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Koch Vision presents
Terry Jones' Barbarians (2006)

"How dare these primitive savages invade the heart of civilization? With its paved streets, its wealth, its laws, its ordered way of life. Just who did these barbarians think they were? And for that matter, who did we think they were?"
- Terry Jones

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 29, 2008

Stars: Terry Jones
Director: David McNab

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 03h:25m:00s
Release Date: January 08, 2008
UPC: 741952646990
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+B-B- F

DVD Review

Monty Python's Terry Jones returns to his role as wry educator/narrator in this BBC/History Channel production that examines the assorted waves of barbarians who took on the Romans at one time or another, and how our historical perceptions of who they really were may not have been exactly accurate. Like he did with a subject such as The Crusades, Jones easily becomes the kind of teacher we all wish we had, the guy who makes learning a bit more fun than it should be.

This two-disc set from Koch Vision contains all four 50-minute episodes of the series—presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen—entitled Primitive Celts, Savage Goths, The Brainy Barbarians and The End Of The World. With Jones as host (as well as series writer), there is an undeniable irreverence underneath the educating, which focuses primarily on a number of sweeping misconceptions concerning Roman history, especially with regard to the invaders that threatened its expansion. And the underlying theme that perhaps the Romans were not the be-all-end-all of civilizations we have been led to believe, and how Huns and Vandals may not have been quite as primitively ruthless as we've been taught.

There is, however, certainly an agenda at play here, even slathered as it is in scholarly information. Jones' none too subtle anti-Roman slant—especially in episode three where the Romans get a harsh comparison to the Persians and Greeks—periodically threatens to sidestep the main discussion of the invaders (as the series title would indicate). Similarly, the Catholic Church may not be fully appreciative of Jones' episode four critique, but things do connect back somehow, and Jones seems to enjoy his place as the intelligent rabble rouser ready to shake up historical perceptions.

It's rather hard to look at an older, grey-haired Jones and still see the naked guy playing the piano from the old Python days. He's moved well past that, and has now taken on the guise of the witty, unconventional professor who makes history seem new. With Barbarians, the message is don't necessarily believe what you've been taught. And that surely beats a recitation of the same old same old.

And if anything, Jones is forcing viewers to look at the other side of things, as he casts doubt on the sweeping grandeur and power of the Roman Empire (at least as told to us by school books), and gives some perhaps centuries overdo mad props to the historically maligned Celts and Goths.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: All four episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Not the most stunning set of transfers I've ever seen, what with all the soft edges and moderate compression issues, but colors do appear natural and evenly rendered. Kudos to Koch Vision for the widescreen presentation, it's just unfortunate the transfers weren't a little cleaner. Hardly completely rotten, just not as attractive as it could have been.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: A fairly run-of-the-mill Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is the solitary choice here, but it is more than suitable. Jones' narration is clean throughout, and the absence of any grand surround effects or wide-bodied pans is hardly a major concern.

Plain, yet acceptable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras to be found here, not even previews. This two-disc set, however, is packaged in a hinged case, with two episodes on each platter. Each 50-minute episode is cut into 8 chapters.

Extras Grade: F

 

Final Comments

Terry Jones does indeed make history lessons enjoyable, and this two-disc exploration of the barbarians who threatened Roman rule reveals some rather surprising facts about these so-called uncivilized savages.

The lack of extras is disappointing, but the content is an educational hoot. Recommended.

 


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