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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Civil War > American Civil War - A Union Divided

The American Civil War – A Union Divided


Picture: C     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Episodes: B



The most ambitious of the first four titles from Eagle Media’s War Zone series is The American Civil War – A Union Divided, a double set which offers the most extras and best fidelity.  Running over three hours total, not including interactive extras, this is an ambitious attempt to separate this take of The Civil War from the one on PBS by Ken Burns that caused a huge interest in the subject to begin with.


In brief, Burns version does its best to offer a linear history through stills and archival items, but that approach is to naďve that it sometimes turns on itself.  That is why programs like this and Ronald Maxwell’s Gettysburg (a 1993 theatrical release that was intended as a mini-series, and it shows) still work.  The 3-D graphics are as nice as anything you will see on cable and the producers have thought this one out very well.


The visual material is full screen and varies in quality, but much of it is analog video.  That may be average, but the sound is actually Dolby Digital 5.1 AC-3, and that is a nice plus.  It may not be the most spectacular mix, but it is a nice change of pace from the simple stereo and mono you usually find in such programs.


Extras include profiles of the key persons who made the war go, a photo gallery you control yourself (take that Ken Burns!), actual battlefront letters, a quiz, songs that came out of the war, and a nicely done section about weapons.  You get 360-degree computer animated images you can click on and get facts about each one.  If only more such documentary and special interest DVDs could offer this.


Many feel the subject of The Civil war has been played out, even if it is history, but this one seems a bit fresher to the point that non-fans would get something out of this.  Fans will enjoy the different approach.  This critic was glad not to be bored!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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