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Ken Burns: The Civil War (Commemorative Edition) (2011)

David McCullough , Sam Waterston , Ken Burns  |  NR |  DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,331 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: David McCullough, Sam Waterston, Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, Arthur Miller
  • Directors: Ken Burns
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS (DIRECT)
  • DVD Release Date: March 29, 2011
  • Run Time: 660 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,331 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004AR4WSA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,180 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ken Burns: The Civil War (Commemorative Edition)" on IMDb

Special Features

From the Archive: Shelby Foote Interviews
Interview with Ken Burns
Additional Interviews: George Will, Stanley Crouch, Shelby Foote and Jay Ungar & Molly Mason
Commentary by Ken Burns
Biography Cards
Battlefield Maps
Civil War Challenge

Editorial Reviews

Ken Burns' Emmy Award-winning documentary brings to life America's most destructive - and defining - conflict. The Civil War is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president and a country that had to divide itself in two in order to become one. The 150th Anniversary Six Disc DVD set includes never-before-seen special features including new interview with Ken Burns, Shelby Foote interview outtakes, and a bonus 16-page collector's booklet featuring a selection of photos and battle details.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
509 of 523 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Best Documentaries Ever Made August 9, 2005
Format:DVD
There aren't too many productions from television that one can call "noble," but Ken Burns' The Civil War qualifies. Burns uses photographs, music, speech, maps and historical context to tell the story of the second most formative event in the nation's history. And since in those days people wrote...diaries, letters, journals...there is the written record not just of the great leaders, the politicians and generals, but of the wives and sweethearts, the nurses and doctors, newspaper editors and farmers. Most of all there are the words of the soldiers. Burns shows the importance and the sweep of the war, but in part he does it through the lives of average people caught up in events they may not have completely comprehended, but which they believed in.

If the words themselves have power, so do the voices. Burns recruited great voices, some actors, some not, to speak the words, distinctive voices that give great resonance to what we see. Julie Harris as Mary Chestnut, Charlie McDowell, a Virginia reporter, as Sam Watkins, Arthur Miller as William Sherman, Jason Robards as Grant, Studs Terkel as Benjamin Butler, Sam Waterston as Lincoln, and many others. He has David McCullough as the narrator. McCullough, an outstanding historian and writer, does a wonderful job. Burns also uses a number of historians to underline key points. Foremost, in my view, is Shelby Foote. Foote is the author of the epic three-volume Civil War. With his Southern accent, common sense and soft irony, he's a fascinating raconteur.

The program is never dry or dull. It is gripping and emotional. Both sides felt they were fighting for a pure cause.
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140 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest documentary ever made! April 5, 2011
Format:DVD
I first saw this on PBS and was spellbound by it. It is simply everything you need to know about the American Civil War. If you think history is dry and uninteresting, this film by Ken Burns will change your mind. This is filled with comedy and pathos, courage and cowardice, and a balanced explanation that is fair to both sides of the conflict.

Burns used well-known actors to read the diaries and writings of both famous people (Grant, Lee, Lincoln) and average persons and soldiers. It gives one a well-rounded view of both sides. I am in awe of the writings of that time--the people had an incredibly, descriptive way of writing; a command of the English language that has sadly been lost in modern times.

Burns also used still photographs, panning across them, giving the audience the feel of watching an actual movie of the time. That technique has since been adopted by other documentaries.

I've seen the series many times, and each time find something more. If nothing else, see it for Shelby Foot--a writer/historian who speaks about Robert E. Lee, and others, like he personally knew them. Fascinating from beginning to end!
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164 of 173 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ken Burns Best January 1, 2005
Format:DVD
Ken Burns has established himself as one of the greats in terms of historical documentaries. The Civil War is Mr. Burns' greatest work. The attention to detail brings the history to life. Mr. Burns does an excellent job of bringing humanity to the tragic time in America. With the use of solder's and family letters it is evident what a difficult time it was to be an American. Originally aired on PBS in September of 1990, nearly fifteen years later the series remains the ultimate narrative about the United States darkest time.

The series is finally released on DVD. While the price is a little high the amazing quality of the series makes the cost very reasonable. Ken Burns' Civil War is required for any Civil War historian's collection. The series is also a great way for those wishing to learn more about the Civil War. I would recommend this to anyone that loves historical documentaries. It does not get any better than The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns.
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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can I give it More than 5 stars? October 31, 2002
Format:DVD
I remember watching this documentary by Ken Burns when it first appeared on PBS in 1990. It started my lifelong interest in the Civil War. Countless books and trips to battlefields later, it still stands as the finest general work on the war ever made.
The story of the war is told through pictures, narratives, and the unobtrusive narration by David McCoulough, who's voice is pitch pefect for the job. Never before have photos had such a dramatic effect in telling a story. They say a picture says a thousand words, and this series prove that maxim correct. The five discs cover the 5 years of the war, and the 9 parts of teh series. The most effective are "1861: The Cause", "1863: The Universe of Battle", and "1865: The Better Angels of our Nature". They cover the events that led up to the war, the turining points at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and the end and aftermath of the war. Each is suprememly emotional. One episode intersperses an old narrative from the daughter of a former slave as she remembers her father's stories. Shelby Foote, author of the most comprehensive book on the war, offers invaluable advice. High praise must also go to Sam Waterston, who voices Abraham Lincoln. In the final segment of the 1863 disc, Waterston recites the Gettysburg Address, and I must admit it brought me to tears.
The music is also a key factor to the success of the film. Burns went back and found the old music that was popular among the people and the soldiers, both North & South during the war. It is moving, from the haunting opening music, to the old spirituals that are found on disc 2's "1862: Forever Free".
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Ken Burns The Civil War
Answered by PBS during the recent reair. The new copy has a 6th disc with new interviews with Ken, and supposedly outakes from Shelby's interviews (possibly others). Also some commemorative booklet. The first 5 discs are the same as were released in 2002 and 2004 as well as on tape prior to 2002.
Apr 18, 2011 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 2 posts
What are some good movies for 8th grade American history?
I don't know about "movies' but many of Ken Burns' documentaries would be ideal for you to use as teaching aides.
Oct 14, 2012 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 3 posts
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