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"Winds of War" & "War and Remembrance"


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#1 of 39 bobbd

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Posted January 22 2007 - 08:35 AM

I am always amazed at how little information or discussion can be found about these two mini-series from the ‘80s, even on the internet. I guess I’ll kick-start a thread here, and hopefully others can add some meaningful insight or information or opinion.

For those who don’t know or remember “Winds or War” (WoW) and “War and Remembrance” (WaR) were two big mini-series broadcast on ABC in the US. They were directed by Dan Curtis (of Dark Shadows fame) and based on 2 novels of the same names written by Herman Wouk. They tell the story of the fictional US Naval Officer Victor Henry (Robert Mitchum) and how his friends and family intersect with many of the major figures and events of the Second World War.

WoW (broadcast in 1983) was released on DVD in 2004 by Paramount. The video quality is quite good for an early ‘80s TV show. It appears to sport a brand-new digital transfer from original film elements. Those original elements appear to be a bit dirty at times, especially on shots featuring obvious optical printing, like subtitles or superimposed effects. But overall I’m quite please with the video quality. The audio is clear, but rather bland. It’s a mono track with very little dynamic range. I suppose that is par for the course for a TV production of that vintage.

WaR (broadcast in 1988) was actually released on DVD first in 2003 by MPI. Ironically, this younger series features a much worse video transfer—quite possibly the same transfer used on the VHS release from the ‘80s. It’s dark and dreary, with no contrast or detail. Not completely unwatchable, but a big disappointment after the WoW transfer. The audio seems like an improvement, at least at first. The first several discs contain a stereo track—at least the musical score is in stereo. There are even some moments of actual dynamic range in the score, but the dialog and sound effects seem to be mixed in the center. However, several discs into the series, the sound seems to revert back to mono.

So is there a snowball’s chance in hell of some better releases in the future, especially for WaR? The fact that both series were released on DVD with about zero fanfare seems to suggest that we’ll have no more releases anytime soon (I think I found 1 or 2 reviews for the WoW set and absolutely nothing for the WaR sets). I think it would be a shame if this is the best we’ll ever get. Yes, the series can be rather slow paced, it lingers in soap opera territory at times, and there are some casting misfires, especially in WoW, but overall I think it is a grand epic and possibly the biggest example of the bygone era of the major mini-series. It also contains about the most graphic and horrific reenactments of the Holocaust you’re ever likely to see. All in all, I’m rather surprised both series seem to have been all but forgotten.

Also (one can dream) what about an HD release? I imagine both series were finished completely on film, making an HD release a relatively easy thing to accomplish, no? Perhaps WoW’s new DVD transfer was actually an HD one? Do the big studios do any non-HD transfers nowadays?

#2 of 39 Katherine_K

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Posted January 22 2007 - 08:58 AM

I own both sets and am also a bit surprised at how little information is to be found about them given how popular they were when aired. I think they've just missed their time period and suffer when compared to the production values of more modern films of the same period.

I own all three sets (War and Remembrance comes in two volumes). I think I have mixed feelings about some of the cast changes, appreciating the recasting of Byron Henry (the submarine officer), but never feeling that Jean Seymour really captured Natalie as she's written in the book and played in the first mini. She's a brassy New York woman and just is just too passive and quiet in the second mini (not fitting the book at all). Likely because the character was supposed to be a victim in that series.

#3 of 39 Darren Gross

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Posted January 22 2007 - 09:00 AM

Hi.
You're correct- these were both all finished on film, so HD transfers would be possible. If the WOW transfer was recent, than it probably was done in HD if not a higher format.

WAR doesn't use the same transfer as the VHS--they went back to the original 1 inch broadcast masters for the DVD. There is a quality bump from VHS, but not near as much as you'd get with new transfers. Image-wise, WAR (and WINDS, to a lesser degree) was filmed with a very soft, diffuse, smoky look, so there would always be a little bit of softness to the image. That said, it would be nice to see them looking more slick and polished than they do.

A main concern with WAR is essentially the running time. The somewhat limited audience for the DVD, made the price-point very high, comparatively. Unfortunately, new transfers were not in the budget, from what I'm told. With 30+ hours of material to re-telecine, it's a real budget-pusher.

On the audio side, the switch to mono, half-way through WAR was a broadcast decision. There was a broadcast error during original transmission, that was blamed (possible incorrectly) on the handling of the stereo channels. After this happened, Dan Curtis made the decision to mix the rest of the in-progress parts into mono, instead of stereo. So, stereo mixes don't exist for the second half, sadly.

Hopefully, there will be interest from HD channels in broadcasting these, and with that will come new HD transfers, but as no standard TV network has shown any interest in rebroadcasting these in nearly 10 years, it's probably not as near in the future, as one would hope.

#4 of 39 bobbd

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Posted January 22 2007 - 09:34 AM

Katherine, I've always preferred the WAR casting as that was the series I grew up with and saw several times before I got the chance to see WINDS. I did eventually read the novels and do agree that Ali MacGraw's Natalie is closer to the intent than Jane Seymour's. I also think that Hart Bochner is vastly superior to Jan-Michael Vincent, though Vincent definitely seems a more likely son of Mitchum's.

Darren, thanks for the info. That's more than I've ever been able to find. Can you shed some light on how the 2 mini-series were received by the public? From what I've been able to glean, WINDS was a massive TV hit, even by 1983 standards, but that WAR was something of a disappointment. Though I've also read that WAR peaked at 40 million viewers, and those are American Idol numbers today.

#5 of 39 Brent Avery

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Posted January 22 2007 - 05:02 PM

This thread could not have been timed any better - I was in between buying the latest releases and the Winds Of War boxset was staring me in the face quite literally. I suppose more than anything it was the photo of Robert Mitchum that got my attention. I'm in the middle of Horatio Hornblower and figured another tv mini series couldn't hurt. So it is kind of interesting to suddenly pick up on this in the last 2 days even though it has been out two years, and it's nice to see someone bring it up so others can consider buying a copy to enjoy as well.

#6 of 39 Katherine_K

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Posted January 23 2007 - 12:12 AM

Hart Bochner is infinately better in the role. I think the problem is that I read the books first and saw the series in the correct order so I found the discrepency between the Natalie I imagined and the one on the screen a little disconcerting.

#7 of 39 bobbd

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Posted January 23 2007 - 03:18 AM

Brent, before you begin WINDS, prepare yourself for the slow pace. It really is from a different era of storytelling. It reminds me of golden era of BBC TV drama, though with higher production values. The good news is that, even though it is not uncommon for scenes to run 5 to 10 minutes, the drama can unfold at its own pace. Characters actually have lengthy conversations about things! Something that rarely happens in modern television, especially American television.

#8 of 39 Jeff Willis

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Posted January 23 2007 - 04:43 AM

Bob, great thread. Again, the HTF'ers jogged my memory about these 2 miniseries. Brent, you said it Posted Image I'll get WINDS at my next Amazon order. I remember enjoying that series and haven't seen it since it originally aired. I've never seen the sequel, WAR. Reading the xfr info here, I'm a little hesitant about getting that one at present. Also, it would be a blind-buy but since I liked WINDS, I figure WAR would be a virtual sure-thing for me. I'd also like to see Hart Bochner in that role, since I thought he was excellent in another un-released early 90's miniseries, "And the Sea Will Tell". (that's one I'd get in a flash if it was available) I also remember Ali McGraw and thought she really caught the character in the series.

I also seem to remember that WINDS was the more succesful broadcast (ratings) than the sequel. According to Amazon, I see that WAR Vol's 1 & 2 are 1 disc each compared to the 6-disc WINDS. Is that a typo or is the sequel that much shorter than WINDS? Also, I wonder why the WAR price is considerably higher than WINDS? Seems to be a little confusing for me at the moment....at Amazon, there are 3 listings for WAR:

1) WAR Parts Vol 1 Pts 1-7 1 disc?
2) WAR Parts Vol 2 Pts 8-12 1 disc?
3) WAR The Final Chapter Anamorphic 7 discs?

Is each set a separate part of the entire WAR miniseries?

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#9 of 39 Katherine_K

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Posted January 23 2007 - 05:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Willis
I also seem to remember that WINDS was the more succesful broadcast (ratings) than the sequel. According to Amazon, I see that WAR Vol's 1 & 2 are 1 disc each compared to the 6-disc WINDS. Is that a typo or is the sequel that much shorter than WINDS?

WAR is considerably longer than WINDS. Each volume has six discs, so a total of twelve discs.

#10 of 39 bobbd

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Posted January 23 2007 - 06:09 AM

Jeff, WaR was released in two chunks: WaR(parts 1-6) and then WaR: The Final Chapter (parts 7-12). When both sets were first released on DVD, they came in over-size gift boxes with a color booklet, and one of the boxes also contained a soundtrack CD. You can still find these big box versions on Amazon, but I think they're discontinued, and only available used.

More recently, MPI released the discs without the big boxes, and I believe they're a good bit cheaper, too. I haven't made enough posts yet to include a URL to amazon in this post, but if you look, you should be able to find the newer sets for about $60 to $70 each.

#11 of 39 FloydH

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Posted January 23 2007 - 06:39 AM

If memory serves, I seem to remember that a night or two before the initial showing of "Winds", the network ran a 1/2 hour special called "Peace on Borrowed Time" hosted by John Houseman. It was a historical "refresher course" for viewers who might not be acquainted with European politics of the 1930's, the interwar years. Can you tell me if this program is included in the "Winds" sets as released? Thanks.

#12 of 39 Katherine_K

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Posted January 23 2007 - 06:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by FloydH
Can you tell me if this program is included in the "Winds" sets as released? Thanks.

No, the only special features on both series are retrospectives.

#13 of 39 Charles Ellis

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Posted January 23 2007 - 07:14 AM

Let me put in my two cents regarding Ms. Seymour: if to some of you it seems that she's too passive and quiet in WAR, please remember she's playing a woman whose whole world has collasped around her- separated from her husband as he's in battle in the Pacific, her son is in hiding, and she's off to Auschwitz with her uncle, so naturally she would be browbeaten and numbed by the whole thing. BTW, John Gielgud was much better than John Houseman as Aaron Jastrow. I'm hoping for a new remastered collection with a possible 5.1 Dolby sound mix, and more importantly, a lower price! They don't make miniseries like this any more- and in the age of reality shows, I'd gladly take this or The Forsyte Saga (the original, of course!) any day over Flavor of Love!
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#14 of 39 Katherine_K

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Posted January 23 2007 - 07:17 AM

The problem Charles is that is NOT how she is written in the books. The charm of her character in the book is how much she is still a fighter through all of it.

#15 of 39 Charles Ellis

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Posted January 23 2007 - 09:51 AM

But this is not the book! Besides, practically all of the TV critics of the time agreed that Jane was a vast improvement over Ali MacGraw as Natalie. Comparing the character in the book against the TV adaptation is like comparing apples and oranges. Kind of like comparing Dorothy Gales from the book and film versions of The Wizard of Oz- in the book, Dorothy was a little girl, not teenager as Judy Garland played her, yet she made her performance iconic. Also, the characters of Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca were much different from the original depictions in the play Everyone Comes To Rick's- are Bogart and Bergman to be criticized for that? Likewise with the differences between the literary Rhett & Scarlett as opposed to the great performances of Gable & Leigh in GWTW.
Bring "The continuing story of PEYTON PLACE" home on DVD: the one that started it all- from Dallas and Dynasty to Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girl!!! Starting this May, see the legendary saga starring Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, Barbara Parkins, and Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone on DVD thru...

#16 of 39 FloydH

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Posted January 23 2007 - 10:24 AM

Thanks, Katherine.

#17 of 39 Katherine_K

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Posted January 23 2007 - 10:39 AM

You opinion is your opinion. My point is that MacGraw was the more faithful interpretation of the character to the books and Jane Seymore's performance completely changes the character. I don't think when there are two actors playing the same role it's invalid to question which one is closer to the character from the original source material. It is a matter of preference.

#18 of 39 Craig S

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Posted January 23 2007 - 10:29 PM

Quote:
More recently, MPI released the discs without the big boxes, and I believe they're a good bit cheaper, too. I haven't made enough posts yet to include a URL to amazon in this post, but if you look, you should be able to find the newer sets for about $60 to $70 each.
I'm glad I stumbled across this thread! I purchased WoW as soon as it came out, but I've been holding off on WaR because of the oversized boxes & exhorbitant price. Glad to hear MPI finally reissued it.

Here are the Amazon links:

War and Remembrance - Volume 1 - Parts 1-7 (1988)

War & Remembrance - Vol. 2, The Final Chapter: Parts 8 - 12 (1988)

Deep Discount DVD has the sets a bit cheaper than Amazon.

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#19 of 39 SteveJKo

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Posted January 24 2007 - 01:59 AM

How appropriate it is that I come across this thread! I just started to re-watch these two great series.

The debate on who played who better is something I gave up a long time ago. I've come to the conclusion that everyone in the cast in both series offered something unique to their character, though I do have my personal favorites. Houseman's stubborn Aaron perfectly captures someone ignoring whats taking place around him, yet something in Gielgud's performance strikes the perfect note as an elderly man who "wasn't ready for adventure at his age" but is daring enough to take the chance to escape. Bochner's Byron was perfect, but Vincent's performance does have a certain cocky optimism (that is only appropriate for the pre-war Byron). Ali MacGraw's Natalie is more how I see her than Jane Seymour's interpretation, though Seymour is perfect in showing Natalie's determination to survive.

I love these two series, even with some changes in the cast of W&R. I'd pick up a remastered re-release in a heartbeat.
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#20 of 39 bobbd

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Posted January 24 2007 - 05:08 AM

I agree with Darren that interest from a high-def TV network would make a remastered SD and/or HD release more likely. I thought I heard that both A&E and History are planning to go HD? Didn't one or both of those networks broadcast WINDS and WaR in the past?

Perhaps a re-edit would help the show's marketability in this day and age? Both series are broken up into several feature-length episodes of drastically varying lengths. Episodes are 3+ hours, 2.5 hours, 1.5 hours, etc. And it doesn't seem like these lengths have anything to do with dramatic structure, but rather how ABC wanted to broadcast them in their prime-time schedule. Maybe if the show was broken up into more conventional lengths, it would be easier for stations to broadcast it. I imagine if both series were edited into 40+ minute installments (to allow for a 1 hour slot with commercials) the whole series might even come close to 65 episodes, the magic number for strip syndication.




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