Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 06/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is fascinating in its sweep of the complex history of Russia, though the production is not top notch, and relies heavily on poorly filmed re-enactments, mostly of just hands, feet, and horses hooves, and repeated shots of lightning streaking across the sky, or blood dripping on the floor, to emphasize the drama of a scene. It is peppered with interviews with professors and historians, who provide intriguing insights into the methods and habits of the Tsars.The first tape starts out by giving the lay of the immense land, and the rivers that were the roadways in the early days of this "nation of many nations", the Mongol invasions, Prince Vladimir, who was the first powerful leader and brought the people together using religion as the unifying force, and then moves on to the lives of the Tsars.
Visually, the final tape is the best, because it includes extraordinary, rare, early 20th century photos and films, of events like the war with Japan, and personages like Lenin. Perhaps the most incredible, poignant footage is of "Bloody Sunday", that shows the peaceful marchers being shot down. Those familiar with David Lean's version of "Doctor Zhivago", will recognize this tragic episode of history that was such a memorable scene in the film.It has an excellent, atmospheric score by Gary Pozner, which has occasional echoes of Moussorgsky and Tchaikovsky, and greatly enhances and adds emotional impact to this documentary. Written and produced by Don Campbell, and narrated by Edward Herrmann, this is an easy way to digest a lot of history, and for those interested in Russia, I also recommend James Billington's superb "The Face of Russia".
Winston Churchill said "Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma", and watching this documentary helps to shed some light on the puzzle that is the great and beautiful land of Russia."
Please oh please turn down the music!
jenbird | Havertown, PA | 11/04/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"That, sadly, is what stood out in my mind the most as far as quality goes. The "background" music plays very loudly, and the narrator, at times, speaks rather softly in comparison. There are no subtitles to help you along, so I often had to put up with blaring (and oddly techno) music in order to hear the narration.The makers obviously love their historical reenactments, which is all well and good, most of the time. However, they do tend to reuse items repeatedly, and not always in the right places. A painting of Ivan the Terrible holding his son's body is also used to represent Peter the Great torturing his victims. A painting of a mother holding a baby is said to show the births of both Ivan the Terrible, and Peter the Great's first son. And so on, in several more instances. Well, which is it?While the documentaries had nothing new to say to me (because I've done extensive reading on the Romanov dynasty), it is a good introduction to Russian history. The A&E Biographies of Ivan, Peter, and Rasputin were also well done. Let's say, 3.5 stars."
Agreed - good Russian History Introduction
Mike | Maryland | 09/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was looking for an introduction to Russian history to supplement a book that I had read. I found it in this two-volume DVD set. The first was exactly that, a tracing of Russian history through the fall of the tsars. It didn't go that deep, but it was just what I was looking for. The second DVD, which had several episodes of PBS "Biography", was a pleasant surprise to me - I hadn't expected it. It gave additional insights into Russia's most prominent characters of history, Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, as well as Rasputin.
My dayghter, a college history major, was taking an upper-level course entitled "The Romanov Years". She felt that this DVD set really helped crystallize the basic things for her so that she could more easily understand the more advanced topics in the course."
Welcome to the Romanov family
Samuel Ross | Dallas, TX | 08/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Best thing: Covers the entire span of Romanov rule in Russia. If you're like me and not an aficionado of the Romanov family, it is splendidly interesting the entire way through.
Worst thing: Signature History Channel problems. As opposed to the superior PBS documentaries, HS always wants to over-dramatize with scary music or fire burning over the bad guys (they always do that with Hitler. Come on, it's Hiitler... we know he's bad. We don't need the blood dripping down the screen or fire). The other thing they do is they get a few clips of some fighting or someone falling to their death or candles blowing out-- and just show them again and again; generically applying the clips to any year in history.
But having said that... at least HS did this when no one else has... and I'm glad they did. It is quite engaging."
Good Primer to Start With
Mr. Roget Webster | Sunny Side Up, USA | 07/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was honestly suprised to see how many reviewers gave negative comments regarding Russia - Land of the Tsars DVD. There are certainly repetitive clips, but I found that overall, the entire DVD was a good introduction for a first time student or someone who wanted a visual history of the Russian Tsars.
I rented the DVD from my library, and watched both volumes on the weekend. There are two DVDs in all, volume one covering the entire history of the Tsars, and volume two featuring stories on Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Rasputin (from Tsar Nicholas II's reign).
The first volume, although it covers such an immense range of material, is done well. Of course, the notable Tsars like Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great are described in better detail. However, I agree that there are rehashed clips, and some of the renactments are merely clips of horsemen banging swords around (with the camera showing closeups of these swords).
Volume two, although about the Russian Tsars, seems dissimilar to volume one in some respects. While Vol. I was done by the History Channel, Vol. II contains episodes from A&E's biography. Thus, there are a few conflicts between the stories on Vol. I and II. For example, Vol. I emphasized Peter the Great's half sister, Sophia, more in the history of his youth. But in Vol. II, you don't get a sense that Sophia was important at all. And although Ivan the Terrible is one of the three figures on Vol. II, there are missing elements to his story that are captured with more depth in Vol. I.
The only thing that really frustrated me was how Vol. II used the same clips from previous stories. During the Peter the Great's story, they kept showing the painting of Ivan the Terrible's murder of his son. How does this relate? It obviously doesn't, and this error diminishes Vol. II's narration and accuracy.
So although I was displeased with some of the things in Vol. II, I thought Vol. I was done well enough that I could recommend this DVD to individuals without any background in Russian history who were interested learning about the Tsars. Of course, it does more to read about the long, expansive history, but Vol. I can perform a service by getting people introduced and interested in some of the leading figures in Russian history before they get started on a book."