World War I
narrated by Robert Ryan, Pacific Arts, five volumes, eight and one-half hours, $139.98 . CODE: BAT-11
This fine series was made for television during the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict, and although documentary filmmaking techniques have become considerably more sophisticated in the thirty years that have passed since then, World War I retains its original power virtually intact. Narrated by Robert Ryan with a calm conviction that is impressively at odds with the jackboots-across-Europe bombast too often employed at the time, the film takes the viewer through the tragic tug of alliances that put nations at one another’s throats to the somber peace that followed the Allies’ pyrrhic victory. Along the way there is a great deal of remarkable footage, among it glimpses of terriers being trained to go after the cat-sized rats that shared the wretched trenches of the Western Front with the soldiers, and scenes of tank trials shot close in enough to make clear why those strange, huge quadrangles were so fearsome when they first clawed their way onto the battlefield.