After having recently reviewed Operation Valkyrie for DVDTalk, I thought it might be interesting to get another take on the same subject. Killing Hitler, alas, is somewhat lackluster when compared to the other documentary, and indeed spends most of its time doing a creditable job giving history and background of Hitler's reign of terror for over a decade before the actual Stauffenberg plot was put into motion. While there's nothing really wrong with Killing Hitler, it has a certain amateurish quality that makes it my second choice in recently released DVDs about this infamous plot.
You know you're in for a bit of a rough road when Killing Hitler's British narrator pronounces Valkyrie "val-KIE-ree," and unfortunately that's a portent of things to come. As in Operation Valkyrie, we're presented both dramatic reenactments of events as well as interview segments, along with, of course, lots of archival footage of Hitler and his minions. Operation Valkyrie benefited immensely from the participation of the official German Resistance Museum, as well as relatives, co-conspirators and fellow travelers of Stauffenberg himself. Killing Hitler has a pretty standard array of university professors, all of whom do perfectly fine work in describing the horrors of Nazism, but who lack some of the first-hand knowledge that the other documentary provided.
Where Killing Hitler actually excels and perhaps provides more detail than Operation Valkyrie is in its depiction of the political climate in the years leading up to the first assassination attempts against the Fuhrer. Killing Hitler makes quite clear that the National Socialists were never able to attain anything close to even 50% of the vote in any given election, leading to a series of collaborations with other parties, until, of course, Hitler managed to seize absolute power and eliminate the competition, as it were. Where Killing Hitler falls a bit by the wayside is in its overview of the pre-Stauffenberg assassination attempts (there were several more than are described here, all of them covered in some detail in an excellent extra on Operation Valkyrie), as well as its reenactments of the Stauffenberg plot itself. While Operation Valkyrie had a palpable feeling of time and place, as well as excellent if basic CGI recreations of logistical elements, Killing Hitler at times seems like a student movie tossed off as some sort of dissertation. There are, in fact, factual discrepancies in this version, notably when the reenactment shows von Stauffenberg putting the bomb-laden briefcase on top of a table, rather than underneath it. It was only because there was a stolid table leg between the case and Hitler that Hitler escaped death.
Killing Hitler may well be a good choice for those wanting a quicker, simpler overview of these epochal events. It runs barely an hour and certainly gives the lowdown on the basics of not only the Stauffenberg plot, but also the socio-political climate of the time. Those looking for a more in-depth, insightful and overarching review should stick with Operation Valkyrie.
This full frame transfer is pretty redolent of television, with pretty evident softness in the reenactments (perhaps on purpose), and an acceptable sharpness in the contemporary interview segments. In the reenactments and interviews, colors are fine and decently saturated. The archival footage is, as is to be expected, rather badly damaged at times.
The DD 2.0 soundtrack is also perfectly fine, a bit better than the image quality, with centered and completely clear narration. The synth-heavy underscore is a bit hard to take at times. No subtitles are available.
None are offered.
I might have liked Killing Hitler better had I not recently reviewed the far superior Operation Valkyrie. If you're a completist with a special interest in this subject, there's certainly nothing egregiously wrong with this presentation, you'll just find it better done in the other piece. I suggest you Rent It to see if you cull anything earth-shattering from this version before thinking about buying it.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet