Review: WWI: The War to End All Wars (video)

WWI: The War to End All Wars.

This 3-disc video collection is a cheap knockoff (2011) of the  5-disc box set Trenches: Battleground WWI (2006). The people who decided to reproduce the public domain period cinematography from that presentation gave the episodes different names and rearranged them, substituted a terrible American narrator who couldn’t correctly pronounce many of the place names, substituted a horrible ragtime instrumental number for the John McCormack ditty, collected all of the video stills into one “bonus slide show” segment, and omitted the other extra features of the original set (which are not in the public domain).

Not worth the price, even used and hugely discounted. Look for the original, instead.


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Review: The First World War (Remak, editor)

The First World War: Causes, Conduct, Consequences.

A short read (only 116 pages), worthwhile for its “sampler” approach, especially as an introduction (via excerpts) to several prominent First World War historians, whose complete works the reader can look for later. The inclusion of “witness” accounts in history books is much more common now than it was back in 1971, but the ones this book quotes are, for the most part, very different to the people from whose books, letters and diaries quotes are usually taken for the WWI Centennial crop of books.

Historians quoted:

Laurence Lafore
Joachim Remak
Bernadotte Schmitt
George F. Kennan
A. J. P. Taylor
René Albrecht Carrié
Raymond J. Sontag
Gordon A. Craig

Witnesses quoted:

Gavrilo Princip
Dragutin Dimitrijević
Johannes Urzidil
Sergei Sazonov
Alphonse Grasset
Raymond Jubert
Ernst Jünger
Manfred von Richthofen
Sir John Monash
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
W. H. L. Watson
Paul von Hindenburg
Lord Bryce
Gerald Brenan
Ljubomir Dabić
Ferdinand Foch
John Reed
Harold Nicolson
Adolf Hitler (also here)

Sources are documented where they are excerpted. The book ends with an “epilogue,” and a “brief note on further reading,” but there is no index.

Very readable, thought-provoking historical insights. Recommended.

(NB: The text links provided are to my previous posts on books by or about that person.)

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Review: Private Peaceful (film)

Private Peaceful.

This film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel by the same name may be better critiqued by someone who has read the book and can compare the two. I have not, but having looked up the book and found it to have been classified as being appropriate for ages 8 to 12 (what used to be lumped into the broad classification of “Juvenile Fiction,” but these days could perhaps be shoehorned into “Middle Grade”), I can only surmise that certain liberties may have been taken with the plot to make the story more appealing to an adult audience that expects “adult themes” in its entertainment.

It stretches credulity that a career gamekeeper and forester would have neglected to teach his children never to approach during a shoot, because of the risk of their being mistakenly shot, and the possibility of their scaring away the game; nor to approach him when he was at work felling trees, or failing that, where not to stand when a tree was being felled: a forester of my acquaintance always knew exactly where any tree he chopped down would fall.

The battle scenes leave a little to be desired: the pyrotechnics are not as powerful as in other war films, and the cinematography not as skillful. There is a fine moment of irony in the accusation of “cowardice in the face of the enemy,” when “the enemy” becomes identified with someone not normally described by that term.

The continual jumping back and forth between flashback time periods gets a little wearing on the patience. The accents are sometimes difficult for this North American to decipher. At the end of the movie, a sudden caginess in the dialogue makes the viewer suspect that a plot twist is about to be perpetrated that makes the opening scene in the prison begin to look like a red herring: after the film was over, I replayed the last two segments to make sure that what I thought I’d missed hearing really wasn’t there.

The film does function as an interesting perspective on the primitive nature of the physical and social conditions of life only a hundred years ago, and the hazards appertaining thereto.

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