I grew up watching lots of TV documentaries about World War II. Of course most of those were about the US and UK and their successes and failures. You would always here about the sacrifices of the Soviets, but no one had released a documentary that detailed for those of us outside of the Soviet sphere of influence until the late 1970s. That is when The Unknown War: WWII And The Epic Battles Of The Russian Front was first released but sadly as soon as it was released it quickly disappeared from US TV screens. Why?
Probably because we were still at the height of the cold war and the documentary is sympathetic to the Soviets role in World War II (and maybe it had something to do with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?) It is sad because this epic documentary had some interesting footage and reveals a history that is largely glassed over in the American classroom.
It took a while, but the Cold War ended and now Shout! Factory has re-released The Unknown War: WWII And the Epic Battles of the Russian Front in all of its epic 20-part documentary glory on DVD for the first time. Each episode of the series is between 50-52 minutes long and is narrated by the legendary Burt Lancaster. The footage, which is mostly Soviet, was edited from over 3.5 million feet of film taken by Soviet cameramen between June 1941 and May 1945.
The series like all biased documentaries does gloss over some Soviet indiscretions. So it is decidedly Soviet in perspective, but that actually makes it more interesting to watch for me as I try to spot the omissions and pull a balanced perspective all the while entranced by footage of an all too familiar War that I have never seen before.
World War II was an important event in modern history — a defining moment for all the countries who were sucked into it. It is important to recognize the sacrifice of soldiers who fought as our allies even if for years afterwards they became our enemies. Without their participation in this titanic struggle against fascism, who know how the WWII would have turned out. If this sort of stuff interests, or you know a World War II buff, why not check out The Unknown War: WWII And The Epic Battles Of The Russian Front. I think you will be glad you did.
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