“The 2nd World War’s violent, disturbing images have been constantly replayed for decades. Sometimes it seems there is little we can see that we haven’t seen before. But buried in archives and tucked away in private collections an astonishing set of 3D films and photographs with the power to erase time and transcend space will now be seen for the first time in nearly 70 years.”
I know what you’re thinking. Like the above prologue says, it hardly seems like we can get anything new out of footage from World War II. There have been countless of specials and serials to the point of overload for many. Yet, History Channel has found ways to bring cutting edge technology to these old themes, and somehow they find new ways to intrigue us. Historians are living in a veritable new age of discovery. The boom began when footage was cleaned, restored and mastered in high definition. History was there every step of the way and delivered the goods in WWII in HD. But, they haven’t stopped there. 3D has been trending lately, and now we have this documentary which delivers stunning 3D images from 70 years ago. What will be the next step?
At first I assumed these images were merely the same cans of World War II footage we’ve already seen and post-converted to 3D. I was wrong. These are images that were actually shot with the 3D technology of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Most of the material is simply a collection of stills. You might remember the old stereoscope viewers. My grandparents had one. They were all the rage in some bygone age. You might expect the images to be rather dull and unimpressive given today’s digital 3D technology. You’d be wrong once again. These images are brilliant and stunning. It’s not hype to say that you haven’t seen anything like this before.
Most of the images were taken from the Nazi side of the war. Hitler was always concerned about image and started a huge 3D photography project to feed his propaganda machine. He was careful to exclude images of the brutality and genocide. These images were intended to impress the world with his charisma and tremendous war machine. Many offer up those by now very familiar images of Hitler at perfect attention in the traditional salute, stolen from the Romans. Many depict the impressive displays that often brought together as many as 400,000 troops in a display of parade and might. All always depicted just under Hitler’s tight grasp. Never before has evil looked so stunning in its grandeur.
There is more here, including photographs taken by a French 3D photographer in defiance of occupation directives. He also managed to capture the liberation of Paris in brilliant and colorful 3D images. There is film footage as well, though it’s not quite as impressive. This is history like you’ve never experienced before, and it belongs on every American’s film shelves. The price is right, and it’s only 45 minutes long. If you have a 3D-capable home theater, this one’s a no-brainer.
The documentary is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The footage is fully restored and is quite impressive. You will have a hard time believing that most of this is so old. I’ve seen quite a few films on this format, and while I’ve enjoyed them, I’ve never felt like the 3D was a must-have version. Not so here. This is the most impressive home 3D presentation I’ve seen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is good enough for the simple narration and added sound effects.
Don’t dismiss this release as just another in the long list of documentaries on World War II. It would be a huge mistake. Not only are the images worth seeing, but it gives us a rare glimpse into the minds of the other side. “Such images were made at the behest of a man who, despite his almost unimaginable cruelty, had a profound understanding of the power of visual imagery to mold history.”