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The Dark Ages (The History Channel)

4.2 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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(May 01, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

This brings to life the 1000 year period that witnessed the collapse of civilization before giving birth to the renaissance.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: RJ Allison
  • Directors: Christopher Cassel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: May 1, 2007
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000NO2416
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,056 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew S. Schweitzer on July 12, 2007
The History Channel really delivers in this awesome documentary on the history of The Dark Ages, the period between the Fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Middle Ages. It is generally remembered as a bleak period when civilization in the West teetered on the verge of total collapse and barbarian warlords fought with each other when they weren't busy fighting Viking hordes, Muslim invaders, or Byzantine armies.

The Dark Ages uses recent scholarship and high production values to recreate the period just after the fall of Rome in the late 5th century A.D. The Roman Empire in the West had collapsed and a ragtag band of barbarians made up of Goths, Vandals, Franks, and Lombards wage bloody warfare against each other to divide up the pieces of the once-great Empire. In the East, the remnants of the Empire live on under the Emperor Justinian who becomes obsessed with recapturing Rome and reconquering the West. Meanwhile, the Franks, easily the most powerful of the post-Roman tribes, have begun to establish a great kingdom under the Merovingian dynasty, led by King Clovis, whose conversion to Christianity helps secure its place in the history of Europe. The documentary then touches on the Viking raids along the English and Irish coasts, the desperate struggle to crush the invading Muslim armies that threaten to capture all of Spain and France, and ultimately, the consolidation of Western Europe as part of the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne.

This is probably one of the best History Channel DVDs out there and shows that a good amount of time and effort went into create this production. While of course it cannot tell every detail of the nearly 500 year period of the Dark Ages, it does a good job of providing an excellent introduction to the subject. It is one which recommends itself to anyone who claims to be a student of history.
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A fascinating and entertaining account of the not-so-dark ages. Solid scholarship wrapped in colorful graphics and reenactments. Very well done. The only criticism might be that it is far too short and leaves one wanting more details.
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Mixed bag, but when the chapters are good, they're really good. The most lacking chapter is the one on Alaric where they've glossed over his background (why the Visigoths wanted to take over Rome in the first place) and rush through the sacking of Rome in just under 8 minutes. Other chapters are AMAZING: Rise of Christianity (Clovis) and the Fravks v. Moors in Ch8 especially . Here's a full lineup if it helps anyone:
-Introduction (1:08)
-The Sacking of Rome (7:22)
-The Waning Empire (4:58)
-Common Thread of Christianity (10:12)
-An Empire Strikes Back (8:33)
-The Plague (9:06)
-Men of Cloth, Men of Letters (10:40)
-A Holy War (7:59)
-The Greatest King (9:37)
-The Vikings (10:04)
-The Crusades (10:01)
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If have an avid curiosity about history, this is for you! Especially if you are interested in the history of Europe during the dark ages. While it is very informative, it is spoken in a language that retains your interest. In other words, it is not dry and boring, BUT like a walk through a period of time you have never seen. The challenge in Europe of the plague, pagan -vs- Christianity, ending at the reign of Charlemage. I loved it!
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An excellent program on the Dark Ages, beginning with the old Roman Empire and its collapse and ending with the Crusades and the Renaissance. The rise of the barbarian kingdoms (which would later become nation-states), Byzantine intrigue, the Plague, the role of the Church, the expansion of Islam and the Viking raids are all presented to the viewer. The use of some computer graphics and actor portrayals makes the subject come alive. Of course, this can hardly be considered an in-depth look but as an introduction or just a dalliance into a field you have no intention of becoming an expert in it serves well. The seperate program on The Plague is also quite interesting and well done.
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Trying to pack 1000 years of history into a one hour program is setting oneself up for failure from the start.

In this production, we learn little about social or political organizations and absolutely nothing about the daily lives of people, the technologies available to them and how those developed and improved over the years. We don't get as much as a hint at which crops they grew, how they grew them, how they stored and prepared food, built their homes and other structures, made clothing, treated injuries and illnesses, or defended themselves against wild animals.

Instead, we are treated to the usual "the Dark Ages were filthy and violent" fair, complete with detailed descriptions of torture. We witness the same mutilations and executions time after time, hear the same screams over and over, and see the same battle scene reenactments again and again (complete, as another reviewer pointed out, with cavalry using historically inaccurate gear, such as saddles, horseshoes and stirrups). Unfortunately, we don't get much information about why these people fought, and this leads me right back to the start of this review: It is impossible to give more than the most superficial overview of 1000 years of history in one hour.

This low-budget program does not educate viewers. All it does is depict popular prejudices against the Middle Ages.

If you want an educated introduction into this fascinating time period, including its innovations and progress, you will have to pick up a book. My personal favorite is Morris Bishop's "The Middle Ages".
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