Chapter Two [1979]

The second half of this massive miniseries covers events from the last two years of World War II with members of our fictitious family--the Henrys--scattered throughout the world. Pariah "Pug" Henry (Robert Mitchum) visits Russia and England as an advisor--and proposes to his much-younger lover, Pamela (Victoria Tennant)--before retuning to the Pacific theater to join his son Byron (Hart Bochner), a submariner, in battling the Japanese. Meanwhile, Byron's wife, Natalie (Jane Seymour), and her uncle (John Gielgud) continue their harrowing plight, starting in the "Paradise Ghetto" and leading to the Auschwitz concentration camp. This half--11.5 hours--aired on ABC in May 1989, six months after the first half. Unfortunately there is no kinetic battle sequence like the first half's Midway clash to absorb the viewer. Director Dan Curtis relies more on newsreel footage (and the sometimes heavy-handedness of narrator William Woodson) to cover large events. To compensate, the filmmakers give inordinate screen time to the conspiracy to kill Hitler (Steven Berkoff) by his inner circle. Like in Herman Wouk's novel, Hitler's decision to eliminate the Jews is the backbone of the entire series and the film's steely reenactments of these events--an amazing achievement for network television--is quite harrowing. Authenticity (filming at Auschwitz) plus ace performances (Seymour has been rarely better, Gielgud is outstanding) combine for a powerful statement, although the whole production is sometimes weighed down by the soap-opera elements of the Henrys' lives. The original Winds of War miniseries had a higher caliber cast, which is missed here. However, a few actors shine in their atypical performances, including Barry Bostwick (who tied with Gielgud for the Golden Globe) as a flamboyant submariner and David Dukes as a desk side attaché who reaches new depths in the war. Although admired and very watchable, the series did not impact the industry as much as its predecessor or sweep the award circuit as other miniseries (Roots, Holocaust, etc.) did, although it did take home the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries. The 7-DVD set contains an informative booklet, a CD soundtrack, and a disc of extras. Dan Curtis makes comments over 70 select minutes of the series (shown out of context), hitting the highlights of filming, a nice way of letting the filmmaker talk without searching for the commentary throughout the various discs. There's a new 30-minute feature combining new and old footage on the making of this massive production, and a 15-minute featurette on composer Bob Cobert. --Doug Thomas

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