Koch Vision // 2003 // 186 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // October 25th, 2007
"By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise."...Adolf Hitler
"...you can easily see how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country, which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way that he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made."...John F. Kennedy
"The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing."...Edmund Burke
A mini-series that originally aired in 2003 on CBS, Hitler: The Rise of Evil follows Adolf Hitler's steady rise to power leading up to World War II. An all-star cast that includes Robert Carlyle (Adolf Hitler), Matthew Modine (Fritz Gerlich), and Peter O'Toole (President Hindenburg) tackle the challenging and emotionally charged material with sensitivity and skill.
At the same time, one of history's most recognizable and infamous figures, there is no question that Adolf Hitler raised the a nation to its feet and returned it to its former glory, following the crippling aftereffects of World War I. A charismatic and intelligent leader and strategist, Hitler was able to use his power and influence to commit and sanction some of the most horrible atrocities ever committed in human history. His ultimate legacy is one of horror and disbelief that is still felt around the world to this day.
From the moment CBS announced to TV critics that they were embarking on a mini-series about Adolf Hitler, including parts of his childhood and teenage years, the task was a challenge to say the least. Network executives were shocked by the intensity of criticism they received, but that criticism was only the beginning of the challenges to follow. Budget issues, script approvals and casting woes seemed to plague the production from the start.
With two months to go before the start of production, documentary filmmaker David Cherniak takes a close look at the making of Hitler: The Rise of Evil in his documentary "Hitler and I: Reflections of Evil." With no lead actor cast, an incomplete shooting script, the project almost $2 million over budget and difficulty finding shooting locations with the name "Hitler" attached to the production, tensions plague the production. On a personal note, a chill ran up my spine the first time I saw Robert Carlyle in full character makeup and costume. It was as if Hitler himself had come back to play the title role.
But what is the ultimate result of the production's efforts?
The picture and sound quality of this release vary widely among the contents. The Hitler: The Rise of Evil feature fares best, with a truly stunning picture and clear, crisp sound. From an opening montage of scenes from Hitler's childhood and young adult years, we see a litany of hardships, not in a quest to excuse his later actions, but possibly to better understand them. An actor who has always been skilled at immersing himself in his roles, Robert Carlyle all but becomes Adolf Hitler and fully embodies the role, skillfully transforming from embittered rejected artist into iconic national leader.
As one can imagine, comprised almost exclusively of black and white archival footage, "Hitler: A Career" fares rather poorly on the picture front, with damage to the majority of the footage. However, realizing the intent of the feature is to recount historical facts behind Hitler's rise to power, actual footage is the best source material to have used. The accompanying narration is anchored primarily in the center channel. A powerful retelling of Hitler's political background and even some aspects of his limited personal life, this feature is a strong companion piece.
In "Hitler and I: Reflections of Evil," filmmaker David Cherniak says "history is usually more complex than the stories we tell about it." The picture and audio are solid in this feature, but grounded by the documentary format. During the near one hour feature, Cherniak covers nearly all aspects of the production, including script development, casting, make-up, and the central issue of serving the subject material as honestly as possible, without glorifying or trivializing it. During this feature, Ed Gernon, executive producer on Hitler: The Rise of Evil, says of the project "it's a living example of how good men can do bad things for the right reasons."
It's unfortunate there are no commentaries to accompany this release, as I would have been very interested to hear the thoughts and reactions of the rabbis and other scholars who were asked to review the script and provide their comments for incorporation. As an actor myself, I also would have been very interested to hear from Robert Carlyle as to how he prepared for the role and approached the challenge of being true to history without unduly glamorizing the subject.
Hitler: The Rise of Evil brings much of Hitler's back story to light. As the project's producers are the first to acknowledge, there are still many grey areas in Hitler's life that are missing from historical records. There is even speculation that Hitler himself may have had these details destroyed and a new history fabricated, portraying him as a humble worker who overcame struggles to lead Germany into a new era. The ultimate question still remains...what happens during the upbringing and socialization of an individual to cause them to become so seemingly sociopathic in their outlook on other human beings?
More than simply a poster child for evil, Adolf Hitler was a complex and flawed human being. By learning more about him, perhaps we can better understand and better prevent the events of World War II from ever happening again. Hitler: The Rise of Evil is solid presentation and an excellent primer on the factual evidence and fictional hypotheses that led to the development and actions of Adolf Hitler. I find this release not guilty and worthy of congratulations for providing viewers with a well-rounded account of the historical and personal factors that forged Adolf Hitler.
Review content copyright © 2007 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 186 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Hitler: A Career"
* "Hitler and I: Reflections of Evil"
* Wikipedia - Hitler: The Rise of Evil