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"Before viewing this film one should be historically aware of the circumstnces surrounding the reasons for its production. It is part of the "Why we fight" series that was shown to new recruits that were about to become part of this tremendous worldwide conflict. This is truly a propaganda film that was intended to show our "allies", the communist Russians, in a favorable light. The intent was to instill a purpose into these recruits that we were fighting an evil force, the Nazi Germans, together with the Russians. Anybody who is historically educated in this time period realizes that the United States government no doubt realized the horrors that Joseph Stalin himself was capable of. But to attempt to rally the recruits by villianizing our allies would not serve well, therefore kind portrayal of the communists was essential. Although the awful behavior of the German invaders is documented here, there is no mention of the atrocities committed by the Russians on their German captives. I think anybody interested in history as well as nostalgia will enjoy this film when realizing the historical context in which it was produced."
Propaganda? Yes. But also something else.
Steven Hellerstedt | 08/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, this is propaganda. But this is also a rare film. You will see a million WWII movies that gloss over the russian side of the story. They fought bravely with their backs against the wall and prevailed against some serious odds. The director had to work with the russian propaganda footage, and so it is a glimpse into their world at the time. It is a rare film because it does not brand the whole nation "evil". And, actually, it gives you a piece of history you don't know."
Battle of Russia. 1943 documentary film.
David Goldovt-Ryzhenkov | Boston, MA | 11/14/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Battle of Russia is a documentary film covering the Soviet war with Germany from 1941 to early 1943. It was produced during the world war two, hence the cut off date at 1943. Having been made with the taxpayer dollar it is now in the public domain, and many companies are reproducing it and selling in VHS and DVD form. My review will look first at this particular version of the movie with its physical reproduction of the film, later at the film's contents.
I will start with the packaging. The box front has photos of a US soldier with frost on his face, US troops marching, and another American soldier having a chow. On the back - a British AA gun being manned by British soldiers. That is right - all photos that are not consistent with the contents of the movie - Soviet German war. This foreshadowed the effort put in by "Goodtimes" into its product. Special Features: none. Scene index is present, however. Reproduction quality: At the beginning of the film there is a note by "Goodtimes" about how they carefully restored the original. Unfortunately, this ended up being an ironic statement. Frames are darker. This is an issue as in a number of places the details are deteriorated because of this. The sides and the bottom of the movie are truncated. It was noticeable as I played my VHS simultaneously with the DVD to compare the two. This was a disappointment, as I wanted to upgrade my VHS copy of this film. Overall, the VHS version, recorded in EP mode, outstripped this DVD in quality. I will be looking for another DVD version of this film.
Movie's contents: The film covers battles of the Eastern Front in chronological order, incorporating into the script social and political topics. A little observation I made through the years is that documentary movies during the cold war relied heavily on this film's footage along with the German newsreels when covering the Eastern Front. Peter Batty's "German Invasion of the Soviet Union" went as far as taking the animated maps from this movie wholesale. The footage used in Battle for Russia is not raw, but rather tape cut into segments most of which are less than five seconds. This is an unfortunate, yet common practice in documentary films. The documentary has scenes of prewar Soviet films, namely Ivan Grozny, Aleksandr Nevsky, Man with a Movie Camera (documentary), and the parade and maneuvers footage (documentary). Wartime footage presented in the film is good. It can be complemented, with some overlapping, by "Soviet Secret Archives: The Russian Front"(3 parts), Russia: "Blood Upon the Snow", or "War of the Century: When Hitler Fought Stalin" film series. Some reviewers referred to this film as outdated; with a notion that now, we know the truth. I respectfully disagree with this. We still have a lot of appeasement in World War II history. There seems to be a lot of material out on the Soviet German Front, but if we filter for primary sources such as diaries, journals, and wartime operative documents, not that much is left. I find that facts happen at lower level, and pompous numbers and "facts" mean nothing we do not know (or care) how they were compiled/where they are coming from. This movie is the pro-Allies American view circa world war two. I keep this film on my bookshelf and enjoy the footage analysis it presents.
Four stars for the movie contents. One star for this version of the DVD. "
"People win wars"
Steven Hellerstedt | 07/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE BATTLE OF RUSSIA is the fifth entry in Frank Capra's `Why We Fight' series. Originally presented to audiences in two parts for its first run in 1943 it covers the years 1941-'42, and, as the title suggests, devotes most of its attention to the harsh fighting on the Eastern Front following Germany's massive attack against Russia. As always, the intent was to explain the question posed by the series' title, and not present an unbiased documentation of events.
Drawing on old movies - for instance, a number of scenes from Sergei Eisenstein's `Alexander Nevsky' are inserted - THE BATTLE OF RUSSIA begins with a historical survey of repeated invasions and repulsions, almost all invaders breaking on the gate of Moscow, defeated either by Russia's immense size or its brutal winters. The film quickly returns to the modern day and shows Germany's speedy conquest of the Balkans, including Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece. These are simply preparatory steps to extend the Russian front, though. Germany launches its attack on June 22, 1941 as the first part ends. The second part examines the failure of Germany's blitzkrieg style of warfare when confronted with Russia's defense-in-depth strategy. The failed sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad are show in detail. For the first time in the series the German prove not to be invincible.
In many ways THE BATTLE OF RUSSIA is the most interesting movie in the series. There was a short summer of good feelings between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted roughly from 1942 to 1947, and both nations muted their criticism of the other. This movie conveniently fails to mention the German-Russian Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, a treaty that major Allied participants in the war like Winston Churchill could never forget and never mention without revealing their lingering bitterness. For the first and one of the few times Hollywood lauds praise on the heroic people of the Soviet Union. Perhaps it's unfair to hold up the message of this movie with the later rhetoric of the cold war, but it is a little startling to hear a government sponsored movie announce that `no invincible armies (can stand) against the determined will of a free and united people' and realize the free and united they're talking about are Soviet citizens. As usual, the transfer print manages to look good most of the time, although some of the images are terribly blurry and look over exposed. It's a discount dvd, so, as always, that's more an observation than it's a deal breaking complaint.
The Battle of russia
whitewabbit | 02/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Frank Capra's better propaganda documentaries, part of the Why We Fight Series. This documentary was put together by Capra's team from films mostly made by Soviet cameramen who did a great job. Even Stalin approved of this documentary and sent Capra a foreword he specially recorded for the occasion which pleased FDR who was trying to get him to be more accommodating about Soviet plans for after the war. Walter Huston narrates at a less frantic pace than in other films in this series. There is some fascinating footage of tribesmen who lived in the spacious reaches of the Soviet Union, such as the Cossacks, the Mongols, Tartars, Uzbeks etc who lived far away from the conflict. There are some very moving episodes - the return of very young girls in the countryside who had been used by the Nazi troops and who were returned, although wounded and severely traumatized, to their families once the Nazi troops were defeated. There are some harrowing & grotesque shots of frozen dead on both sides and of the mourners. Also some official propaganda lines but on the whole I find this documentary so far the best of the series."