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Category:    Home > Reviews > Speculation > Documentary > Music > Murder > Crime > Martial Arts > Self Defense > War > History > WWII > Holo > Ancient Aliens – Season One + Gangland – Season Six + Human Weapon – Season One + The World At War (1973/History Channel/A&E Blu-ray Sets)

Ancient Aliens – Season One + Gangland – Season Six + Human Weapon – Season One + The World At War (1973/History Channel/A&E Blu-ray Sets)


Picture: B- (Gangland: C+)     Sound: B- (War: C+)     Extras: C+/C/D/B     Episodes: C+/B-/B-/B+



A&E and The History Channel continue what is the largest selection of special interest Blu-ray product on the market with four new titles.  All are professionally produced and offer everything you could ask on their respective subjects, the three new series still being in production.


Ancient Aliens – Season One goes back to the popular ideas about aliens having visited centuries ago and possibly even being the source of some of the ideas and technology we have today.  This speculative series offers five hour-long shows that can run on a bit, but the producers expect if you buy them early on, you’ll watch the whole thing.  It is as entertaining as the old In Search Of... series with Leonard Nimoy and is at least consistent.  Erich von Daniken had a huge hit book on the subject called Chariots Of The Gods (1968) and he is a producer on the show, so think of it as an update of the same material.


Gangland – Season Six picks up were we left off on this Season Five DVD review:



With more disturbing trends and violent groups to cover (who knew there were so many), the episodes this time include Snitch Slaughter, Trinity Of Blood, Street Law, Skinhead Assault, Crazy Killers, Bloody South, Devil’s Diciples, The Assassins, Beware The Goose!, Sex, Money, Murder and Hell House.  It is very comprehensive as a show and though it may seem sensational at times, it is very watchable and you can see why it is such a long running hit.


Human Weapon – Season One has the potential of being as big and enduring a hit as this show takes the more studied route of the current trend of mixed martial arts growing commercial success to see the origins and amazing range of those arts.  This debut season includes the episodes Muay Thai: Ultimate Striking, Eskrima Stickfighting, Karate, Savate Streetfighting, Judo: Samurai Legacy, Pankration: The Original Martial Art, Krav Maga of the Israeli Commandos, Marine Corps Martial Arts, MMA: America’s Extreme Fighting, Kung Fu, Sambo: Russia’s Extreme Fighting, Cambodian Blood Sport, Silat: Martial Art Of Malaysia, Passport To Pain, Ninjutsu and Taekwondo.  My only complaint is that some of the shows ought to be two-parters, but this is a great start to a series that could become very popular.


Finally is The World At War and though some other releases have had that title, this is the famous 1973 documentary mini-series narrated by no less than Sir Laurence Olivier.  A then massive 26 hours/episodes, it was considered a great achievement as the mini-series was a new forum in general, but it holds up very well 35 since it was first broadcast to rave reviews and higher ratings than expected.  This is it he first time any Thames Television production has been restored and issued on Blu-ray, which is rare since most of their shows were on PAL analog videotape of the time (Callan, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Benny Hill Show, etc.) with limited 16mm footage if any.


Much has been said, uncovered and done about the events of World War II since this aired and it is one of the most frequently covered subjects on home video, but in that face of all of that it holds up incredibly well and shows how weak and lacking many such programs since have been.  Researched incredibly well, there is still information here you will not find in most WWII documentary programs and Olivier (still in top form) set a new high watermark for narration all the way to IMAX programming.


On the subject of WWII and the world history that goes with it, it is a must-see series, even after all of these years.  Yes, there will be some overlap with other programs, especially after 35 years, but the events were nearly 80 years ago.  Being from around the halfway point of that timeline, it was built to last and it shows.  It is no surprise, therefore, that it would be the first classic TV documentary mini-series to hit Blu-ray.




The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the new shows are shot in HD and though they have motion blur, look good, though Gangland is a little weaker as some of the footage is low definition, analog video, undercover footage or from other sources, as expected.  World was originally shot on film, but also has immense, extensive film sources that range from 8mm film, 9mm film, 16mm film and 35mm film to newsreels and it was all restored, making it quite a mix.  Purists might not be happy with this since the original series was shown at 1.33 X 1, but it did not bother me as much.  Thames has done their best to fix this and they did as fine a job as could be expected.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 2.0 on the new programs sounds good, warm and fine, though some audio on Gangland is rougher.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix on World does what it can to expand the old monophonic sound, but the age of the material is apparent throughout, though a 2.0 version would likely have sounded weaker, so this was a smart move.


Extras are not available on Weapon, but Ancient adds the History Channel special Ancient Aliens: Chariots, Gods & Beyond, Gangland adds Additional Footage (which is better than the last season on DVD) and World has a ton of extras that outdo everything else here with ease.  They include a Restoration featurette and nine bonus documentaries: Hitler’s Germany: The People’s Community 1933 – 1938, Hitler’s Germany: Total War 1939 – 1943, The Two Deaths Of Adolf Hitler, Secretary To Hitler, Warrior (derived from interviews for the mini-series, including some footage not used for it), From War To Peace, The Final Solution (in two parts, but we’ll count it as one), Making The Series: A 30th Anniversary Retrospective and Experiences Of War.  That makes The World At War a key classic TV on Blu-ray release and the first in the documentary category that should be far from the last.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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