The World at War Ultimate Restored Edition * * * * * Fremantle Media 2,082 mins (eleven discs) £79.99
Originally broadcast in 1973, The World at War is arguably the finest television documentary series ever made. It established the reputation of its producer, Jeremy Issacs, and has been screened with regularity ever since. Its power rests in its skillful combining of archive footage with a remarkable narration by Laurence Olivier of scripts by the likes of Neal Ascherson, perceptive eyewitness accounts and a powerful score by Carl Davis. Historiographically, it has been overtaken by the work of Laurence Rees; despite a brilliant episode on the Battle of Stalingrad, the role of the Soviet Union is underplayed. But in its accounts of the campaigns in the West, North Africa and the Pacific, it holds up well. It has certainly never looked better. All 26 episodes have undergone a comprehensive digital restoration, numbering more than 3.6 million improvements; the difference is striking (see the frame below). The new edition also includes a 30-minute film narrated by Issacs explaining the restoration process. Anyone interested in the Second World War and the history of television must see it.