World War II was the greatest rampage of destruction in the history of humanity - or inhumanity. Over a period of six years, 1939 to 1945, more than 50 million human beings died by violence, disease, exposure, or starva... more »tion, as a direct result of the war. In The Big Battles you'll see newsreel and combat footage combined with latter-day interviews with military personnel who experienced the war first-hand. The Big Battles box set contains all five DVD Volumes in the series. Each volume contains three 50-minute episodes, with each episode depicting a separate campaign of this most horrible of wars. Over 750 minutes of incredible history has been preserved in digital quality! Bonus Features: Episode Selection. Specs: 5-DVD9s; Dolby Digital Mono; 750 minutes; B&W; 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio; MPAA - NR; Year - 1939-1945; SRP - $29.99.« less
"If you are into World War 2 footage, this is a gold mine. As per the name, the focus is on the battles themselves, rather than politics or "human interest" stories. There is particularly outstanding footage of street fighting, artillery actions, aerial dogfights, ground strafing, city bombing, and tank movements. Sometimes, the coverage is so close that I wonder whether the camera man made it out alive with all his limbs intact!
Coverage of the Eastern Front is excellent, with four episodes devoted to this massive "war within a war". The coverage is much more thorough and better formed than that of World at War, which I think skimps on this area. In fact, I have not found better Eastern Front coverage in any World War 2 documentary.
In terms of footage, there is some overlap between Big Battles and the well-known World at War. I would estimate that you will see up to 25-30% of the same battle footage in certain episodes (e.g. Desert War), though Big Battles tends to show longer portions of these identical clips.
In at least one case, Big Battles fails to reveal that footage is staged, e.g. when Soviet troops meet up to complete the Stalingrad encirclement. World at War makes a point of saying that this was staged for the camera while Big Battles does not. This type of oversight makes me wonder about other issues of accuracy with Big Battles, such as whether the footage shown was actually shot at the implied location.
Now I'll give some capsule reviews of the episodes.
Battle of France: Blitzkrieg Battle of France: Defeat
Great coverage of the Blitzkrieg in the West. (Mistitled, because covers Poland, Holland, etc.)
Battle of Britain
Average overview of the British air war.
Battle of the Atlantic
Average coverage of the U-boat war.
Battle of the Pacific: The Rising Sun Battle of the Pacific: The Setting Sun
Okay pair of episodes covering the American war in the Pacific.
Battle of the Desert
I think the structure of this one is ripped-off from World at War. At least, it is very similar!
Battle Over Europe
A good overview of the bombing campaign against Germany, containg a lot of city bombing and dogfight footage.
Battle of Normandy
A standout episode featuring fantastic air and ground battle footage from Normandy up to the breakout.
Battle of Italy
Decent coverage of the Italian campaign. Not one of my favorites, though.
Battle of Germany
Breakout through Battle of the Bulge/Ardennes. Good ground battle footage.
Battle of Berlin: The Russians are Coming Battle of Berlin: Death of a City Battle of Moscow Battle of Stalingrad
Together, these four are my favorite episodes, because I haven't found better Eastern Front coverage anywhere! I think it is worth the price just for these episodes."
A Different Viewpoint Is Interesting!!
R. Hinton | Oceanside, CA | 05/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought it and watched most of it by now. You get many hours of quality B&W Newsreel footage from all sides. I am a serious military history buff and I've never seen 70% of the footage. I can see little scenes that have been used in many movies and other newsreels. This footage seems to be the original from which many copies have come. This package is a British TV series from the early 1960's. Full-on British "stiff upper lip" narrative adds vigor. I suggest it to anyone who craves the real thing."
Good film clips and interviews, the narration is just bad
Craig Swain | Leesburg, VA | 12/25/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I found the DVD set well restored from the original film. There are some glitches with the audio track and film lines in the display, but one expects that from such a transfer. The archival footage is vintage, with some clips preserved here that would otherwise be lost forever. The interviews provide insights you don't normally see from even the great World at War series.
However, I knock this series for the somewhat dated, and outright slanted storyline and narration. While hearing over and over of the valiant fighting of the Russian soldiers, we see repeated references to American "disasters" in the Italian campaign or Ardennes or the Pacific. The narration is lacking factually elsewhere. For instance, the French 2nd Army is credited with securing the Eagle's Nest, when the actions of the US 101st Airborne Division is pretty well documented. Details of the Normandy breakout are likewise either confusing in portrayal or just incorrect. And of course just two installments to cover the war in the Pacific.
Watch this set for the footage, ignore the narrators. "
Aka The War Years
Anonymouse | 12/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This series of programs was shown on the History Channel during the early 1990s titled "The War Years" (as a subset of that series). I had recorded them when they were broadcast, and had been searching for a few years to see if I could find this on DVD as my VHS was becoming a bit dated.
I agree with the reviewer regarding the bad video transfer. Too much pulsating at least during the Battle of Moscow which was better contained on the program on the History Channel. They could have done a much better job at controlling the contrast on the transfer to minimize on that. At times, the video is almost unwatchable because of the pulsation.
Despite the "narration blunders" described by another reviewer, this series IMO is on par with the other great WW2 documentaries such as World at War. The sheer amount of footage that you do not see elsewhere is well worth the price. It is also a very transitional documentary, working between the Victory at Sea style and the 1990's Nugus-Martin style.
If you are comparing this series to what was broadcast on the History Channel, obviously all of the World War I episodes are not contained in this volume, as well as the Korea and Dien Bien Phu episodes.
BIG BATTLES AND GREAT INFO TOO!!!
Robert M. Bonnett | towson, md. | 06/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really enjoyed this package of DVDS on the 2nd World War battles . It covers the European and Pacific wars. I found it to be very informative and told stories I was unaware of. I have watched hundreds of hours of World War 2 films and some are better than others. I think this group although some could have transferreed better are an exceptional group of informative and entertaining films. I dont remember the films jumping as one reviewer stated during the Russian sequence. A lot of the pictures were completely new to me! Hey! The price isnt bad either !!!"