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Stalingrad (Blu-ray Review)

StalingradIt has been called the deadliest battle in the history of all wars, with almost 4 million casualties.  Lasting over 6 months, a major Soviet city was decimated and most of its citizens killed, ordered not to flee by Stalin himself.  It is a monumental story that has never been told like this before, and this December, Synapse Films is proud to present the Blu-ray premiere of STALINGRAD, the critically acclaimed WWII documentary nominated for the 2003 International Emmy Award for Best Documentary.  Filmed from both the German and Russian perspective, the series contains footage shot by soldiers during the siege. The Russian archives opened their doors to the filmmakers, granting them exclusive access to previously unreleased material. The series also contains digitally restored archive film as well as 3-D animation to recreate the city of Stalingrad and plot the course of its destruction.  Originally broadcast in both Germany and Russia in truncated editions, this special edition DVD contains all three STALINGRAD documentaries including THE ATTACK, THE KESSEL and THE DOOM in their original uncut forms and a wealth of extra supplementary materials.

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Film 

The Eastern Front experienced the viciousness of war on a scale of unimaginable horror and brutality. The bloodiest and most savage fighting took place in Stalingrad between August 1942 and February 1943. Stalin’s city on the Volga had military significance for Hitler: It carried the name of his enemy and therefore had to be destroyed. The ensuing battle sealed the fates of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians and marked the turning point of World War II.

It was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. In their three-part HD documentary, internationally recognized award-winning documentary filmmakers Sebastian Dehnhardt, Christian Deick and Jörg Müllner reveal new historical facts while touching the emotions of their audience with new, moving eyewitness accounts and confessions from some of the last survivors.

This is a very well put together documentary looking at all the ins and outs of the battle of Stalingrad during World War II.  It features some great firsthand accounts of the events, told in some nice detail.  One of this documentary’s biggest strengths is how it never loses sight of the humanity of it all.  Good guys, bad guys, Russians or Germans, everyone gets their due.  Everyone gets a fair shake to recollect and tell this tale.  As a result, the film is really very moving.

The film was released in three parts when it aired on television.  These all ran for about an hour apiece.  Here, you’re able to watch them in a Play All mode.  Which, this isn’t giving us a feature film edit as they just play full episodes back to back, but you don’t have to go back to the menu and select again.  If you’re a World War II enthusiast and for some reason you haven’t seen this documentary, you gotta check it out!

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  Quality varies here, because the film consists of interview segments, exterior pickup shots and loads of archive footage from all different kinds of eras, technologies and qualities.  With all that in mind and coming together, this picture looks pretty terrific.  Keep in mind, too, that this was a television program in the 1990s.  Everything looks really full and about as cleaned up as its going to get. 

Depth:  Well, it ranges, some old clips don’t bode well as others.  But, the interview segments and “modern” footage look very good with spacing and depth.

Black Levels:  These vary from clip to click, but look pretty accurate and as complimentary as they can with what they’re doing.

Color Reproduction:  Many a black and white clip appear here.  I’ll go with the modern stuff.  For the most part, its really rich, bold and “pretty”.  Reds have a nice royalty to them.

Flesh Tones:  Based on the interview sessions only, facial features look very solid and distinct.  Tone is consistent throughout and natural.

Noise/Artifacts:  Nothing aside from grain and print damage that is in the source of the clips and not adjustable.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  Once again, you’re dealing with a multitude of difference sources from different eras.  But, honestly, they all sound more than just fine.  The modern stuff with talking heads all sounds crisp with very good clarity.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals a good, clean and perfectly set in volume.

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Extras 

Stalingrad comes with an insert that goes over the details of the restoration process.

Recollections: Deleted Interview Segments (HD, 17:18) 

Video Interview With Dr. Guido Knopp (HD, 11:14) – Professor, historian and producer, he talks about the legacy of Stalingrad (the documentary) and why its so important.

Stalingrad Today: Views of the City of Vogograd (HD, 3:03) – Some helicopter shots and street shots of what it looks like today.

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Summary 

Stalingrad is a lengthy television documentary series that is very fascinating and terrific, focusing on a deadly battle in World War II as interpreted by both sides.  Synapse Films releases a Blu-ray that looks and sounds quite good, with some bonus material adding extra tid bits with extended interviews and an additional one.  Definitely a must have for the history buff or the WWII collector.

Stalingrad-Blu-ray

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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