War Zone: The Rhine to Victory
Eagle Rock Entertainment // Unrated // $9.97 // August 21, 2007
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted September 10, 2007
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie:
This third installment in British Ministry of Information post-WWII newsreel compendiums is at once the most riveting, due largely to its graphic inclusion of the liberation of the concentration camps, but also the most insightful, as it, unlike its predecessors, attempts a little insight into what the war has meant and where the world is headed.

Starting with the Allies final leap over the Rhine, and the subsequent fall of town after town in Germany, the first third of this installment shows how much times have changed in that it makes Soviet Russia the focus and hero of this period. The scenes of utterly devastated and destroyed German cities is haunting, but there is the faint (not so faint at times) whiff of "comeuppance" in the narration.

The atrocities of the Germans are dealt with in excruciating detail--tons of harvested human hair is shown, baled to make it ready for insulation in U-Boats and as filler for domestic pillows. But that's not the worst of it, of course--the "living dead" survivors of Buchenwald, Auschwitz and all the others are shown, as well as the thousands who weren't so "lucky." Mountains of corpses litter the outskirts of the camps, and the Allies forcibly enlist German townspeople to give them decent burials.

Once the handwriting was on the wall, the Germans capitulated with surprising speed, catching the Allies off-guard. The ultimate surrenders are almost anti-climactic, followed as they were, however, by raucous celebrations worldwide, all documented here.

As with the previous two DVDs in this series, the quality of the newsreels varies from scene to scene, sometimes relatively sharp and damage-free, at other times, washed out to the point of unrecognizability. The usual ubiquitous underscore is again present, this time concentrating on themes adapted from Wagner to illustrate the Nazi menace (an apt use), as well as, in a more bizarre choice, a Rachmaninoff-inspired orchestration of Victor Young's "Stella By Starlight" to accompany scenes of Europe's shell-shocked youth.

This is not an easy hour to sit through due to its graphic content, but it is a worthwhile history lesson, both in and of itself, and as a historical artifact of that time.

The DVD

Video:
Video quality ranges from the poorness of Volume I of this series to the generally adequate to good quality of Volume II.

Sound:
Again, the original mono soundtrack has weathered the passing decades fairly well, though the score on this episode shows some signs of deterioration.

Extras:
Another magnificent four speeches by Churchill are offered, including his famous "Iron Curtain" talk.

Final Thoughts:
As with the other two installments in this series, this is a perfect stocking stuffer for grandpa or great-grandpa, especially if he was a WWII vet. Students will find this worthwhile, though parents are advised that younger children should probably not watch due to the concentration camp images.



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