Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The History Channel Presents The War of 1812|
Actors: Mark D. Hutter, Sally E. Bennett, Dave Fagerberg, H. David Wright, Craig Fisher
Director: Gary Foreman
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary, Military & War
From a seemingly disastrous decision to declare war to the glory of the stars and stripes, THE HISTORY CHANNEL® PRESENTS: THE WAR OF 1812 chronicles of one of america's most defining moments. Only 30 years after gaining in... more »
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Pretty good as far as it goes
Christopher Baum | Astoria, NY | 06/16/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I had hoped, before I got a look at the contents listed on the back of the box, that this might be a miniseries, similar perhaps to the History Channel's "Founding Fathers," dealing with this all-too-often forgotten conflict. What you get instead is a single program about the war, plus several ancillary items going into (slightly) greater depth on specific aspects of the conflict. (There's also one program that has no business at all in this set, but more on that in a moment.)
The centerpiece of this set is "First Invasion: The War of 1812," an engaging overview (running roughly 80 minutes) of the entire history of the war. It's a typical History Channel affair: brisk narration, interesting input from a handful of scholarly talking heads, the customary "reenactments," and so on. (Unfortunately, the reenactments feature a comically inappropriate James Madison: in place of the small, thin, withdrawn Madison of history, we get a robust, portly young man with his hair dyed grey. Nobody watches these shows for the actors, naturally, but this poor fellow was so flagrantly miscast that I found it a little distracting.) The content of TV programs of this sort is nearly always very watered down, but this one is relatively informative. The account of the defense of Fort McHenry -- which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to our national anthem -- is very effective and actually rather moving.
The set also contains an hour-long program on the Battle of New Orleans, which despite its length doesn't really add too much to the coverage of this remarkable engagement offered in "First Invasion." In addition, there's a very good episode of "Biography" covering the life of that battle's hero, Andrew Jackson, from which the controversial president emerges as a complex and fascinating figure, and unquestionably (whether you love or hate him) a great American. There's also an OK program about "The Star Spangled Banner" -- meaning the poem written by F.S. Key, the song to which his words were set, and the actual flag, flown over Fort McHenry, that inspired those words in the first place. There's a recap of the events that led up to the composition (again adding fairly little to the presentation given in "First Invasion"), a history of the poem from then until it became our official national anthem during the Hoover administration, and a parallel history of the flag itself, including recent efforts to prevent its deterioration. Competently done, but these topics didn't hold as much interest (for me anyway) as most of the other items in the set.
Roger Daltrey is on hand for an episode of "Extreme History" describing life on an 1812 battleship. This is entertaining enough (thanks mainly to some surprisingly off-color humor from Mr Daltrey), if pretty light on actual information.
Finally (and bizarrely), the set includes an episode of "The Great Ships" entitled "The Ironclads," which the box calls "a revealing look at the battleships put to sea in the War of 1812." Actually, the War of 1812 is never so much as mentioned: this program deals with the bizarre iron-clad warships used during the American Civil War, some fifty years later! It's actually quite an interesting program, but what on earth is it doing in a collection dealing with the War of 1812? The only thing I can figure is that somebody confused "ironclad" with the 1812-era nickname given to the U.S.S. Constitution: Old Ironsides. This is a pretty embarrassing mistake, though, if you call yourself "The History Channel."
The set is pretty good as far as it goes. But it would be nice if somebody would put together a good three-or four-hour miniseries about this very interesting, and ultimately crucial, period in American history."
The Forgotten War
Memory Speekin | Jacksonville, Florida | 03/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this to view with my students while discussing the War of 1812. It did a fantastic job of laying out the second war with Britain and its implications. The students were able to listen to noted historians on the subject, and view "film footage" created to re-enact the various major moments of the war.
The film did an admirable job of laying out the blunders and lack of good judgement that was often associated with this particular war. It also brought into its story the creation of the poem "The Battle of Fort McHenry" written by young lawyer (Francis Scott Key) that would later become our national anthem, and the unforgetable battle of New Orleans that made Andrew Jackson an icon and helped to push our country into the "Era of Good Feelings".
Well written and interesting. There were a few "dry spots" but they did not last over long. Great for someone who is studying this particular aspect of American History.
A good documentary with a lot of recycled extras
David Arndt | Grand Rapids, MI United States | 03/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The main 1 1/2 Hour documentary about the War of 1812 was informative, entertaining and well done. I also enjoyed the biography episode about Andrew Jackson that was included. Although I have no particular criticism of the documentary about the Ironclads, I am puzzled about what it is doing in this DVD set about the War of 1812 since it talks mostly about the Civil War era. More frustrating is the fact that the specifications make you think you are getting more documentary than you really are. The Battle of New Orleans and the Star Spangled Banner are both covered in good detail in the main documentary only to have the footage reused and repackaged as two additional seperate documentaries on these topics. Survining an 1812 Battleship, at a paultry 20 minutes, spends a good portion of its time letting the host make bad or profane jokes.
Would I still have purchased the DVD set? Maybe, but I might have waited for a used copy at a lower price if I had known how much repetition of footage there was."
M. N. McBain | New Hampshire, USA | 07/09/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I've studied this war a bit and read some interesting books on the topic by some of the top historians, and I have to say that the producers of this film did not try very hard to fit in some key details in the time slot they alloted for this documentary. Many key events were completely ignored in favor of a popular view of history. It does not address the notion of the United States' overpowering desire to sieze Canada, nor of the intense unpopularity of the war in New England. Could have been done a lot better, as were many of the earlier documentaries done by The History Channel when it first premiered (check out The American Revolution - quite excellent!)."