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The Unknown War: WWII And The Epic Battles Of The Russian Front

79 customer reviews

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(May 24, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

5 Dvd: All 20 Original Episodes

The Unknown War was a landmark television documentary series about the Soviet struggle against, and ultimate victory over, the Nazi war machine. Hosted and narrated by Academy Award winner Burt Lancaster, this sprawling series features rare and stunning footage recorded by Soviet camera crews on the front lines, most of it unseen since its original broadcast 30 years ago. From the June 22, 1941, invasion of the Soviet Union to the Russians’ victorious march into Berlin in 1945, the devastating battles in the air, at sea and on land are detailed with astonishing images. These stories of heroism, savagery and suffering from what the Russians call The Great Patriotic War will shed new light on the Red Army’s massive contribution to the Allies’ defeat of Hitler in World War II.

Special Features

Interview with Rod McKuen: Celebrated writer, performer and composer, Rod McKuen, who wrote the screenplay and composed the musical score for The Unknown War, takes you behind the making of this Soviet-American coproduction

Analysis by Willard Sunderland, associate professor of Russian history at the University of Cincinnati

Product Details

  • Actors: Burt Lancaster, Rod McKuen
  • Directors: Roman Karmen
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Vivendi Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 24, 2011
  • Run Time: 990 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004NJC0I4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,094 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 135 people found the following review helpful By MorningSinger on March 18, 2011
This is a 20-part documentary history of the World War II conflict between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Each episode is approximately 50 minutes long and narrated by Burt Lancaster. The combat footage was edited from over 3.5 million feet of film taken by Soviet camera crews from the first day of the war in June 1941, to the Soviet entry into Berlin in May 1945. Most of the combat footage has never been seen outside of this series.

The Unknown War was produced with Soviet participation after the release of The World at War, which the Soviet government felt paid insufficient attention to their part in World War II. Released in 1978, The Unknown War is sympathetic to the Soviet struggle against Nazi Germany and that may be why it was quickly withdrawn from American TV after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Unknown War TV series is one of the few documentary accounts of the war on the Eastern Front from the Soviet side. The interviews of many leading Soviet generals commanding some of the most decisive battles on the Eastern front, along with the Russian participation in the editorial staff of the series, compose an alternative (to Western) view of the gigantic clash between Germany and the Soviet Union.

Because the series was written from the Soviet perspective, it ignores or glosses-over Stalin's pre-war purges of his senior officer corps, the pre-war famines that decimated the peasant class, the non-aggression pact with Germany, the Soviet invasion of Poland and the Soviet invasion of Finland. It often praises the valor of the Soviet soldiers, without ever mentioning that deserters and even those who failed to advance with sufficient speed were summarily shot.
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73 of 85 people found the following review helpful By R. Mason on May 6, 2011
I have had this series on DVD for about 5 years now. The film footage is great. The narration is great. The music is wonderful. I absolutely think Burt Lancaster did a great job hosting and narrating this series. When you watch this series keep in mind that the Russians basically made this series. It is very much slanted against the Germans and their allies. It is basically 16 and a half hours of Russian propaganda. You would swear the Germans were not anywhere near as good as they actually were. The Russian defeat in Kiev in 1941 where they lost 650,000 men is not even mentioned in this series. It does boast of the Russian victories. Even the music is slanted against the Germans. It makes fun of them in a few spots. No I am not a German sympathizer. They had no business invading Russia. I'm just saying only one side of the story is told.
Still the video is great to see. The reason this series was made was a response to the World at War series which barely touched on the Russian front. I agree that the story of the Russian front had to be expanded more but to only do it from the Russian viewpoint is not right either.
One last thing to type about. According to Wikipedia the original running time was 1040 minutes. This release is 990 minutes. So on average 2 and a half minutes were cut off of each episode.
Correction: I see a representative of SHOUT who is the originator of this release admitted they made a mistake in listing the run time as 990 minutes. It looks like the end of the rainbow has been reached with this release after all! It is supposed to have an interview with Rod McKuen who was involved with the making of this series and an interview with a professor of Russian history!
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Kent on July 9, 2011
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This is a helpful series on the Russian Front during World War II. The details of the campaigns waged by the Red Army are vividly documented whether it is the battle of Leningrad, Stalingrad, the classic tank battle of Kursk, partisans fighting in many situations as well as the set-backs suffered in several campaigns. The telling documentary footage largely shot by Russian cameramen, many who lost their lives during the war is ably preserved and brought to our attention by one who survived-Roman Karmen. The narration by Bert Lancaster is low-key and non-bombastic. While the series does leave out some of the horrors of Stalin before, during and after the war the overall content is a revealing look at World War II from the Russian perspective. This is particularly needed because of the cold war distortions about the Russian campaigns regularly circulated in the West that have usually left out some of the more salient contributions the Russian side made during this horrible conflict. Finally, I found the analysis of Professor Willard Sunderland at the end of the series to be a neo-cold war unhelpful screed trashing the documentary. While Professor Sunderland is correct to point out the lapses and historical omissions of Stalinist horrors like Katyn, his bald face assertion that World War II was equally the fault of Germany and Russia is beyond belief,retrograde and reactionary. As one historian of the war has written-no Hitler no World War II. Sunderland does not get this fact and uses the old canard of Brown equals Red. This item aside, the series is worthwhile for bringing to our attention some primary documentary evidence of the sacrifices and suffering on the eastern front in World War II. Peace, Ronald Kent
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Topic From this Discussion
is the soundtrack available?
yes at shout factory
Jun 5, 2011 by Genesis714 |  See all 7 posts
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