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The Winds of War

4.7 out of 5 stars 588 customer reviews

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(May 25, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Set against the backdrop of world events that led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, The Winds of War stars Robert Mitchum as Victor "Pug" Henry, a career naval officer who along with his family, learns to navigate the waters of his dangerous times in the late 1930s. While Germany expands and proceeds to seize several border countries, Italy attempts to establish a Fascist Colonial Empire under Mussolini and Japan prepares for a major battle with China. Meanwhile, the Henry clan finds itself drawn into the center of the conflict as they deal with the drama, romance, tragedy and heroism that lead to America's involvement in World War II.

Amazon.com

An engrossing, 1983 television miniseries based on a bestselling work of historical fiction by Herman Wouk, The Winds of War is an admirable production reminiscent of the era of Hollywood's epic features. At the center of the globe-trotting story is the Henry family, whose laconic but straight-shooting patriarch is United States Navy Commander Victor "Pug" Henry (Robert Mitchum), sent to Hitler's Berlin in the spring of 1939 as a naval attaché to the then-neutral American embassy. A keen observer, Pug deduces that Germany is not preparing for war on two fronts (western Europe on one side, Russia on the other) despite what the Nazis want the world to believe, meaning that Hitler must be working out a secret peace deal with Stalin. Pug's prescience makes him a favorite eyewitness in Berlin for Franklin D. Roosevelt (Ralph Bellamy); the irony is that Pug is far less sagacious when it comes to the realities of his family.

Polly Bergen plays unhappy wife Rhoda, who turns to A-bomb developer Palmer Kirby (Peter Graves) for comfort. Pug's 19-year-old daughter, Madeline (Lisa Eilbacher), defies her iron-willed dad's decision that she stay in school by taking a job for CBS radio in New York. Compliant son Warren (Ben Murphy) can't seem to get Pug's attention despite doing everything right (including becoming a Navy pilot, eventually present at the bombing of Pearl Harbor). By contrast, Pug spends more time fuming over black sheep son Byron (Jan-Michael Vincent), who is working in increasingly Fascist Italy as an assistant to an art historian (John Houseman) while trying hard to woo the latter's exasperating niece, Natalie (Ali MacGraw). The story of Byron and Natalie takes up much of The Winds of War as the pair traverse Poland during the shock of Hitler's 1939 assault, and Jewish Natalie later finds herself trapped inside Italy facing the threat of concentration camps. Before The Winds of War ends, each of these characters will end up in places and situations, and with historical figures (Churchill, Mussolini) as well as ordinary people, they would not have anticipated outside the pressures of war. The program's length and smart script allow for a lot of ideas and background detail that pull a viewer in--happily. --Tom Keogh


Special Features

  • The complete miniseries on six discs
  • Making The Winds of War featurette
  • A Novel for Television featurette
  • Cast and Characters
  • On Location featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Mitchum, Ali MacGraw, Jan-Michael Vincent, John Houseman, Polly Bergen
  • Producers: Branko Lustig
  • Format: Box set, Collector's Edition, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Miniseries
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: May 25, 2004
  • Run Time: 883 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (588 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001NBNGQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,546 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Winds of War" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Luckard on July 6, 2004
Format: DVD
Paramount deserves major congratulations for doing right by The Winds of War with their DVD release.
I was anxious to make sure this DVD measured up, so I watched it with my old VHS playing at the same time, and switched back and forth occasionally on the remote to see the difference. It's nothing less than astonishing. The old Winds videos look unwatchable when compared to the new image, which probably looks as close as possible to the way it was shot.
This is, of course, a TV miniseries from 1983, long before anyone imagined the resolution of DVD, so it's not going to look perfect. Still, almost every time I switched to the VHS, then back, I literally said "wow." Colors are distinct and deep, details are sharp and the variously-colored hazes that afflicted most of the VHS are gone. Having only seen the series this way, the DVDs were a revelation. These discs represent what is best about DVD and its success, bringing a long-quiet catalog title back to life.
Although Paramount usually mixes new 5.1 audio tracks for their old films, with 15 hours of film here, they can't be blamed for leaving the existing mono tracks, which are certainly decent and don't detract at all from viewing the film. (I can't understand the other reviewer who gave the DVD set one star, largely because of the audio. Doesn't he understand how prohibitively expensive a new sound mix of that length, for such a complex series, would have been? We're very lucky with what we've got.)
Paramount also fixed some framing mistakes on the VHS edition. Large portions of episodes 5, 6 and 7 were noticeably off-center when compared to the re-aligned DVDs.
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Herman Wouk wrote an absolute masterpiece. Winds of War is without a doubt the very best historical novel in the war genre. Dan Curtis equally directs the benchmark that mini-series will be measured by for years to come.
Casting for Winds of War was perfect when it came to matching Wouk's characters. Despite the age differences Ali McGraw and Jan-Michael Vincent were absolutely perfect as the independent and fickle Natali Jastrow and the bull-headed Byron Henry. Robert Mitchum is the glue that holds the story together in a flawless performance as Victor "Pug" Henry, the man that meets everyone that is anyone in his role as a Naval Attache stationed in Berlin in the pre-World War II years. One of the best ever ensemble casts include stand-outperformances by Polly Bergen as Pug Henry's hard-drinking wife Rhoda, not to mention Topol, David Dukes, Victoria Tennant and John Houseman.
Winds of War has become a semi-annual event for our family. It is simply so entertaining that it never grows tiresome. The historical value alone makes it worth having in your home library.
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Format: VHS Tape
I first read The Winds of War by Herman Wouk back around 1972. The book just absolutely grabbed me. When I heard that ABC was filming a mini-series I was a little skeptical. Very few "made for TV" movies from books really capture the true feel of the original work. THIS ONE DOES! First of all it has a great cast. Robert Mitchum was just awsome as Comander Pug Henry. Both Jan Michael Vincent and Ali McGraw were credable as older actors playing young adults. Polly Bergen, John Houseman, and Peter Graves round out an exceptional cast. The fictional account of a family caught up within historical events continues to draw my attention, even though I have watch this many times since it originally came out. Some of the many highlights include the special effects of the bombing of London, the Japanesse attack on Pearl Harbor, and the wonderful re-creation of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Hitler by Ralph Bellamy and crew. In comparing this series to War and Remembrance, which was the sequal in both book and mini-series, I would have to give the nod to this as the better. If you're looking for an accurate and riviting account of the early years of WW II, then grab this up. Yes, the cost is high but it's well worth it.
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Format: VHS Tape
Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" is based on the conceit of the Henry family, who manage to be in most of the "right" places as the United States heads for Pearl Harbor and involvement in World War II. Rugged "Pug" Henry (Robert Mitchum) travels with his flighty wife Rhoda (Polly Bergen) to Berlin where he is assigned as the military attaché to the American Embassy. Because of an acquaintance with Brigadier General Armin von Roon (Jeremy Kemp) of the Germany army, Pug has the opportunity to learn enough about what the Nazis are doing to make an official report predicting that Hitler is going to make a pact with the Soviet Union. Because he is right, Pug is summoned to Washington, D.C. to meet with Franklin Roosevelt (Ralph Bellamy), and becomes an unofficial envoy for the President. Meanwhile, son Byron (Jan-Michael Vincent) is in Europe working as an assistant to the scholar Aaron Jastrow (John Houseman), son Warren (Ben Murphy) is training as a naval aviator, and daughter Madeline (Lisa Eilbacher) ends up getting a job working on a radio show. With these relatively few pieces Wouk covers the invasion of Poland, the German attack on the Soviets, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Wouk wrote the script for the 1983 mini-series, directed by Dan Curtis, and one of the major strengths of "The Winds of War" is that it takes its time in telling the story of the Henrys and the Second World War (this would be even more true in the sequel, "War and Remembrance," which it seemed every episode had a great set piece). For example, in the second episode there is an extended sequence in which several main characters are caught up with American embassy personnel fleeing Warsaw during the German invasion.
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