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Considered to be one of the greatest documentary television series of all time "The World at War" has finally received the honour of being digitally restored and enhanced with all twenty six episodes presented in a nine disc Blu-Ray set.
Originally broadcast in 1973 and produced by Thames Television, the series covered the events of The Second World War using historical footage, interviews with people involved, and other mediums in a successful attempt to convey the sights, sounds, and horrors of live at that time. The major events of the war are covered but also the small details that are usually destined to be forgotten. The World at War is beautiful, haunting, educational, inspiring and also terrifying. It's difficult to watch at times (such as the Holocaust episode) but again you want to keep watching, if only to remember the pain and sacrifices made. It is a definitive history of war that was record breaking at the time for setting standards. It's one of my favourite history series that I'm happy to finally own.
The series looks good on Blu-Ray and the work that has went into restoring picture and sound quality should be commended as they have been vastly improved. The 5.1 surround sound works well and is clearer than before, however the series does have a lemon - its aspect ratio.
Even before the boxed set was released, there was an uproar on the internet and sites such as Amazon were bombarded with reviews all of in which people were complaining that the series had been converted from its original 4.3 to 16.9 (widescreen). Many people feared that because of the nature of the new aspect ratio a lot of the original footage would be cropped out and lost. The reason behind the new format is that most viewers now have a widescreen television and would naturally expect the program to be presented as such. This also allows the series to be adapted for DVD as well as a renewed broadcast on television through the HD route. Despite the fact that the conversion has been done by going back to the original material and making sure all essential details were retained many people appeared to be out for blood, but I personally feel that the new change was the right thing to do.
The World at War looks good in the new format, and while it's been a while since I've seen the series on television, I personally couldn't notice any sufficient loss that affects the series other than losing a bit of sky at the top or foreground at the bottom.
The boxed set also contains an array of special features including a feature on the restoration process, the making of the original series, newspaper and map extracts, and photo galleries to name a few. The quality and variety of the features are above average and do enhance both the entertaining and educational value of the set.
If you already have the series on VHS then the Blu-Ray is miles ahead in every conceivable way from quality to extras. If you already have the series on DVD then it's questionable if it's worthwhile upgrading. You do get better picture and sound quality, a few more special features, and better menu system, but considering the price - is it worth it? You will have to decide.
This is a deeply important series that should be seen by all, and despite having some criticism over the restoration, I personally cannot fault it. I hope that you can see what it is, a needed updated edition of a masterpiece that will ensure that it can, will, and should be continued to be viewed in the future.
You can currently buy this series for £46.06 from Amazon (price correct at time of buying and reviewing). To me that is ever so slightly on the expensive side (more than twice the price of the DVD set). However it is still worth the cost and is destined to come down in price if you want to wait.
(I'm a reviewer on Amazon, and some my reviews are copied from there to dooyoo. Please feel free to check out my Amazon profile under my real name of Mr Andrew M Kerr.)