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The First World War - The Complete Series

4.5 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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(Aug 30, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

This definitive ten-part series offers insight and analysis to provide a coherent and strategic military narrative of the worldwide conflict that changed history.

Special Features

  • Includes 32-page booklet

Product Details

  • Actors: Jonathan Lewis, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Andrée Bernard, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Erich Ludendorff
  • Writers: Arthur Ransome, David Lloyd George, Douglas Haig, Edward Grey, Georges Clemenceau
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • 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: 4
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 30, 2005
  • Run Time: 523 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009S2K9C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,177 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The First World War - The Complete Series" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This series is to the First World War what the classic World at War series was to the Second World War. It is shorter but excellent nonetheless.

Although the First World War gets less attention than its successor, it was really the watershed event of the 20th century. This conflict shaped the world that came after to this day. It was the catalyst for the rise of soviet communism in Russia, whose unravelling less than a decade and a half ago continues to affect worldwide diplomacy and economics. Germany's defeat provided the opportunity for fascism and Hitler to come to power there, causing the Second World War and its greater destruction. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War and the diplomatic and political morass that followed was the precursor for the reconstitution of Israel and eventually brought the Middle East into center stage today.

This series is based upon the books and encyclopedic knowledge of Professor Hugh Strachan. It examines every aspect of the war, from its causes to the conduct of the war on and behind the front lines to its aftermath. In doing so, it covers the diplomatic, political, military and social aspects, each of which played a role in shaping what happened and why. It does not just present the summary facts but goes in depth in its explanations. For example, instead of simply depicting the spring 1918 German offensive on the western front, it gives detail about how they accomplished it, the attitudes of the troops on each side and the thought processes of the respective high commands.

Not having seen Kenneth Branagh's World War 1 in Color, this reviewer is incompetant to compare the two. However, because this series is thorough and draws upon the professor who may well be THE authority on this era of history, it is likely the best presentation on the subject available today.
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Format: DVD
"The First World War-The Complete Series" is a marvelous introduction to the world we now live in. Arranged in ten parts and based on historian Hugh Strachan's insightful observations, this eight hour plus look into the "War To End All Wars" is always engaging and amazingly contemporary. Mixing film elements of the period with contemporary footage, this four disc program offers insightful explanations into such controversial topics as Jihad and the troubled Middle East, Ireland, Africa, the rise of the nation state, and the rise of the United States to name but a few. What "The World At War" is to World War Two, "The First World War-The Complete Series" is to its predecessor; simply the best documentary on the subject I've yet seen.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I cannot praise this series enough. Remarkably complete and ultimately absorbing, this series does for WWI what "World At War" (1973) did for WWII. Every installment is a fascinating, up-close and comprehensive examination of the often complex elements and participants fighting in the world's first truly "modern war."

Special attention is paid to specific details that most other series leave out; for example, the role of the Ottoman Turks, the significant naval battles between Germany and Great Britain, the battles in the Middle East, and the contributions of the British Commonwealth soldiers from across the Empire. It makes the old CBS series narrated by Robert Ryan a mere footnote and PBS's politically-correct "The Great War" resemble something of a mere amateur documentary filmmaker. Much of the unseen footage secured by Channel 4 in making the documentary was recently discovered from archives in Central and Eastern Europe. The series also takes a close-up look of the weaponry and the letters/diary entries of soldiers from both sides.

Can a excellent documentary compel you to read more on the subject? Well, this one certainly can. This series makes WWI a most fascinating subject worthy of further study and analysis. Too often, what has been mistakenly taught in school is that WWI was merely a "dress rehersal" for the rise of fascism and WWII. This series proves otherwise and we need more first-class documentary series like this. Kudos to Johnathan Lewis and Channel 4 for putting together such a superb series. I liked the series so much, I purchased the Hew Strachan book the series is based on! A real gem....
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The other reviewers have mentioned why this is a quality production, so there is no point in repeating what they have already said. A year ago, I was able to hear Hew Strachan, the historical consultant, give a talk about the making of the series (it would have been nice to have that talk filmed and included as a special feature, but I guess no one thought of that). He noted the labor that went into locating accurate images for the scenes being described: if you are looking at the 1914 German offensive into France, you'll see soldiers in 1914 uniforms, not substitutions from later battles. Equally interesting was the care taken to maintain a balance between historical accuracy and dramatic effect. It was decided deliberately not to include interviews with historians, as in many historical documentaries nowadays, in order not to interrupt the flow of the narrative. There are some beautiful color sequences of what the landscapes look like today, from the Marne to Przemysl, and even some rare color photos from the period.

Of course, some of the interpretations are judgement calls. I personally think the Germans get off rather easily in the discussion of war origins (the famous "blank check" is interpreted in the traditional sense as more of an accident than the Fritz Fischer view of a deliberate provocation for war). But this is more than made up in coverage of German, Austrian, and Turkish atrocities (though there is some mention of what the Russians did in East Prussia in 1914 and how they treated Jewish populations in general in Eastern Europe). If you're using the series in school classes, coverage of these issues makes excellent starting points for further discussion.

Finally, a note on the packaging.
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