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Title: Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:72

I was more than a bit nervous when viewing “Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color”, as the last 2 History Channel films have been a bit more than disappointing. “Texas Rangers” left a very sour taste in my mouth and I was hoping the decline of the channel’s quality programming was not unavoidable. Thankfully “Blood and Glory” is head and shoulders above the last pair of films, and actually goes back to a narrated overview style of programming, more than a full dramatic reenactment with big name actors. To make things even more fun, they decided to cover a time period that I have a large soft spot for personally. Being an amateur Civil War buff the material was more than enough to pull me in, despite the little “gimmick” they were supposed to employ, a gimmick that actually worked quite well to keep the well-worn material fresh and exciting.

We’ve all studied about the Civil War. Like the Revolutionary War, it’s one of those time periods that has been beaten into our heads since we were in grades school. That alone makes it very hard for the History Channel to make something that isn’t as dry as toast due to be hashed and rehashed to death. This is where the title comes into play. The Civil War was the very first American war where war photographers were walking around the battlefield taking pictures. It was the first time Americans saw dead bodies then, and it still haunts us to this day. Using digital restoration, they have gone back and colorized all of these black and white photos, giving them a more lifelike quality, and even making them a bit more relatable in their natural coloring. This allows us to see those people in our history and past in a different light. Narrated by Robert Clotworthy, the film attempts to take us through the whole war, from beginning to end, with a mixture of dramatic reenactment’s as well as splicing in a plethora of war time footage that has been colorized and restored. This makes “Blood and Glory” one of the most interesting and certainly compelling documentaries the studio has put out for quite some time.

“Blood and Glory” does an excellent job at keeping the dry bits of history interesting, especially when the war was littered with politics. We all know the famous secession from the union, but Clotworthy and the Channel dip into some of the back politics of this region, including not only the slaves (which most people attribute as the only factor in the scession), to the recognition of the 3/5th compromise, and Jackson’s reticence to secede from the Union, despite his allegiance to the south. Once the film picks up past the 1st 30 minutes, it gets into the actual nitty gritty of the war itself, especially how the North was an incredibly advanced technological power, while the South’s main advantage was agriculture and commerce. Probably the most fascinating section of the first disc deals with how the Northern war machine was able to systematically give a huge advantage to their side with the advantage of the Long rifle, and even more devastating, the repeating rifle. When you have a war with one side using muskets and the occasional long rifle, and the other side is using rifled barrel long guns with 7 shots before you need to reload and could take you out before you even got in range, things get a little lopsided. One invention that I had totally forgot about was the Hunley, America’s first wartime use of a submarine. Run on hand cranks with 8 men inside, it was crude compared to today’s monstrosities, but it made an effective weapon against a Southern sloop.

There’s a never ending lineup of civil war enthusiasts and historians, giving a break for Clotworthy as they chime in with their own tidbits of information. Surprisingly Richard Dreyfuss is included and even more surprising, he actually is pretty good. Others such as Colin Powell, or Ben Stein chime in repeatedly with tidbits of information here and there, with giant archival footage shots that are restored as the backdrop. None of them are wildly important, but their contributions give a nice flow to the series as well as adding some extraneous information.


Rated PG: Parental Guidance Recommended

Video :4stars:
The History Channel always uses a rather stylized filming style, and even though a lot of the modern day interviewing scenes look clean and shiny, much of the reenacting carries that slightly gauzy and yellow aged veneer that so many other of their titles share. Detail is good, especially with the modern day interviews, and even the reenactments show off some great detail under that yellowed gauzy veneer. Black levels are good, but sometimes look a bit washed out in the reenactments, and long shots tend to look a little soft. The photographs show some of the age of their time, but the incredibly restoration work done on the original elements still make them look as if they were shot yesterday (despite the aged photography techniques). Artifacting is kept to a minimum, with only some intermittent banding being a repeat offender to my eyes.

Audio :4stars:
“Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color” has your typical aggressive History Channel mix, with lots of booms and roars and explosions to boost the warm track. Vocals are crisp and clear, as pretty much everything is told by Robert Clotworthy’s narration plus the additional historians lending their opinions. In the background we can hear the wiz, bang, crash of the wartime sequences and the surround and front get a rather heavy mixture of each in the track. Surrounds highlight the bullets whizzing over the shoulder and some of the rabble and cheering of the soldiers. LFE is tight and punchy, adding weight to the cannon fire and other acts of war shown on screen in a very admirable manner. It’s a slightly forward leaning mix, but still a good representation of the TV experience.

Extras :1star:

• Featurettes
- Davis is Chosen to Lead
- A Call to Arms
- Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation
- The H.L. Hunley Death Trap
- Sherman's March to Savannah
- Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
- Lee's Reluctant Surrender
- African Americans After the War

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Blood and Glory” is a typical History Channel release, in the fact that it uses some sort of “gimmick” (I use that term in quotes because it’s not really a gimmick per se, but it is the fulcrum for which it hinges the entire documentary on) to pull the audience into watching something as dry as history (oh the horror). It doesn’t dramatize the story and fictionalize and embellish like “Houdini” or “Texas Rangers”, but instead uses historians and political figures to narrate and be interviewed as a silent (or at least dialogless) dramatization is handled behind the narration, as well as the inclusion of many a colorized picture of the civil war landscape. I enjoyed this entry into the History Channel’s repertoire much more than I have the last couple, as the more technical analyzing of the war through narration is handled much better than trying to spruce up history with a dramatic retelling featuring big name actors. Audio and video are from the same cloth as many previous History Channel films, so you already know that you’re getting a good, if not sometimes great, audio/video presentation. Extras are sadly a bit sparse, but the discs are still well worth the watch, especially if you enjoy the Civil War. Recommended

Additional Information:

Starring: Robert Clotworthy, Colin Powell, Richard Dreyfuss, Ben Stein
Written by: Eric Murphy, P.G. Morgan
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: PG
Runtime: 169 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 6th 2015

Buy Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Good Watch

More about Mike

2,072 Posts
Thanks for the review. I love the history channel and I love the documentaries so I will check this out. I am also happy to hear that the audio and video are very good for this one.
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