In the shadow of the Olympics’ return to Athens, PBS has decided to take a look back at the original games. This mildly-interesting program that feels more like a documentary that might be screened in a High School classroom than one you might watch on television in your free time. Such is the difference between PBS and the History Channel, I suppose. It is a good documentary, but certainly not great.
That’s not to say that the disc is all dry, though. There is some interesting background into some aspects …f the modern games, especially in relation to the 1934 Munich Olympics. I don’t want to give it all away, but I will say that many of Hitler’s ideas for the games still live on today. For World War II and Nazi buffs, this is an interesting aside that I have heard little about in the past.
I could have done without some of the re-enactments, however, especially with regards to the extremely small uniforms that were worn by the athletes. Truth be told, the original athletes competed in the nude, so a small uniform is better than nothing. All the same, many of the athletes in this documentary leave extremely little to the imagination. Some of these things I need to know about, but some things are better left to the imagination.
As with many true documentary pieces, some segments are more interesting than others. That being said, this film still includes some pretty good insight into the history of both the ancient and the modern games, and is an enjoyable piece for fans of the Olympics and world history.
Viewers have only one audio option, in the form of a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Unfortunately, this track probably sounded about as good on television as it sounds here on DVD. This is a purely underwhelming soundtrack. The dialog is clear (thankfully), but it seems to be mixed at a low volume level. The companion score is also quiet, but there is some exploitation of the stereo format that is nice to hear. The sound stage is also surprisingly wide, which helps to make the feature feel like a bit more than the standard PBS special.
The film’s widescreen format furthers the “better than TV” feeling that the audio sound stage provides. The picture is clear and sharp, with no blemishes to be found. Colors are also good, which is a blessing, because there are many of them throughout each frame. Sporting events almost always benefit from extra effort in the picture department, and this title is no exception to that rule. This disc includes a very pleasing video presentation, overall.
As the original intention of this documentary was for airing on PBS, there are no extras included on this disc. I half-expected for there to at least be some ads for other PBS products on DVD, but they were not there. This is a feature-only disc, I’m afraid.
Viewers will get exactly what is advertised on the box with this film, and no more. The program is presented with the use of re-enactments, interviews with experts, and recent footage, which all combines to tell the story of both the ancient and the modern Olympics. This is a marginally-interesting disc that is more of a rental than a title to own for repeat viewing.