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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey [Blu-ray]

 

Culled, organized, produced and advised by Stewart McAllister, Richard Crossman and Alfred Hitchcock, 2017 (restored)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Imperial War Museums

Video: BFI

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: with Intro and Outro - 1:29:49.541 / Film alone - 1:11:26.041

Disc Size: 42,786,389,200 bytes

Feature Size: 19,676,563,008 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.93 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 17th, 2017

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (matted onto 1.78:1)

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Restoration Soundtrack:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Alternative Archival Soundtrack:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbpst

 

Subtitles:

English translation (of non-English dialogue), English hard-of-hearing, German, Hebrew, French, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Italian, Czech and Dutch none

 

Extras:
Presented with both an optional contextualising Intro and Outro
Panel Discussion at the BFI Southbank (2015, 41:25): restoration director Dr Toby Haggith (IMW) is joined on-stage by a panel of experts to discuss the film
Audio Commentary with Dr Toby Haggith and senior curator Patrick Russell (BFI)
Vox Pops Compilation (2015, 5:44): cinema-goers reflect after a screening at the BFI Southbank
Interview with Ludwig Weill at Fort Breendonk (1945, 3:09): archival interview with a freed prisoner
Interviews and Statements at Bergen-Belsen (1945, 17:25): archival interviews with SS soldiers, freed prisoners and members of the British Army
Interviews and Statements at Dachau (1945, 37:54): archival interviews with recently liberated prisoners
Interview with Petr Zenkl (1945, 12:29): archival interview with the Czech politician who was imprisoned at Dachau and Buchenwald
Alternate archival soundtrack
80-page perfect-bound book with new writing on the film, and full film credits

2 DVD discs of the BD content

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: On 29 September 1945, the incomplete rough-cut of a disturbing yet compelling documentary revealing the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps was viewed at the Ministry of Information in London. For five months, Sidney Bernstein had led a small team - which included Stewart McAllister, Richard Crossman and Alfred Hitchcock - to complete the film from hours of footage.

Unfortunately, this ambitious Allied project to create a feature-length visual report that would damn the Nazi regime and shame the German people into acceptance of Allied occupation had missed its moment, and was left unfinished and shelved. Even in its incomplete form, the film was immensely powerful, generating an awed hush among audiences. But now, complete to six reels, this faithfully restored and definitive version produced by the Imperial War Museums and with a newly recorded narration by actor Jasper Britton, has been rightfully compared with Alan Resnais' Night and Fog (1955).

 

 

The Film:

The documentary was ordered in April 1945 by SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) and was to be the film screened in Germany after the fall of the Third Reich - shown to German prisoners of war wherever they were held.

Sidney Bernstein (founder of Granada Television) was the Producer of the film at Britain’s Ministry of Information. Bernstein assembled a small but distinguished and expert team in 1945 to work on the project and this included the editors Stewart McAllister (acclaimed for his work with Humphrey Jennings) and Peter Tanner and the writers Colin Wills and Richard Crossman (writer, German expert and future cabinet minister). Bernstein sought the help of Alfred Hitchcock, who is known to have given important advice on how the film should be put together. Bernstein described Hitchcock as the film’s 'Director', but given that all the footage had been shot prior to Hitchcock’s month-long involvement on the project and that he was not in England to oversee the editing of the rough-cut, it is more accurate to retrospectively describe him as the treatment adviser.

The film was not completed in 1945. From the start of the project, there were a number of problems including the practical difficulties of international co-operation and the realities of post-war shortages. These issues delayed the film long enough to be overtaken by other events including the completion of two other presentations of concentration camp footage to the German people and the evolution of occupation policy, where the authorities no longer considered a one-hour compilation of atrocity material appropriate. The last official action on the film was a screening of an incomplete rough-cut on 29 September 1945, after which the film was shelved, unfinished.

Excerpt from IWM.org located HERE

A nonprofit called "3 Generations" was granted screening rights to German Concentration Camps Factual Survey for North America and Puerto Rico. The film premiered in New York City on 6 January 2017. The restored film, 75 minutes in length, is bookended by a brief introduction and postscript.

In a review of the restored film narrated by actor Jasper Britton, The New York Times called it "an extraordinary act of cinematic reclamation and historiography." Times' film critic Manohla Dargis said that "the film can seem shocking but not surprising, simply because such imagery has been so thoroughly incorporated into pop culture, either through direct citation or by inference." But the "troubling sense of familiarity soon dissipates ... because this is not like most films." Unlike many films on the subject, there are no heroics or "hollow claims about the 'triumph' of the human spirit. ... The few smiles here are desperate.

Excerpt from Wikipedia located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey gets an 1080P transfer to Blu-ray from  BFI. It is a "new restoration by IWM (Imperial War Museums)"  It's dual-layered with a strong bitrate for the feature and all supplements. When you press play you get the option of both the, 18-minute longer, contextualizing 'Intro' and 'Outro' version or without and just the documentary film itself. Obviously, this is almost entirely retrieved of very old footage - from different sources in varying conditions. Regardless, it can look surprisingly strong at times and the clarity and evenness are, for much of the footage used, impressive. These are not static in the film - they are moving images! The HD restoration layers the contrast and tightens the image. It is easy to accept any damage - which never makes it unwatchable and is less than I was anticipating. At the end we can see some modern input, in 1.78:1, and the detail and colors are top notch - as you might expect.  This Blu-ray presentation of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. It is a testament to the restoration and the strength of this format how, with a more impacting image, the viewing can affect the individual to a higher degree. This is an amazing example of that.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

English (SDH) Subtitles Samples

 

 

 

English Translations subtitle samples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

We are given the option of the restoration soundtrack or the alternative archival one which seems to have the same narration but not the background sounds (water running, archival participants voices etc.) Both are in linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps (24-bit) and the narration sounds clean and even. There is the choice of English translation (of non-English dialogue), as well as English hard-of-hearing for the narration plus German, Hebrew, French, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Italian, Czech and Dutch subtitle options and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE - playable worldwide.

 

Extras :

Extras include an audio commentary with Dr Toby Haggith and senior curator Patrick Russell (BFI) giving valuable insight into completion of the project and minutia on the restoration. We also get a 3/4 hour Panel Discussion at the BFI Southbank from 2015 with restoration director Dr Toby Haggith (IMW) joined on-stage by a panel of experts to discuss the film. Vox Pops Compilation has about 6-minutes of cinema-goers reflecting after a screening at the BFI Southbank. There are vital interviews of an archival interview with a freed prisoner; Ludwig Weill at Fort Breendonk, Interviews and Statements at Bergen-Belsen has archival interviews with SS soldiers, freed prisoners and members of the British Army. Interviews and Statements at Dachau offers archival interviews with recently liberated prisoners from 1945 spanning almost 40-minutes. Other interviews include a dozen minutes with Petr Zenkl - also from 1945. He was a Czech politician who was imprisoned at Dachau and Buchenwald. The package also contains an 80-page perfect-bound book with new writing on the film, and full film credits plus 2 DVD discs containing the extensive BD content

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
 

I have seen many documentaries on the Holocaust - Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985), Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog (1955), Marcel Ophüls’ The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) and others but none have impacted me in the same way as German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. Perhaps it is my age or my mood but I was almost catatonic watching the overwhelming totality of horrific images. The visuals rise above anger of religion, race, borders, nationalism and simple represent some of the darkest days of humanity ever caught on film. Hitchcock's involvement is irrelevant.  We can only hope that nothing like this will ever exist in our future. The BFI Blu-ray package is monumental - even over 70-years later - for modern audiences to attempt digesting what the film is documenting to us about ourselves - the depths that human beings can treat fellow humans leaves one without words. I was drained - and can give our strongest recommendation for consumers to personally archive the events depicted. A must-own. 

Gary Tooze

April 6th, 2017


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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