Time To Remember
R2 - United Kingdom - Studio Canal
Review written by and copyright: Adrian Busby (9th November 2011).
The Show

Press Release:

TIME TO REMEMBER is a series recounting through the exclusive use of British Pathe’s newsreel footage the dramatic social, political and cultural transformation of the Western World in the first half of the 20th century. Divided into 12 thematic episodes, this series is based on the stunning footage and narrative of the 1960s landmark documentary of the same name. Now updated for a 21st century audience, the TIME TO REMEMBER series promises to yet again captivate audiences of all generations and demonstrate its enduring appeal.

Executively produced by David Okuefuna, TIME TO REMEMBER explores the iconic and pivotal moments, as well as the new and passing social trends, which served to define the first half of the 20th century. From Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee to the allied victory in 1945, via suffragettes, flappers and music hall stars, all aspects of the society are featured in this wide-ranging series.


This 3 disc set includes all 12 x 30 minute episodes of the 2010 series (although I was only able to watch half of them). Each episode features footage from numerous episodes of the original series, re-edited for a modern audience and collectively covering the period 1896 – 1945. The footage sometimes features original narration from a wealth of British acting talent from the time plus every episode has new narration from Lesley Sharp.

Disc One

Pioneers Of Aviation: The first episode presents footage of the brave men and women (and their machines) who took to the skies in the first half of the 20th century. It includes footage of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk; President Theodore Roosevelt becoming the first head of state to fly in an aeroplane and Charles Lindbergh's first solo transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St Louis in 1927.

The footage of a crashed but almost intact zeppelin is scary – simply because of the scale of the thing and the thought of what it was designed to achieve. And by direct contrast is the striking footage of the Hindenberg peace time disaster.

Original narration features Dame Edith Evans, Stanley Holloway, Roger Livesey, Niall MacGinnis, Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir Basil Rathbone, Sir Michael Redgrave and Sir Ralph Richardson.

Stage And Screen: This episode presents archive footage from theatres, music halls and cinemas in the 1920s & 30s to provide a glimpse of the entertainment industries. It includes footage of Charles Laughton applying his own stage make-up; West End rehearsals and Alfred Hitchcock's first talkie, 1929's Blackmail.

I found the stage and music hall footage unnecessarily long compared to that devoted to the screen which was infinitely more interesting to watch.

Original narration is provided by Sir Basil Rathbone and Sir Ralph Richardson. It is supported by additional narration by Lesley Sharp which helps to better explain the era and the changes occurring at the time.

Casualties Of War: I didn't watch this episode due to time constraints but the Press Release tells us that it illustrates the scale of the sacrifice made by ordinary people during the 20th century's two world wars. Includes footage of recruitment and training for the Great War; soldiers going over the top in the trenches; celebrations at the end of World War One; the evacuation of 300,000 men from Dunkirk in 1940; and Hurricanes taking off during the Battle of Britain.

A Woman's World: Time constraints meant I skipped this episode too but the Press Release says: An insight into the ways women's roles in society changed through the first five decades of the 20th century. Includes newsreel footage of Suffragette protest, including Emily Davison at the 1913 Derby; working women during the First World War; Suzanne Lenglen playing tennis; and something of the fashions of the 20s and 30s.

Pushing The Boundaries: Innovation, technological breakthroughs and human endeavour combine to make a great episode which includes footage of tanks on the battlefields of the Great War; Scott's expedition to Antarctica; Mallory and Irving on Everest; Roosevelt at the Boulder Dam; a fantastic car roll cage and an ingenious parking aid.

There are also some hilarious ‘feats of achievement’ here. Unfortunately I did notice some repetition of footage from the Pioneers Of Aviation and Stage And Screen episode. Although, given the re-edited nature of the original series into themed episodes here, I suspect this is the case throughout all the episodes and is understandable.

The original narration features Roland Culver, Dame Edith Evans, Stanley Holloway, John Ireland, Roger Livesey, Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir Basil Rathbone, Sir Michael Redgrave and Sir Ralph Richardson.

Disc Two

The Royal Families: This is another skipped episode but the Press Release says: The fortunes and fates of the European royal dynasties during the first half of the 20th century, showing an era of war, revolution, assassination and abdication. Includes footage of Queen Victoria at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations; Queen Victoria's funeral; Edward VII hunting; Tsar Nicholas II of Russian; Victor Emmanuel of Italy; Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany; Franz Josef of Austria in Sarajevo; George V's coronation, Silver Jubilee and funeral; King Albert of Belgium; Edward VIII; Emperor Hirohito; King Alexander of Yugoslavia being assassinated in Marseilles in 1934; King Boris of Bulgaria; Edward VIII's 1936 abdication statement; George VI's coronation; Queen Elizabeth II as a child.

Nations At Play: This episode features the fun and frolics of how the nation spent its leisure time in the 1st half of the 20th century: from Henley regattas, Royal Ascot and the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley to the Victorian fairground and seaside. Such escapism is of course marred by two World Wars and the announcement of the Second World War from 10 Downing Street in 1939 is a particularly poignant and moving moment.

The original narration features Roland Culver, Joyce Grenfell, Stanley Holloway, John Ireland, Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir Basil Rathbone, Sir Michael Redgrave and Sir Ralph Richardson.

The Pursuit Of Peace: I missed this episode too so, from the Press Release: Tells the story of the struggle to maintain peace in the decades after the Great War. The politicians' high hopes for improved international relations through the League of Nations were gradually eroded by expansionism and aggression across the globe. Includes footage of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles; the first Armistice Day parade in 1919; Ramsay MacDonald addressing the League of Nations in 1924; Neville Chamberlain's visits to Germany to negotiate with Hitler; the liberations of Rome and Paris in the summer of 1944; the signing of the German surrender in 1945; and the signing of the United Nations charter.

Crime And Prohibition: The episode tells the story of the media circus that surrounded notorious American gangsters and criminals. The majority of the episode is dominated by the Lindbergh baby murder trial, but it was very interesting, especially as I knew little about this period of US history.

It also features footage of 'rumrunners' trying to beat prohibition; mobster Jack 'Legs' Diamond; John Dillinger and Al Capone with original narration provided by John Ireland.

Civilians At War: Lack of time means another skipped episode. The Press Release says The impact of two world wars on the UK's civilian population. Here are the war stories from the home front. Includes footage of circus elephants being used as farm animals during the Great War; a pram protected against gas attack; footage of Londoners bedding down in the Underground during World War Two; and the celebrations at the end of both global conflicts.

Disc Three

The Need For Speed: This episode features many of the men and women who sought to go further and faster on land, sea and in the air including: Malcolm Campbell in Bluebird; the first ever Monaco Grand Prix; the Spitfire; Amelia Earhart; and Jean Batten, the first person to hold simultaneously the solo flight records between the UK and Australia in both directions. There is once again some repetition of footage with other episodes but was yet again another interesting episode if you’re not already aware of the details it presents.

The original narration features William Bendix, Roland Culver, Dame Edith Evans, Roger Livesey, Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir Basil Rathbone, Sir Michael Redgrave and Sir Ralph Richardson.

In Times Of Need: And one last episode for which I'm relying on the Press Release: Insights into the hardships and privations of the 20s and 30s on both sides of the Atlantic. Includes footage of the bombing in Wall Street in 1920; preparations for the 1926 UK General Strike; and images of the American dustbowl in the 30s.

Video

As expected from footage which, in many cases, is over 100 years old, the film is rough, grainy, scratchy and sometimes jumpy but it’s never unwatchable. The footage could of course be cleaned up but I really don't think it would improve the series. If anything, it would loose its charm.

Audio

The series is presented with a single stereo audio track which is also perfectly adequate for the documentary presentation. As per the video, the audio does suffer from the age of the film, with noticeable snaps, crackles and pops but, again, I think that's understandable and I wouldn't have it any other way. Cleaning up the audio would be like watching cine-film without the sound of the projector - you'd miss it if it wasn't there.

Extras

Two episodes from the original series are included as extras:

The Reluctant Warriors: Narrated by (Sir) Michael Redgrave this episode concentrates on 1939 - the lead up to and the first few months of the Second World War, i.e. a truly harrowing period of World history. Much of the footage is thought provoking and poignant.

Included is footage of:
- the British public's last, hot summer before the war
- General Franco after the Spanish Civil War
- Germany's invasion of Prague
- Italy's invasion of Albania
- Germany's invasion of Poland
- King George VI's attending the emergency cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street
- Britain's declaration of war with Germany
- Reservists called up and evacuees sent away
- The scary images of the gas mask clad British public
- The fall of Warsaw
- Mussolini and Hitler meeting

Time Of The Suffragettes: The episode is narrated by Dame Edith Evans and covers 1911-1913. Footage to demonstrate the suffragette struggle to get votes for women is dispersed throughout the episode and includes images of the Pankhurst family, suffragette marches, demonstrations and the tragic death of Emily Davison at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

Other news worthy items included are:
- the memorial for Queen Victoria
- Robert Scott's doomed mission to the South Pole aboard the Terra Nova
- the 1911 Delhi Darbar for King George V
- the tragic voyage of the SS Titanic
- King George V's visit to Berlin in the lead up to the First World War
- the formation of the Royal Flying Corps
- the last summer of peace before the First World War

There are obviously some very poignant moments presented here and I actually preferred the chronological presentation of the events over the themed episodes of the newer series.

Overall

A wonderful 3 disc set of some mundane but mostly wonderful old footage from the 1st half of the 20th century. It's a shame there aren't any original extras but with about 6 hours of new episodes plus 50 minutes of original episodes, there is plenty here already.

The Show: A- Video: B Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B

 


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