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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Rebels & Redcoats: How Britain Lost America (1 Viewer)

Scott Kimball

May 8, 2000
Rebels & Redcoats: How Britain Lost America

Studio: Paramount

Year: 1994

Rated: NR

Length: 4 Hours

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, non-anamorphic

Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo

English subtitles, closed captioned

Special Features: none

S.R.P. $20.00

Release Date: June 29, 2004

Rebels & Redcoats is a four-part PBS series about the American Revolution, which was at once a civil war and a world war - drawing in not only American brother against brother (loyalists and rebels), but also drawing in the French, Spanish, African slaves and Native Americans, as well. This series is interesting in that it tells the story from the perspective of the British losers - it’s a refreshing take on the subject.

Richard Holmes, renowned British military historian, presents the series - focusing on the military aspects - the tactics and soldiers, leaders and footmen. Another focus of the series is the war’s impact on the people of America - from the oppressed slaves to the wealthy loyalists, to the indians who were caught in the conflict and forced to take sides.

The series opens with insurrection in the streets of Boston. It describes the key players in the early conflicts (Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, etc.) and follows the battles of Massachusetts - including Lexington and Bunker Hill.

Later episodes follow the battles in New York City, and northward through upstate New York and into Canada - as well as the battles in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

The war is put in the context of world events that few high school textbooks will delve into, ending with the surrender of British forces to George Washington in Yorktown - and the emergence of a new world power.

The series is presented in the following four parts, with a “play all” option:

Part I: The Shot Heard Around The World
Part II: American Crisis: 1776
Part III: The War Moves South
Part IV: The World Turned Upside Down


Rebels & Redcoats is displayed in widescreen, but it is not anamorphically enhanced. The image is somewhat soft in appearance. Colors are well saturated, but black levels are somewhat lacking in some scenes, giving a slightly lower than desirable contrast. Given that other scenes are okay, and the fade-to-blacks all appear normal, I suspect the occasional lack of contrast is in the original photography. In any event, it’s not too distracting. Grain is variable, from mild to moderate, and most likely represents the intended look of the film. Edge enhancement doesn’t seem to be an issue, but there are some visible but mild compression artifacts, in the form of mild mosquito noise, some video noise and occasion moire issues.

The audio is acceptable, if not remarkable. There is a 2 channel English Dolby Digital track - that’s it. Not much choosing to do here. The sound is clear, with good frequency response. Music and sound effects are adequate, and the narration sounds good. Since the bulk of this DVD features narration, this will not exercise your surround system in any way. Dialog is, however, always clear and intelligible.

Final Thoughts
This is a thoroughly enjoyable documentary on the fight for American independence, and it’s just in time for Independence Day. The content is highly recommended, though the video is less than perfect. The non-enhanced video is the chief complaint, with some minor compression artifacts adding some minor annoyance. Still, not bad for TV on DVD. If you are interested in the subject, this is most definitely worth checking out.

Michael Harris

Jun 4, 2001
I am currently watching it on my local PBS station and am enjoying it. Many years ago, while living in London, I visited the British Army Museum and they had exhibits on all the wars they fought. It was odd seeing the U.S. listed as "the enemy" for the Revolution and War of 1812. At that time I never though of "us" as the "enemy".

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