THE PLOT THUS FAR
From the tragedies of history to the triumphs of scientific development; these are the landmarks of our time that, when juxtiposed, provide a distillation of history’s defining experiences. On each of these days, the lives of millions were changed forever. Season three examines the gunfight at the OK Corral and the St Valentine’s Day Massacre; the fine line between fact and fiction that was blurred by the publication of The Hitler Diaries and Orson Wells radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds; and popular uprisings with the flight of the last Iranian Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and the execution of former Romanian president Nicolai Ceausescu.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
This Emmy-nominated documentary series from BBC and the History Channel combines vintage film footage, eyewitness accounts and dramatic re-enactments to bring to life the triumphs and tragedies of the 20th century. The pilot pays tribute to pioneers in flight, recounting the Wright Brothers’ first flight and the Apollo 11 moon landing, while the first season examines historical giants such as John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana.
The usual assembly of talking heads is discarded for the re-created footage. This is the primary reason why “Days That Shook The World” simply doesn’t work when attempted to cast light and shadow on these events. The most obvious flaw is there’s just no perspective being offered, even though we occasionally get diary readings or speeches overlapping the re-enactments. It’s only when archival footage is utilized in which the series does come to life, though these moments are few and far between. There’s something off-putting watching an actor playing, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. and we never hear him say anything and restricted to the background when he should take center stage. It’s even more annoying when we have to waste time on, say, army personnel shenanigans and clichéd dramatic devices such as heavy breathing while disarming a bomb (“Hiroshima”), especially when we want to know who was doing the disarming and how he really felt.
Unfortunately some of the episodes clearly suffer from budgetary constraints. The St Valentine’s Day Massacre episode appears to have been filmed in mid-Summer, while the Theft of The Crown Jewels features only half a dozen actors. A couple of potentially good episodes are spoiled by poor casting. I know that it’s not always possible to get good lookalikes for Historic figures but they couldn’t have chosen actors less like their real-life counterparts to play Nehru, Jinnah and Mountbatten in the Indian Independence episode.
The DVD comes with no special features. But, you’re getting the full-run of the BBC/History Channel joint production. While the A/V Quality isn’t among the most eye-popping, it’s a noble effort to bring together some of history’s finest moments. I just wish that there were some more contemporary moments and a tad more British influence. In the end, I’d recommend a rental.
RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!