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on October 8, 2007
...hinders the otherwise pretty excellent coverage. I bought this one after purchasing The First World War, based on Hew Strachan's book, and much prefer that one because of the seeming freshness of the material and the superb narration by Jonathan Lewis who also wrote, produced and directed the project. The narrative here by Robert Ryan (Hollywood Actor) is not nearly as good, is hard to stay interested in (after hearing Lewis) and, as another reviewer mentioned, seems dated. I found it to be performed in almost a monotone, whereas Lewis' narrative in The First World War is full of emotion and inflection. Don't know if this helps but to me, that seems to be the primary difference. Overall, I just found The First World War to be more interesting but again, this series is no slacker, either.
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on October 23, 2013
...I saw this many years ago on television and was blown away. I had it on tape and need to get it on DVD. I have seen many other documentaries on WWI in its entirety... and this one tops them all.
... A great start was having Robert Ryan as the narrator. Unlike some narrators, he was not simply around to pick up his paycheck. He puts his memorable voice and very real talent into this work.
...Many documentaries are lifeless... if they have a musical score, it is usually forgettable... not so here. Others lack a sense of "energy"... as if bored with their subject... not so here.
...There are many fine reviews here, but I want to cover two specific points. First, they have really "cleaned up" much of the footage... to the point where one is contemplating calling the "Time Travel Police..." And in wrapping up the close of the war... the appearance of people that we would hear from again... David Ben Gurion and Ho Chi Minh...
...My only quibble is that I miss the original opening used in the TV presentation of the French sniper in slow motion rising to the edge of the trench.

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on June 14, 2010
I remember watching this when I was a kid in the 60's To my knowledge there has not been a more complete and comprehensive series on WW1 since. I have seen documentaries over the years that that either dwell on the causes of the war or the bruitality of trench warfare or the new weapons that were either born out of the war or came of age during it. This series covers all these aspects and more. If you could only have one documentary searies on WW1 this should be it.
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on July 26, 2013
I have always had interest in WWII since I was little as my Grandfather served in Italy. I knew very little about the first war and decided to buy this DVD as it was the first DVD that came up on Amazon when I did a search and figured...what the hell?

The first thing that I noticed was that the narration was done by Robert Ryan. I remembered his name from "The Dirty Dozen". You'll remember him as Colonel Breed. They guy that Lee Marvin does not get along with. The same guy that Donald Sutherland fools into thinking that he's a general. That's him.

At first, Robert Ryan's narration was odd as I was not used to the way he narrates...probably due to the way people spoke in the 60's, if that makes sense. I would go so far to say that I did not care for this series at first, but that went away very quickly. And now, I actually like this series because of the way he did the job. You can really tell based on his tone exactly what he means. He does an outstanding job.

The music score was done by Morton Gould. I know that you've probably read reviews about how the music does not fit to the film. And that's it's too loud or whatever. All I can say is, ignore what you've read. Once you start watching, you will realize that whoever put the music to the film did an amazing job. The music and film fit together perfectly.

Sure, there are no battle sounds. People complain about that. Big deal. There was not audio in films back then. I do not care to hear fake sounds dubbed in. If you want that, there are many other WWI documentaries that you can watch that have this embedded into the film.

I have watched this whole series many times. I watch an episode, usually every 2-3 days. Why? You can miss so much information. Every time you watch an episode, you learn more about times, dates, events, people involved etc. I know that they left out information, but I feel that they did a good enough job considering when it was made.

Here's who should buy this:

If you know nothing about WWI and want to learn about history at the turn of the century...what caused it, who was involved, how senseless it was, and how 90% of the world was involved in this terrible tragedy. And especially how this war directly lead to WWII. You'll learn that many of the key men in WWII came from WWI. You'll see that Eisenhower, FDR, Hitler, Lawrence of Arabia, Douglas Macarthur, Hermann Goering, Omar Bradley, Gregory Rasputin, Pancho Villa just to name a few were directly involved in this war.

If you want to see how the airplane started as a novelty only to become a full on war machine in just 4 years. How the aircraft carrier came to be. This was also a time when submarines came about and the flamethrower came into action. In a nutshell, many things stemmed from this war that are present today, that no one really knows about.

If you like well put together documentaries, this is a must buy.

This is no joke. Total seriousness here. No one is paying me anything to say this. If someone put me on a desert island and said that I could take ONE and one only, DVD or Blu Ray series, it would be this right here. Never before have I been pulled so hard into a documentary such as this. And I love United States War Documentaries. If Robert Ryan and Morton Gould were not involved in the making of this series, my opinion would be different I'm sure.

One of the scenes by Robert Ryan still stays with me to this day in the 3rd DVD...this was when everyone was waiting for the war to end...and the happiness you can see on the faces of those still alive that it's over for them, and to see enemies hanging out, smoking cigarettes and trading things after the wars end.

Here's where it starts...

An American correspondent has been waiting to see what would happen at 11 'o clock.

"Nothing Happened", he writes. "The war just ended."

There is nothing to separate enemies now except Foch's stern orders:


The order is widely ignored.
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on November 29, 2014
On the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, you cannot get a better overview of "The Great War" than this CBS News series from 1964 (produced for the 50th anniversary). Everyone knows of the First World War but few people know much about it outside of movies like ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and GALLIPOLI which focus on battles. But there was so much more to WWI than just its confrontations. It literally shaped life in the 20th century and made World War II not only possible but an inevitability. What makes this series so invaluable is that it looks at the social and political aspects that led up to the conflict and the social and political repercussions that came about as a result of it. Originally conceived as 22 half hour episodes (24 minutes actually with room for commercials) which were broadcast on CBS back in 1964 (I remember watching it at home as a 12 year old), it was later shown on cable TV back in 1988. It was then issued as a 5 volume VHS set in 1994. Now it's available as 3 DVD set for around $20.

Although the presentation is somewhat dated by today's standards (the silent period footage has not been speed corrected so it runs a little fast), the condition of the films shown is remarkable. You'll see everything from battles to the havoc wreaked on civilians in the cities under siege as well as the personal observations of those involved. There are also political cartoons and examples of how propaganda fueled and prolonged the conflict. World War I truly was a blueprint for World War II and for every war that has occurred since then including those that are currently underway in the Middle East and in Ukraine today. The original music by American composer Morton Gould is powerful while actor Robert Ryan's narration is effective without being pedantic. If you want real background depth, read Barbara Tuchman's remarkable THE GUNS OF AUGUST. For a different spin try any of the series that followed but for an effective presentation of every aspect of the most far reaching war in history, this series is hard to beat.
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on October 3, 2012
After almost 50 years, this 1964 documentary series is still the best available American documentary on World War 1. I recall watching it on PBS in the mid 1970's and had been trying to find it for years. There have been several documentaries on the war in the past 15 years or so, but none that I have seen were so comprehensive. Newer documentaries use a lot of re-enactments, but this one uses orginal footage throughout. I had not known that so much film existed from World War One.

I think for me, the mood of the series is what makes it so special, Robert Ryan's narration always seems to contain a hint of melancholy and the footage used really brings home the truth about what a disaster this war was for the entire world, but especially for European society - an entire culture was destroyed and replaced, and you really get the sense from this documentary about how apocolyptic the war was for its participants.

My only complaint is that each epiose cuts out the opening and ending credits - usually I wouldn't be upset over this, but I recall how powerful the credits were, as they were superimposed on a film clip of a soldier rising up out of a trench and aiming his rifle at the enemy, then freeze framed. I wish they had left that in.
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on July 4, 2012
After watching British television's Channel Four series "The First World War", it's refreshing to see CBS TV's "The Complete Story: World War I". While some might feel that America's involvement in the First World War doesn't deserve five episodes in this CBS TV version, the British series DOESN'T EVEN MENTION America's involvement until near the end of the series. The British series even chastises the Americans because they were unwilling to submit to local Allied commanders and ballyhooed the tactics used by the Americans. I don't even recall seeing one battle showing American fighting men at work in the British version. After some of the comments made in the British series, one is left with the impression that Americans only looked good in their uniform but were tactically inept. Granted, America entered the fray years after it started but some of us had grandfathers who fought and died in places like Bellleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry, and Bouresches. At least the French appreciated American Marines' involvement by awarding them the French Croix De Guerre. And the Germans certainly noticed American Marines involvement by rewarding them with a new title, "Devil Dog."
Narrator Robert Ryan lends credence to this CBS TV documentary by virtue of the fact that he served his time in the Marines and was a boxing champion and drill instructor.
The glaring absence of America's involvement in the British version isn't the only difference between the two World War 1 documentaries. This CBS version provides lots of historical clips, vivid descriptions, and moves at a faster pace with details about various battles. It's almost a different view, a different perspective of World War 1.
Hats off to the people who made this CBS TV version available. It's regrettable that the producers of the British version weren't as objective and unbiased as the producers of the great WWII British series, "World At War."
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on July 7, 2008
Highly recommended. I am utterly amazed by the quality of this 1964 production narrated by the late actor Robert Ryan. This may be among the very best ways to learn about World War One in roughly ten and a half hours. You cannot go wrong purchasing a copy. If nothing else, this set of programs filmed in approximately twenty-three minute segments will serve as a superb introduction. A history professor might wish to add The Complete Story: World War I to their list of required works.
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on December 25, 2013
I would have given these DVD's 5-stars had there been Closed Captioning (CC).
Everything is in good old American and I need CC to be able to understand the English; I'ts simply hearing loss.
The series covers the lead in about the social activities in the 10-14 years prior the the War and how this war would cure everyone of the horror of war.
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on August 30, 2013
THE best history of WW1 ever done....Every episode is rich and stands on its own....incomparable film, wonderfully preserved and restored. EVERY aspect and theatre covered.....and well.....all with robert Ryan's excellent narration. GREAT show.....
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