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Victory at Sea

Leonard Graves , Chester W. Nimitz    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 54.99
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A 26-episode World War II documentary, Victory at Sea is one of the most important series in the history of television. Made in 1952, the show was a huge success, winning many major awards and even spawning albums featuring the orchestral score by Richard Rodgers, best known for his musicals with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. Produced with the full cooperation of the U.S. Navy, each 26-minute program consists of black-and-white wartime film set to a narration by Leonard Graves. The two years leading up to America's entry into the war are dismissed in episode one, while the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor gets a show of its own, the raid depicted in a brilliantly edited montage that almost certainly contains "docu-drama" footage. Each episode contains at least one powerful stand-alone sequence in the tradition of Serge Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin), these action-suspense set-pieces giving the programs an urgent, surprisingly modern feel. Indeed, the emphasis is at least as much on entertainment as information, the factual content delivered in poetic narration, the score transforming the war into a more than usually serious Hollywood adventure. The documentaries are nothing if not wide-ranging, covering parts of the land war despite the title, and including everything from the Atlantic convoys and U-boat "Wolfpacks" to war in Alaska, the South Atlantic, and the Far East, the Pacific War, and the Fall of Japan. There is an attempt to include other nations--certainly the D-Day episode acknowledges the British far more than Saving Private Ryan--but inevitably the focus is on America's war. The very dated narration gives a fascinating insight into how America saw WWII in the early 1950s, while the dynamic cutting and often genuinely remarkable wartime footage make Victory at Sea still gripping today. Twenty years later, Granada's The World at War would become the definitive television WWII history, but this release offers a unique opportunity to see a series of great importance from the very early days of television. --Gary S. Dalkin

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sound issues and the original July 2 2004
I have the original soundtrack on LP, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Richard Rogers himeself. It's my father's and needless to say, it does not get much play time for preservation sake. I also own both CDs "Victory at Sea" and "MORE Victory at Sea," (BMG Music 1992) both conducted by Robert Russel Bennett and contain slightly arraigned versions of the very familar complete soundtrack by the RCA Symphony Orchestra and is remixed in extremely good Dolby Surround. The original soundtrack is fairly clear and does sound a little tinny and was recorded in mono. (Unless it was a dual issue in both stereo and mono. I only have the mono.) While a properly mixed original soundtrack would sound great, IMHO, the Dolby version would sound even better. What I'm getting at is, it's not the soundtrack's fault this apparently sounds so bad. I really wanted to buy this, but I think I'll hold off and wait and see.
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Because Victory at Sea was produced in 1952, its subject benefits from a sense of immediacy. A thorough look at WWII from a largely maritime, mainly US-focused perspective, the series also touches on most of the major land campaigns and battles throughout the war. However, one also gets the feeling that perhaps a good deal more material was still classified at production time, leaving producers having to repeat the same clips over and over -- often with irritating errors (I don't think the Italian air force bombed any ships running the Murmansk convoy run). The "deja-view" sense is even more obvious when you watch the episodes with small gaps between screenings. (One Stuka appears to have bombed half the world.) That said, the Richard Rodgers score and Peter Graves' introduction from the decks of the USS Intrepid of each episode for this History Channel production are both big bonuses and watching the series, small flaws and US-patriotic narration aside, remains a flat-out excellent experience for military history buffs.Victory At Sea
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4.0 out of 5 stars Victory at Sea DVD Is Awesome July 3 2004
I recently purchased this DVD and was very skeptical after reading all the comments about the sound track. However, I didn't find any issues with either the sound track or the narrative for all four volumes. I have a Panasonice DVD Player with the Dolby Digital,DTS Digital Surround and MPEG, and the music score by Richard Rogers is one of the reasons for buying this DVD. It is a " Must Have" for military history buffs. If you have a PC with a DVD/CD ROM Combination, you can use it to view this DVD and adjust the sound track to blend in with the narrative.
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1.0 out of 5 stars One star too many! June 30 2004
What an unmitigated hustle this dvd collection turned out to be. Equal portions of venom and spite are hereby awarded to History Channel and NBC for this travesty. My 5.1 dts sound system did nothing to alleviate the worse than poor sound quality/balance issues. This legendary series and it's participants certainly deserve better than this quick and dirty rendition gives. Maybe the capital "H" seen in the lower right hand corner of the teevee screen actually stands for "hustle". I would gladly purchase a remastered and remixed set but for now am left with this doorstop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good atmospheric and stirring stuff! June 23 2004
I came across the soundtrack many years after first hearing snippets from it on the original T.V series of the same name.
I was enthralled by the sheer vibrancy and 'now-ness' of this great piece of modern classical music. You can easily picture the great ships of both the American and Japanese fleets as they engage in the greatest sea battle of all time. The spinning, swooping aircraft as they play thier all important roles of hunter/killer.
The evocation of individual men and women enjoying a rare respite from battle in some of the quieter passages, shore leave. All part of this amazingingly descriptive music. It will continue to be an important piece by sheer virtuosity of the skillful interplay of individual instruments producing an altogether sucessful blend of sombre, stirring and gentle, very easy to listen-to-again and again music. I cannot praise it enough!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Revisiting an old friend May 11 2004
Like so many others, I grew up as a kid with this series, having first seen it in 1952. The themes, like "Hymn of Victory" ran through my head daily. Other kids chased each other around the playground; I did carrier takeoffs and landings - with the occasional waveoff! Over the years, I have purchased (and worn out) multiple copies of all 3 volumes of the score on LP, wore out an 8 track, and am gradually wearing out my CD's. I desperately bought the pirated 2 VHS cheap-o version years ago - bad move; later found the 6 VHS version to be a big improvement. This DVD version is the best. It plays ok on my Dolby system; I have no issues with the sound quality. The more I play the music, or view the programs, the more I appreciate it for what it is: a seminal example of TV documentary at its best. I recall talking with my Dad years ago about the genius of Richard Rogers' score and the poetic majesty of the narration (which also repeats admirably in the book). And yes, it still draws a tear here and there after all these years. I feel no one can watch this without coming away with a heartfelt appreciation for those who saved this world from a very real and horrible evil.
As for the layout of the videos, I actually appreciate the arrangement as I am planning to use selected episodes from this for my Middle School History class. The kids are in for an unforgettable experience.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars another poor sound mixed review
I started to watch this with my father. I have to agree with everybody else, the sound was processed for the music, not the narration. Read more
Published on April 29 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Too MUCH Music
Thanks goodness for this review system !! I rented this set on DVD and was very disappointed because of the sound mix problem. The great music is TOO LOUD most of the time. Read more
Published on April 27 2004 by Gerald Alfred
1.0 out of 5 stars Video=5 Audio = -5
Just wanted to add another opinion to these regarding the poor audio quality. I saw Victory At Sea when it was rebroadcast on Sundays here in Boston, several years after the... Read more
Published on April 24 2004 by bmcky
2.0 out of 5 stars Problems!
I must agree with the audio comments.
It would be very costly, but this series deserves full digital video restoration with a re-recorded soundtrack. Read more
Published on April 24 2004 by Telstar
1.0 out of 5 stars An absolute disgrace!
I bought this great documentary and was appalled by what I saw AND TRIED TO LISTEN TO. The makers of this DVD should immediately issue a refund to all who have purchased this... Read more
Published on March 12 2004 by Hannibal
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disservice to Millions
OK, I'll keep this brief. I knew that V AT Sea was the best documentary made, many years before it was released on DVD. The score is superb in its own right, as well. Read more
Published on March 1 2004 by IT Ace
2.0 out of 5 stars Video is great; Audio is HORRIBLE
The History Channel and NBC NEWS should be ashamed of themselves for putting out this long awaited DVD version of Victory at Sea. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2004 by Richard Emond
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