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Victory at Sea

Leonard Graves , Chester W. Nimitz    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars A First Rate History Lesson Feb. 13 2004
By A Customer
I feel compelled to write this review in response to those complaining about the audio on this set. A quick impression will set the tone for the remainder of what I have to say: The mono audio sounds like a clean version of what I recalled hearing when I saw some of these shows re-broadcast back in the late 80's. The audio balance during narrated segments was identical to that heard on the televison broadcast. I had no trouble hearing narration, and the music did not overpower the narrator during narration.
But, in all honesty, the volume of the opening themes on the DVD is a bit loud. I think the basis for complaints is that the music peaks between narration get very loud, such that I will hit the 20db mute button on my remote when there is no narration. However, the music and narration never fight each other during narrated segments. I believe that is a very important distinction.
The tendency for the "music only" segments to get loud seems more noticeable as the series progresses. It did not seem so obtrustive on the first disc, but is predictable enough by disc three that I was routinely hitting the mute button.
People have ascribed various sophisticated technical problems to the audio restoration, such as the film not being properly threaded, etc. It's a lot simpler than that. The sound man seems to have thought that turning the gain up on the instrumental only segments was somehow a good thing. In fact, it sounds like someone is artlessly cranking up the gain, instead of leaving the more constant level of the original soundtrack; I suspect an artless technician was attempting to simulate more modern sound by using louder sound.
In short, I cannot totally agree with those complaining about the soundtrack. My impression is more balanced.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Job Well Done Jan. 6 2004
A lot has been written here, both pro and con, about the DVD release of Victory at Sea. After reading some of the negative reviews, I felt compelled to put my two cents in. First of all, I think the makers of the collection did an outstanding job in the video transfer. I own the video collection, and do not like how they run the episodes together. I especially disliked how on the final episode of the video series (the most moving, by the way), the music isn't even allowed to finish. The DVD is broken up into each episode, exactly as it was seen during it's run in 1952-53. Indexing each episode is also a great way to skip to a particular point in the episode. The intro on each episode by Peter Graves is short and to the point. The DVD also allows the viewer to skip this intro, if desired...Now onto the audio. True, it is not perfect. That is why it lost one star in my rating. There are slight differences in the volume levels. But I think the makers of the DVD did a great job in trying to mix stereo with monoraul. I was able to sit in front of my TV with my headphones on without having to adjust the volume. I'd like to point out that when this series was originally made, there was no stereo. For those that are trying to compare the soundtrack with the record and cd's that came out (I have them all), don't even try. To my knowledge, there was never a soundtrack made of this series. What came out on record in the late 50's was an orchestral suite of the music, not the original soundtrack. If you have that record or cd with the burning ship on the cover, look closely at the cover. It's not the soundtrack. Yes, it does sound wonderful...In closing, I would recommend this DVD set to anyone. If you can avoid nitpicking the slight differences in the audio and sit back and enjoy this fabulous series, you will be glad you purchased the DVDs. And the videos will end up in the next garage sale.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I have not viewed it yet but this is an ...
I have not viewed it yet but this is an all time classic which I am looking forward to absorbing again. A keeper and the music is so special.
Published 8 days ago by Janis Ellis-White
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent if occasionally sloppy and repetitive focus on the Navy in...
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... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2009 by Michael J. Dicola
4.0 out of 5 stars Victory at Sea DVD Is Awesome
I recently purchased this DVD and was very skeptical after reading all the comments about the sound track. Read more
Published on July 3 2004 by Thomas Cunnally
1.0 out of 5 stars One star too many!
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. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by John W. Dacey
5.0 out of 5 stars Good atmospheric and stirring stuff!
I came across the soundtrack many years after first hearing snippets from it on the original T.V series of the same name. Read more
Published on June 23 2004 by simon ellison
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
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