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Crusades (1995)

Terry Jones , Anthony Smee , Alan Ereira , David Wallace  |  NR |  DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Terry Jones, Anthony Smee, Steve Purbrick, Marcello Walton, Robin Sebastian
  • Directors: Alan Ereira, David Wallace
  • Writers: Terry Jones, Alan Ereira
  • Producers: Alan Ereira, David Wallace, Laurence Rees
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 2, 2002
  • Run Time: 200 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005U8F3
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,906 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Crusades" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Historic timeline
  • Terry Jones biography/filmography

Editorial Reviews

Of all the wars waged in the name of God, none has ever matched the arrogance and conceit of the Christian Crusades. For nearly two centuries (1095-1291), this medieval "holy war" variously raged, sometimes so spiritually misshapen by rapaciousness, murder, and political greed that to think it all had to do with Christian faith is absurd. And really, there is no one better to dramatize such a theater of holy war than Wales-born Terry Jones, host of The Discovery Channel's Ancient Inventions and an accomplished medievalist. Best known for his absurdist contributions to all things Monty Python--he was a founding member of Monty Python's Flying Circus and cowriter of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, among others--Jones wields an uncanny ability to explain the methodologies and madness of the Crusades while not failing us his sense of humor. Jones wrote the scripts for each 50-minute presentation in the four volumes of The Crusades, which originally aired on The History Channel. His narration is not without an occasional sardonic air, almost of the roll-your-eyes type, which not only lends a skeptical perspective to a frequently misunderstood era in Western Europe, but also quite frequently editorializes the events that occurred between Pope Urban II's call for liberation of Jerusalem from the "infidels" of Islam and the embarrassing moment when officers of the fourth Crusade are conned out of its divine calling by the Venetians. While Jones's reconnaissance is sometimes oversimplified by casually not mentioning several Crusade sorties after the fourth (there were several, but by the 13th century they had become redolent of ennui and misguided commercial adventure), the technical ingenuity of the production and Jones's use of anecdote backed by academicians and preserved eyewitness accounts cinches a viewer's interest. Medieval "siege machines" are re-created to test their mettle against legends of famou

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
175 of 195 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Politically correct, funny, and informative. September 1, 2001
By sid1gen
Format:VHS Tape
This documentary is so funny, it is almost cruel. After all, the Crusades were very serious affairs (God, country, heathens, invasions, and so on), so what is Terry Jones of "Monty Python" fame doing here, leading the new barbarians of the West in a Quest for the Greater Glory of God and a little bit of plunder? Well, he, and the whole BBC-A&E production team, are taking us to a journey Eastward, retracing the steps of the medieval pilgrim-soldiers, ignorant peasants and nobles alike who invaded Levant because they were religious zealots, greedy, and unscrupulous. Does this sound a bit one-sided? It is, and that is the only problem with this very entertaining and educational documentary: in their attempt to be fair to the Arab/Moslem side, the producers have ended up taking sides, which is not very susprising since the historical bulk comes from the late Sir Steven Runciman, one of the most respected and most widely read historians of the Crusades, whose bias against the "Franks" and for the Byzantines, is evident once one reads his great "History of the Crusades." Jonathan Riley-Smith attempts to balance the story with his commentaries, and it is no secret that his sympathies are with the Crusaders, but the program is structured in such a way that not even Riley-Smith's input saves it from being tilted. Terry Jones is simply outstanding with his British (Welsh) accent and deadpan humor as the perfect guide in this tour.
The Crusades were far more complicated than the simplistic Bad Guys (ignorant Europeans/Christians) against the Good Guys (enlightened Arabs/Moslems) picture would make us believe. Historical perspective helps us see the Crusades as a chapter in the (sometimes quite deadly) embrace of two world religions.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Narrowly focused but still pretty good February 24, 2003
"Crusades" does the basics well, better than most other television programs, while garnishing the outline with little, fascinating details. Still, you'll have to go to the library for a wider perspective. For starters, this series is top heavy; the first two episodes cover the First Crusade, the third races through the Second Crusade to get to Richard and Saladin, and the final episode concerns itself mainly with the Fourth Crusade, leaving the final 100 years of the Kingdom Acre 15-20 minutes of time.
Jones approaches his subject from what might be called a neo-European perspective, looking at the era mostly as two centuries of western interference in the Middle East. That's not necessarily a bad thing: in fact, it's perfect when Jones details Crusader horrors, giving them an immediate, in-our-streets quality. But the approach loses its footing when Jones explains the ambitions, the background and the people of the wars.
This leads to a few minor but irritating lapses. Jones sees the pope's political ambition as the sole spark of the First Crusade; you'd never know Christians and Muslims had fought each other in Spain for nearly 400 years by 1095. A statement by Saladin that his people had always been in possession of Palestine goes unchallenged (it's not like Jews lived there for 5,000 years or anything).
The biggest sins are errors of ommission. There's virtually nothing about the internal government of the Crusader states, the feudalization of Palestine or the fact they actually got along with their Muslim neighbors when their French and German brethren weren't leading cavalry charges across the sands. Worse, the Byzantine Empire is used solely to bookend the first and fourth crusades.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant introduction to the subject December 24, 2005
Terry Jones starts this four-part documentary series by talking about the historical event that first sparked his interest in the Crusades: the 1098 massacre and cannibalization of the inhabitants of the small town of Ma'arrat al-Numan, during the First Crusade. How was it, he asked, that medieval Europeans had come so far, and been brought to such a pass? What, exactly, had gone on there?

It's a good starting point. Anyone who takes it to mean that the whole series is about nothing but the awfulness of the Crusaders is just being stupid.

I can't imagine a better general introduction to the Crusades than this series. Jones discusses the social background, diverse interests, and triggering events that first set the Crusaders' feet on the road to the Holy Land. He doesn't stop there. His handling of his material is simultaneously lighthanded, judicious, and intelligent.

What this series isn't:

1. A comedy routine. Not that it isn't funny whenever there's occasion to be; but that's not the main point of it.

2. A complete history of the Crusades. It couldn't be. Nor is it meant to be. If Terry Jones had tried to squeeze the whole history of the Crusades into four episodes, the series would have been unwatchable, and he still wouldn't have gotten everything in.

3. An "Us versus Them" vindication of Westerners, Christians, and Crusaders, as opposed to all those wicked Middle Easterners, Muslims, and other Sneaky Mediterraneans. Frankly, it's embarrassing how many reviewers here are outraged at what they perceive as Jones's failure to condemn the entire Medieval Islamic world.

Some of the series' strong points:

1. The role of unintended consequences. No one had any idea what they were starting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars very funny and informative
I got the dvd on time and in good shape and it works fine. I love the dvd because terry jones is a genius who presents history as it can be understood by all and with a tongue in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Margaret Doheny
5.0 out of 5 stars What they never told you in school
This presentation by Terry Jones is from 2001 so it is newer than what I learned in school yet still missing a decade or so of anything found sense then. Read more
Published 6 months ago by bernie
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable
Very enjoyable and informative. Leaves you wanting more.
Love the shot of T. Jones walking on the beach in a speedo and talking about the importance of washerwomen with mock... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Kevin Oliver
3.0 out of 5 stars Too narrow and loses your interest in the minutia of storytelling
Lacks a comprehensive perspective and is way too long. You don't leave the show feeling you quite understand what happened at a big picture level.
Published 10 months ago by Emanuel Perdis
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it
If you like history and humor then this is an ok series to watch. Not to heavy on facts and dates but gives you a basic understanding what the holy crusades were about. Read more
Published 15 months ago by C. Stalmer
1.0 out of 5 stars An Offensive Comedy
Terry Jones of Monty Python may be a comedian but he is hardly an historian. His presentation is manipulative, omits several key factors, and does a disservice to Western... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish we had more of these
My wife who is from England turned me on to these and they are fantastic, very informative, educational and entertaining. Buy them all we did and couldn't be happier....
Published 18 months ago by compton
5.0 out of 5 stars This is perhaps the best book on history I have read
It is funny, very well researched and beautifully written. To look back at the Crusades which cost a lot of lives, one often has to take a very impersonal, even cynical view of the... Read more
Published on September 30, 2012 by iankur
3.0 out of 5 stars Get Back to the Books
I became interested in the Crusades and wanted to learn about them without reading a book. So I looked into the History Channel's offerings. Read more
Published on August 11, 2012 by James Gerofsky
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun and Entertaining Look at History
My daughter got this on Netflix and we watched it because of Terry Jones. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to own my own copy. Read more
Published on April 9, 2011 by Brook B. Petersen
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