National Geographic – The WWII Collection: History’s Darkest Hour (2016)

19 Aug
Comprising four titles ‘Inside World War II’, ‘The Hunt for Hitler’, Nazi Megastructures and Nazi Megastructures 2  National Geographic presents a somewhat eclectic mix of WWII titles with it’s latest  collection. While I initially had some reservations about the broad selection of topics I was pleasantly surprised with what National Geographic offered.

‘The Hunt for Hitler’ follows the murky final days of the Nazi dictator and what happened to his remains. The documentary provides an insight into the immediate post WW II era where the location of Hitler’s body was shrouded in mystery and how this was then exploited by the Allies. Whilst Hitler’s suicide is reasonably well documented what subsequently happened to his corpse is perhaps less well known and this documentary sheds some intiguing new light on the subject. There is also a 50 minute bonus feature “Mengele’s Twin Mystery’ which investigates the Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele’s supposed link to a remote Brazilian town where there number of twins far exceeds the norm. Although it may sound like something out of an X Files episode it was genuinely interesting and well worth watching.
“Inside World War II’ is a broad brush look at the major events of WWII told from a chronolgical pespective. This is somewhat of a primer for those viewers who may be unfamiliar with how the conflict played out across the globe and whilst it probably offers little new information for those well versed in the subject it is still a reasonable effort. Archival footage and first hand accounts of those who fought provide the viewer with a grim reminder of the human cost of war. About the only minor quibbles with this documentary are its somewhat American-centric narrative and the limited amout of time devoted to some theatres of war, such as North Africa.
Nazi Megastructures 1 and 2 highlight Hitler’s fascination with all things big.The 12 episodes look at such diverse structures such as the Atlantic Wall, the U Boat bases, V2 Rocket Bases, Super Tanks, Hitler’s Jet Caves, Fortress Berlin, Hitler’s vengeance missiles, the Siegfried Line, the Wolf’s Lair, Himmler’s SS, Hitler’s Megaships and Kamikaze Suicide Bombers. Hitler’s grand vision for global domination is clearly evident in the sheer scale of these engineering works and the documentaries provide a fascinating look into how they were constructed, the immense cost involved and the tragic exploitation of human labour that went into each project. For me the Nazi Megastructures episodes were the real stand-outs of the DVD collection. Each episode was both informative and entertaining. The experts were well versed in the material and the re-enactments added a nice sense of immediacy to the subject matter without appearing contrived.
Overall the DVD Collection is another solid effort from National Geographic and in my opinion certainly worth watching.
By Roger Beatson

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