Ultimate Battles: Waterloo/Battle Of The Bulge/Alexander The Great - Battle Of Gaugamela

Ultimate Battles: Waterloo/Battle Of The Bulge/Alexander The Great - Battle Of Gaugamela

This boxed set contains three documentaries on three very different battles from very different eras.

First of all, the negatives. The most obvious is that these programs were originally produced for commercial television. This becomes very obvious at what would have been the first commercial break, where the same information is repeated twice with very minor changes, obviously where a commercial break has been removed. All three films feature a certain amount of exaggeration (changed history forever, decided the fate of the world etc), but this is an increasingly common feature of television history.

The Battle of the Bulge film suffers from having been produced for the American market. It focuses almost entirely on the siege of Bastogne, an important part of the battle, but not the entire story. The part played by the allied air forces is barely mentioned, and the role played by the British and Commonwealth troops on the north of the bulge is ignored completely - General Montgomery, placed in charge on the northern side of the German attack is never mentioned! General Patton's willingness to abandon his own planned offensive to provide troops to help in the Ardennes is also rather over-played. View it as an account of the siege of Bastogne, and it is actually quite a good film.

Now to the positives. The Waterloo and Gaugamela films are both rather good. Both feature good full scale computer reconstructions of the battlefield, giving a really good feel of the scale of the battles. Some might argue that they make the Persian army too large at Gaugamela, giving Darius 250,000 men, when many historians feel he had around 100,000, but the higher figure has its supporters, and their reconstruction fits the sizes they use. I must admit on first viewing I though the reconstruction had given Darius far too many men, but my own rather more simple pen and paper sketch proved them to be right - five to one odds really do look overwhelming!

The films use a mix of talking heads, computer reconstructions of the battles, smaller scale reenactments and dramatised scenes. I was particularly pleased to see the main characters talking in the correct language (or a good guess for Alexander and Darius), which makes a nice chance. The Waterloo film is the best of the three, covering the main incidents of the battle nicely and giving the Prussians their true importance. Gaugamela takes a few minutes to get going, and at first looks like it is going to throw us straight into the battle without an introduction, but does eventually take us back to Philip II and Alexander's earlier campaigns.

These films are not aimed at the expert, but they would make a good introduction for someone with a general interest in military history.

DVD Region: 2
Running Time: 150 minutes
Publisher: Scanbox Entertainment
Year: 2007

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