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The World at War

4.6 out of 5 stars 738 customer reviews

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(Aug 24, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

More than 30 years after its initial broadcast, THE WORLD AT WAR remains the definitive visual history of World War II. Narrated by Academy Award winner Laurence Olivier and digitally re-mastered for DVD, this is epic history at its absolute best.

Unsurpassed in depth and scope, its 26 hour-long programs feature an extraordinary collection of newsreel, propaganda, and home-movie footage drawn from the archives of 18 nations, including color close-ups of Adolf Hitler taken by his mistress, that present an unvarnished perspective of the war's pivotal events. Penetrating interviews with eyewitness participants--from Hitler's secretary to Alger Hiss to ordinary citizens who stood outside the battle lines--add spine-tingling, first-hand accounts to an already unforgettable viewing experience.

Informative and unbiased, THE WORLD AT WAR is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an International Emmy Award, The National Television Critic's Award for Best Documentary, and knighthood for its creator, Sir Jeremy Isaacs.


Special Features

  • 26 original episodes plus over 12 hours of bonus material (3 hours of new material)
  • The Making of The World at War
  • Bonus documentaries: "Secretary to Hitler," "The Two Deaths of Adolf Hitler," "Warrior," "Hitler's Germany: 1932-1939," "Hitler's Germany: 1939-1945," "The Final Solution," "From War to Peace"
  • 30th anniversary feature-length retrospective film
  • Biographies
  • Timeline
  • Gallery of photos from the Imperial War Museum collection

Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Anthony Eden, Averell Harriman, Albert Speer, Siegfried Westphal
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC, Surround Sound
  • 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: 11
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • DVD Release Date: August 24, 2004
  • Run Time: 1357 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (738 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002F6AH0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,113 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The World at War" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
When investing in any DVD, especially a boxed set, you might ponder the question, "How often will I watch this?" Let me say that your purchase of The World at War will offer you endless viewing opportunities! Besides the 26 original episodes, all of the extra features that were produced afterwards are included in the set. There is so much information generated in over 30 hours of material that you will discover something new with each repeated viewing. Each episode will hold your attention from first to last, and they are efficiently indexed so you can easily review a map or replay a speech. Along side the emotional impact of the pictorial images, you have Carl Davis' moving score, a judicious use of period music, personal accounts from all the major powers, and Sir Laurance's strong narration, making this the most comprehensive documentary on the subject. Now if we can only have World War I, narrated by Robert Ryan, available, we would have the documentary bookends to the two most devastating wars in the 20th century.
4 Comments 310 of 320 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I won't say much about the documentary itself because others have been covering that ground for years. Suffice it to say it's the definitive documentary on WWII and always will be because part of what makes it great are the interviews of people who were involved in the events at the time, most of whom have passed away now.

I'm going to focus my comments on the Blu-ray release for those who have the DVD release and are wondering if it's worth purchasing again on Blu-ray. I've had it on DVD for a while. When I made the move to Blu-ray part of me liked the idea of having my favorite documentary on Blu-ray, but I had to wonder how much value there would be in a Blu-ray version of bunch of WWII-era footage that was mostly black and white.

Thanks to the efforts of the folks at FremantleMedia, apparently quite a bit. Because the original The World at War was produced on tape for TV instead of on film there really wouldn't have been any value in simply transferring the original to Blu-ray. Old films transfer well to Blu-ray because film offers a lot of detail, but anything where the original source is tape produced for TV lacks the needed resolution to produce a quality Blu-ray.

So they did the only thing that made sense and basically recreated the series from scratch, starting with the original film and restoring that instead of working with the original series, and the results are by and large very successful.

Here's what you'll notice if you compare the two:

- The first thing you'll notice is that everything has been reframed to get a 16:9 image instead of the original 4:3. The purist in me doesn't like that as it means some portion of the image is always cut off.
Read more ›
11 Comments 128 of 129 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For History buffs and those who have a keen, deeply felt interest in World War II beyond just the military events, the World at War, produced by Thames Television (1981) and released earlier on VHS by Thorn/EMI, is a 26 episode documentary set apart from all other documentaries about WWII. No other, with the exception of Walter Cronkite's CBS series, comes close to an unbiased, analytical perspective of a War that cost perhaps 50 million lives and took an emotional and philosophical toll we are still trying to comprehend today.
Narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier and covering all aspects of the war, this definitive series is used by many colleges and universities as a source for History and Documentary Film courses. There is an incredible depth of archive footage used; skilfully woven with interviews of major figures in the War from Britain, US, Canada, Europe and Japan. Many major eye-witness leaders and ordinary people who were still alive in 1981 contributed sometimes surprising, sometimes incredible, and sometimes haunting interviews. Yet, for all its skilful editing and historical sophistication, it is clearly presented and emotionally compelling. In my opinion, it is, along with Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation", the best ever produced British documentary.
What makes this a stellar and overpowering account of the War is Olivier's narration. Never blustery, patriotic, or theatrical, Sir Laurence delivers pointed, thoughtful analysis with his incredible command of English and oration. Music for the series was composed by Carl Davis and even the opening credits set an unforgettable tone in a haunting image of a child in a photograph, dissolving in flames. This series is for those trying to make sense of a 6 year period when the world went mad. Five Stars PLUS.
2 Comments 211 of 220 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I very much regret A&E Home Video chose to do an extremely amateurish job of producing The World at War (30th Anniversary Edition). Laurence Olivier's fine narration is barely audible during the initial ten or twelve seconds of many episodes, a situation which could and should have been corrected by A&E Home Video; and at the end of every episode the viewer of this product is instantaneously clobbered with a way-too-loud blast of recently-included advertising, something A&E Home Video could and should have moderated.

This brilliant television series deserved better. Thankfully, excellence of material far outweighs those errors A&E Home Video committed in producing the boxed set; but they are none the less aggravations which distract the viewer and hence detract from this release's expected quality.

My rating of three stars is the best compromise I could think of, between the one-star rating A&E Home Video deserves and the five-star rating I'd give the television series itself. One wonders, doesn't one, why no quality control was implemented prior to release of this product?
22 Comments 240 of 254 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Topic From this Discussion
Difference between the 30th Anniversary edition and the original DVD...
The difference is simple: The 30th Anniversary Edition (PBS calls it "The Collector's Edition" -- same thing) contains over 3 hours of bonus material. You want this one, not the earlier version.
Aug 2, 2006 by James Goodfellow |  See all 6 posts
Question about the history channel dvd
The HBO version which precedes the A&E by three years is 1920 min long vs. the A&E which is about an hour or so longer (note specs as listed on Amazon are misleading: the timing quoted for the A&E is only for the core documentary, to which you have to add about 8 hours of supplementary material;... Read More
Dec 26, 2009 by I. Martinez-Ybor |  See all 6 posts
I Want to Know If The Set Has Closed Captions (CC), Than You
Yes Sir it is denoted in the product description as having Closed Captions...
Oct 25, 2006 by Anonymous |  See all 7 posts
Blu-Ray version coming September 2010
S. Lu,

How do you know the original war footages were in 4:3? Maybe they had to be pan & scanned for the original video and now we are getting the full video?
Jul 9, 2010 by Amazon Customer |  See all 8 posts
English Closed Caption
I just got this set for my dad and it does not have closed captions. Are you sure yours work?
Dec 19, 2006 by Duperdella |  See all 9 posts
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