Victory at Sea (1954/2015)
Narrator: Alexander Scourby
Director: Isaac Kleinerman
Music: Richard Rodgers (arr. by Robert Russell Bennett)
Studio: NBC-TV/Film Chest [3/17/15]
Video: 4:3 B&W
Audio: Mono PCM
Length: 98 minutes
While the complete original 26-episode TV series was reissued back in 2005 (and got many complaints, especially about the soundtrack), this is the feature film that was shown theatrically in about 1954. The TV series was one of the major series undertakings of early network TV and had started in October 1952, playing thru May of 1953. Each half-hour program was focused on one aspect of WWII naval warfare and highlighted its major campaigns. A small portion of it was in color.
This feature-length version of the TV series has actual footage from the various sides of the various battles, and sometimes emotionally deals with what our men (as well as those of the enemies) faced during WWII. The transfer was made from a 16mm negative found in the archives, and though it is of course 4:3, I found that really didn’t damage it that severely by stretching to 16:9.
The music by Richard Rodgers – originally just 12 themes from short piano works – is beautifully orchestrated by Bennett, and has been popular on various LPs and CDs ever since. Some time is spent on the Japanese and Italian navies at the start of the war, and on the German submarines, and it shows how those were dealt with later in the war. The narration is not as dated-sounding as on some productions of this period. Definitely an important documentary in an excellent form.