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Countdown to War

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Ian McKellen, Peter Vaughan. An engrossing docudrama taking an inside look at Hitler's Chancellery, Chamberlain's Cabinet, Stalin's Kremlin and Mussolini's study as the leaders struggle to outmaneuver their rivals and allies on the brink of war. 1989/color/78 min/NR/fullscreen.


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Aldridge, Ian McKellen, Alex Norton, Barrie Rutter
  • Directors: Patrick Lau
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: BFS Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 78 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000VI6Y2E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,750 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roderick Gildea on June 6, 2008
Format: DVD
I think dramatic re-enactments of historical events, done well, can be both interesting and educational. Unfortunately, this production is neither and represents another lost opportunity for the genre. It purports to show the leaders and ministers of the major powers who were involved in the discussions, negotiations and decisions leading up to World War II in September 1939. I have to say that without some pre-knowledge of the history of the period and the people involved, the average viewer will be none the wiser after watching this film. Apart from the leaders, this film makes it almost impossible to know who is who and what motivated them to do the things they did. A narrator would certainly have helped to set the scenes and present the many people who are portrayed here and who had critical roles in the events described. At the very least, some subtitles showing names, places, dates etc. should have been used in each the various scenes. By the way, at the end when Hitler says to Ribbentrop, "What do we do now?", after Britain and France had declared war, apparently did happen and was quoted later by Field Marshall Keitel.

One final criticism: I have great admiration for Sir Ian McKellen's acting prowess and have seen him playing characters as diverse as Richard III and Gandalf quite superbly. However, I'm sorry to say that his portrayal of Adolf Hitler in this film just didn't seem credible to me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gerard S. Lannigan on February 28, 2008
Format: DVD
The film offered a capsule view of the immediate causes leading up to the outbreak of World war II. As an overview, it was OK and probably I should not have been looking for more. However, the portraits of the major players seemed two-dimensional and flat with little reference to the worlds which led to their roles as national leaders. Hitler seemed almost a caricature and his final question "What do we do now?" seemed out of character for a person who always seemed to know exactly what he was doing.
Probably the most intriguing part of this film is that many of the causes for this war are portrayed as being either miscalculations on the part of the major players, errors of judgment, or failures of character. This rings partially true. However, the failure to put these errors into a somewhat broader context weakened the overall show.
Lastly the fact that all of the movie were shot on sets and that sometimes the shadow of the sound boom appeared on the top of the screen also reduced the overall impact of the film. However, as an intro to the critical events of the period it was acceptable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Colleen P. Stacey on February 20, 2008
Format: DVD
It is such a shame that Koch & Granada did not take the opportunity when transferring this important piece of television history, relating as it does to such a fundamental period leading up to WWII, to ensure that the DVD transfer was a considerably better product than the previously released VHS version. First, the digital transfer ranges from a grainy fair to downright poor. Second, the DVD version excludes the information tags that were provided on the VHS version to identify the date, time, participants and their roles in the events as they unfolded. I therefore pity anyone who is left (in many scenes) not knowing who is taking part in a particular scene. Third, why no subtitles? This is a period of history that is important to a large section of the older generation of the population, a population that more and more is suffering from hearing loss - why not cater for them? So please, someone, re-release an enhanced version of this wonderful teleplay that is digitally remastered and enhanced, includes the information titles and provides English subtitles for the ever-increasing band of us who are hearing impaired.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Mysterious Traveler on January 4, 2012
Format: DVD
COUNTDOWN TO WAR (1989) Directed by Patrick Lau.

Starring Ian McKellen (as Adolf Hitler), Michael Aldridge (as Neville
Chamberlain), John Woodvine (as Joachim Von Ribbentrop) and Peter
Vaughn as Hermann Goring.

Starting in May, 1939 with National Socialist Germany's destruction of
what was left of Czechoslovakia and ending with Great Britain's final
ultimatum to Germany to withdraw from Poland in Sept, this
film---really a filmed play---attempts to run through the immediate
causes that led to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe.

As the mini series WINSTON CHURCHILL THE WILDERNESS YEARS ran through
in great detail the British side of things of this story while the
first ep of THE WINDS OF WAR did likewise for Germany and both in a
superb and definitive manner,there is very little new here in what was
the third run through of the same material in less than a decade.
McKellen is acceptable as Hitler but no Gunter Meisner and Aldridge
comes nowhere near the brilliance of Eric Porter as Chamberlain.
Woodvine as Ribberntrop is quite good but again after Anton Difring's
turn in WINDS.....................

Where the film is interesting and original is in the dramatization of
Hitler's ultimatum to the Czech leader on the eve of the destruction of
his country which has never been---to my knowledge---done before as is
the presentation of the French, Polish and Italian govts as they
attempt to cope with the coming crisis. Though the actors playing
Mussolini and Count Ciano are nothing to write home about.
Read more ›
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