This review originally appeared on ARRSE (www.arrse.co.uk) and appears here with their kind permission.
The twenty seven month period from the Austrian Anschluss in March 1938 to the capitulation of France in June 1940 is one of the most remarkable in history. Quite how so many counties managed to be overrun so quickly by German armed forces remains a mystery even with the benefit of hindsight. It is period worth studying. This 60 minute DVD chronicles the period with narration over original black and white film.
Covering so much in so little time and so few words (about 9,000) is very ambitious. Too ambitious in fact for this production which has become a quick and superficial history rather than a “portrait of Blitzkrieg in action,” which is how it describes itself.
Unfortunately the producers don’t have enough film for the 60 minutes, so many clips are repeated three or four times. There are no maps and no diagrams. The viewer is treated to grainy black and white footage more or less synchronised to the narrative, with the odd musical pause invariably focussed on a poignant photo.
The narrative is well delivered but the text itself is weak. Its author (Michael Leighton, who also reads it and arranged the music) has an unfortunate love of the passive voice, melodramatic adjectives and clichés. Events are narrated in more or less chronological order and as there is not time for analysis judgements are treated as facts. Presumably it was this shortage of time that prevented any mention of Narvik in the battle for Norway. There is remarkably little consideration of the armoured battles of Sedan and Arras, which explains why the narrator finds the tension between Guderian’s drive and German higher commanders who were concerned about protecting flanks. As this tension lies at the essence of Blitzkrieg and modern armoured warfare it deserved more attention.
The real problem with this DVD is that the obvious comparator is the “World at War” series. While narrator gets close to Olivier’s diction, clarity and gravitas but, unsurprisingly, World at War does a better job of research, scripting and editing. It also has interviews with key participants and more depth, taking three episodes to cover the period.
This is an inferior product, made in 2007 and re-released now. The “World at War” is available free on line, so save your money and watch that.