specialists. History is presented in the most banal way possible. If one could point to one way not to teach history, this would be it. History is not a recitation of names, dates and numbers. The "world war" shown here is confined solely to the European theatre and almost exclusively to the western front, possibly due to the lack of footage from elsewhere. There is absolutely no mention of the war in Africa, the Middle East or Asia aside from the Dardanelle's Campaign against the Ottoman Turks. And exactly why was the Dardanelle's Campaign fought at such great cost? The answer was to secure passage to the Black Sea and to open a second front in aid of the beleagured Russians but even that was not made clear. Instead we are inundated with numbers and lists as if we were cramming for some history test at the end - Regiment numbers, manpower numbers, detailed casualty lists, numbers ad nauseam.

We are given almost no idea about the reasons for the lead-up to the war other than the fact that Serbian "nationalist" Gavrilo Princip, assasinated the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, triggering the network of pre-war treaties that culminated in war. Almost any schoolboy can tell you that. We are given the flip comment that the war could have been so "easily avoided." How? The first episode is the worst because of the see-sawing, almost static nature of the war and the need to fill up the silences between the footage of trench warfare. The first episode also highlights one of the major faults of this series, its failure to use proper maps to illustrate military movements. To paraphrase the old cliche, a map is worth a thousand words. To describe a single battle you'd need hundreds of words if not thousands. The same battle can be elegantly depicted on a single simple map. In the Battle of the Frontiers (1914), the script laboriously describes military movements at great length to little effect. Far from being enlightened, the viewer is left totally bewildered.

The narration can get so involved as to leave even the most seasoned viewer floundering.
I quote verbatim from part of the first episode:
"Joffre the French Commander in Chief was determined to win the war quickly. The offensive was supposed to be launched across the entire line from Nieuwport in Belgium to Verdun, thoughout the Artois and Champagne regions. In the event, the winter offensive was primarily directed against the German salient at Sambre which bulged into central France and a smaller salient that existed further south at St. Mihiel. Joffre's plan was to attack the German's 3rd Army with a numerically superior force at the Sambre salient at its northern and southern edges. A further attack in the Ardennes was to be launched to cut off the German's line of retreat."

All fine on paper and with recourse to a map but can anyone honestly say that they can form a mental image of how the battle is being fought when this is rattled off by the narrator all within half a minute without a single useful map to show where all the places and forces are. A useful map is one with place-names and proper lines of movements for military forces, not a blank map with huge arrows covering half the continent and silly looking CGI explosions going off all over the place. I am no expert on the First World War. In the end I had to resort to taking down a book on the war and flipping to the battle maps to understand what the narrator was getting at. I ended up re-reading the book. Which was a lot more satisfying than watching this documentary.

Although it does use a lot of archive footage, the length of the series means that a lot of the footage is used repeatedly, some over half a dozen times. I especially remember the face of the German soldier who throws the same grenade from the first battle of the war to the last or the other poor German soldier who keeps getting shot in the chest repeatedly throughout the series.

Some care should also have been taken in proofing or final editing. In the final episode, mention is made of Kaiser Wilhelm II being the nephew of Britain's King George VII. The Kaiser was the nephew of Edward VII. There was no George VII. The last King George was George VI, the father of the present Queen.

All in all, not recommended. This documentary series is made by some company called "Green Umbrella Sports and Leisure." That in itself should have been a warning flag to stay away. If you must get a TV documentary on the First World War, Jonathan Lewis' "The First World War - The Complete Series" would be a good start."
Detailed and Comprehensive
Compusurge | New York City | 02/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There is not that much footage available from WWI, and this 6 hour+ UK produced set contains an extraordinary amount of it, along with great insights about what led up to the war-to-end-all-wars. Most importantly, it deals with these factors prior to U.S. involvement, and so the perspective is something different than a U.S. made doc would present.

Year-by-year, the program looks at the developing technology that led to changes in how the war was fought. It additionally contains three chapters that address the military machines on LAND, in AIR and at SEA.

I had chance to see this program in final production. It's truly well assembled and greatly informative. Nothing on the market rivals it."
Great Nothing
B. Grant | Montreal | 04/11/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"If one's knowledge is limited on the subject of W.W.I & you wish it to remain that way, this " set " is for you.
A previous reviewer stated, " one of the worst." He is right on."
Inferior version
James B. Casey | Chicago, Illinois | 04/08/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"The footage is interesting but the narration is so cursory and disjointed that it doesn't offer proper context for the photographs. The maps and discussion of military dispositions are extremely inadequate. This is one of the worst documentaries I have ever encountered. If you have any knowledge at all of history, this will be a major disappointment."