Picks and Pans Review: The War Years: the Forties, Vol. 1

updated 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The first part of a series taken from a 1970s public television program, Lowell Thomas Remembers, this 142-minute tape drags when Thomas appears on-camera. He is on the tedious side, rattling off dry facts about the war as transitions between film clips. (This volume covers 1940-44; Vol. 2 runs from 1945-49.) The contemporary footage, however, is engrossing. While it's not as tightly edited as Victory at Sea or The World at War, two similar TV series, it includes generous excerpts from such speeches as Charles Lindbergh's 1940 warning against American involvement in the war and Franklin Roosevelt's angry "date which will live in infamy" address after Pearl Harbor in 1941. Relatively peripheral yet dramatic incidents are also covered at some length, including a sequence on an attempted assassination of Charles de Gaulle. While both technology and convention limited the extent of war coverage, much of the combat footage is still grimly moving. Thomas, who died in 1981, was one of the original newsreel commentators, and his vintage narration seems archaic ("Aha! The defenders were much alive"), but his talk of "the Japs" and his cheerleading style are bits of history in themselves. (Republic, $39.95)

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