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75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
I have a space in my heart for Pearl Harbor. No, not the dopey Michael Bay film from 2001 with flavor of the month Josh Hartnett, the actual events of 1941. I spent a few of my young years stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, protecting America from marauding invaders, but mainly doing a lot of smoking and drinking. But it's hard to not look around and be reminded of the attack in various spots in Hawaii, even 20 miles away from the memorial where I was.
Bullet holes can be found on base, but once one makes the half hour drive to the memorial and experiences it, you get an even deeper appreciation for the tragedy. The USS Arizona, still underwater, slowly leaking oil for more than a half dozen decades. For more than 1,100 (almost half of the dead on the day), the Arizona remains their final resting place. For those who survived the attacks, sometimes their grief remains so predominant that some have asked to be buried with their brothers from the day. 2016 marks the 75th Anniversary of the attacks by Japan and the start of World War II for the United States, and the History Channel has taken the liberty of putting together a two-disc package of material for the occasion.
The History Channel appears to have taken previously aired content about Pearl Harbor and repackaged it in this set, so there are six separate specials about the attacks, which cover varying aspects of them. The first are the ceremonies that marked the 60th Anniversary of the attacks in 2001, but also includes footage from the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans and includes Tom Hanks' remarks. Next is "Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor," which recounts some of the stories from the day, including a harrowing one where some survivors had to swim up several levels of a downed ship to get to the surface, and "Pearl Harbor" looks at the efforts to reclaim a captured Japanese submarine. Disc Two kicks things off with "What Went Down," which attempts to recreate some of the events in the attacks, including a bomb that went through the Arizona (which the Pearl Harbor movie in all likelihood used for their visual effects of the attacks). "Japanese Sub at Pearl Harbor" is similar to the first disc feature, though focused exclusively on the craft, and "The Other Tragedy at Pearl Harbor" looks at another huge loss of life which occurred during those attacks.
I appreciate the attempts of THC to cover the events of the attacks, but as I was going through the discs, I feel like some of it served as an emptying of the archives of the channel with little in the way of quality review. There is a level of fatigue one experiences in these discs, and specials like "What Went Down" and "Japanese Sub at Pearl Harbor," while admirable inclusions, are either redundant to the other material, or don't include a lot of revelation in it. It's not that they are bad, but if someone was looking to cover everything, there is some level of oversaturation in this release.
It is a minor complaint, because for those who have even a decent knowledge of the events of December 7, 1941, they are bound to learn some things, as I did. Whether you have been to the memorial or not, this package tries to convey the nature of the attacks, and survival, how it can, and does it adequately.
Each of the features is presented in 1.33:1, and handles a variety of source material, be it contemporary interviews or the recent anniversary on the disc, or the newsreel footage of the time. Colors are reproduced accurately given whatever flaws exist in the source material, and the blacks and greys of the newsreel look fine. I wasn't expecting to be blown away by the discs and I wasn't, but I didn't have any lingering complaints.
Dolby two-channel stereo for everything. There is little to be had from the soundtracks on any of these television things, though a couple of moments where ships explode provide for some minor moments of immersion. The more recent material like the 60th anniversary includes natural sounds like the Hawaiian breeze rushing through the memorial, along with a clear rendition of "Taps." It's a straightforward reproduction.
Nothing on either disc.
This 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor that The History Channel has put together is thoughtful to an extent, but a more directed release could have been more emotionally effecting. Technically the discs are what they are, and as we approach this moment in history, it is worth remembering for all Americans.