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Finest Hour - The Battle of Britain (DVD)


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Review

Simply said, Finest Hour is one of the best documentaries on the Battle of Britain. Combining impeccable narration, personal accounts, and stunning footage--some previously unseen--it exceeds even PBS's typically high standards. It is both a collection of personal stories--interspersed with inspiring and often touching reports from men and women who were there--and a tale of the behind-the-scenes relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt.

The story begins in 1940 as the Low Countries and France are occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union has not yet entered the war--and the Luftwaffe begins to litter Britain, especially London, with thousands upon thousands of bombs. The only thing standing in the way between Britain and the German army was the English Channel. Onto this stage emerged Winston Churchill, a prime minister in whom not every Briton had a great deal of faith under such critical circumstances. The documentary juxtaposes the fears individuals had at the switch in leadership with Churchill's own struggle to solidify his leadership and shore up morale--all in the face of the nightly blitz. Behind the scenes, Churchill found it essential to bring the United States into the war. His and Roosevelt's political relationship evolved into a kind of friendship, but initially the popularity of isolationism at home restricted Roosevelt's ability to contribute to the British war effort, despite his vehement personal opposition to Nazism.

This two-tape set will be one of the definitive visual histories of Britain's struggle, and no serious historian should be missing it in a collection. --Erik Macki


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