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VICTORY AT SEA

Review by Mark Wiechman

Director:  M. Clay Adams
Narrator:  Leonard Graves
Audio:  Dolby 2.0
Picture:  B & W Full Frame 1.33:1
Length:  11.5 hours total, five discs
Studio:  A & E Home Video
Release Date:  September 30, 2003

Film ***

One of the first miniseries in TV history, NBC's Victory at Sea ushered in an entirely new genre and won thirteen awards including an Emmy, Peabody, and U.S. Navy's Distinguished service awards.   

Since the series is from 1953 and the History Channel has released so many other excellent series, it is a challenge to review this five-disc set's strengths and weaknesses fairly. 

The footage is really amazing, despite occasional repeats of exciting battle footage and of course it was a revelation at the time, millions of Americans watching thirty minutes a night for more than eleven hours total to see for themselves what troops around the world went through in this terrible conflict.   Prior to this, only by going to movies would anyone see footage of battles in the newsreels shown before the feature presentations.   Gosh, how did they live without CNN 24-7?

There are very few comments or introductions of the famous figures on the screen, such as FDR and Churchill, but perhaps it was assumed that the audience viewing this series soon after the war's end knew these men.  Major battles are named, but very little actual information is imparted, no why or how behind the battles. This is definitely more for the WW II enthusiast or veteran than a student.  I would not recommend it for the classroom.  The narration by Leonard Graves is especially dated, there were only good guys and bad guys in this war and no confusing the two.  The Allies were always right and the Axis was always wrong.  

Video **

Only black and white (of course) but you can imagine people seeing footage of a war which they had heretofore only known from radio broadcasts and newsreels.

Audio **

Only stereo and one of the quietest programs I have ever played on my system, but naturally we should allow for 1953 sound quality and technology.  I would say that it is 85% overblown orchestral music and the rest a melodramatic narration, but very much of its time.    

Features (zero stars)

None.

Summary : 

While not terribly interesting to a modern viewer, this five-disc set deserves to be preserved not only for historical purposes but also because it changed television forever for the better as a medium not just for soap opera intrigue but also for learning and preserving culture and history.