This is a collection of nine short training films, remastered on DVD by International Historic Films, your go-to guys for Nazi propaganda of all kinds.
Die Frontschau (English translation? We have faith in your intellect to figure it out) was a Wehrmacht term for films made for the education of replacement units and troops. This disc contains nine separate short films. They are:
- Mountain Troops Battle for a Town, classic light infantry combat.
- Advance, movement in front and rear areas, on foot and in motorized convoy.
- Russian Construction of Fighting Positions, including some interesting bunkers and some very clever tank traps designed to capture the tanks’ treads in pits where they’d have no traction, with the tank high-centered in between.
- Infantry on the Attack, walks through a typical small unit attack on a defended position.
- Construction of Positions and Shelters, this is from the German side. Amusing praise of the new wonder material: plywood.
- Attack by Infantry and Armor on a town, pretty much what it describes
- Crossing Ice Surfaces, and Watercourses with Drifting Ice, this gives you a sense of the difficulties of keeping lines of communications open on the Russian Front.
- Defensive Battle in Winter, light infantry action in the snows around Leningrad.
- Terrain Difficulties in the East, Winter and Spring, another unflinching look at “Russia’s greatest general” and its effects on the Wehrmacht.
The disc announces that it is remastered and improved. We’ll have more on that claim below.
It does have an English language narrative (an accurately translated one), audio superimposed over the original German soundtrack. You can select either track. The DVD is Region 0 (i.e. it will play anywhere in the world).
The material is all interesting and sometimes unexpected. It brings home just how dependent the German logistics were on railways and animal-drawn transport, and how those were, in turn, dependent on human minds and muscles to maintain and repair ways, and to drive animals. For all the noise made about Blitzkrieg, the American, British, and Red Armies were all much more motorized than their German opponents.
Acting and Production
There is no acting per se; it’s just German soldiers doing their thing for the combat cameramen of the Propagandakompanien, along with some images of Soviet troops from captured Russian combat camera footage.
The original videos were well scripted, narrated, and edited with an unobtrusive but excellent sound track. As they were meant for East-bound soldiers, they’re far from a happy-face propaganda look at the war, and they evidence a considerable respect for Ivan as a well-led, bold and tenacious fighting man.
The quality of the reproduction is not that great. It is all formatted to television aspect ratio, suggesting that this is a remastered VHS product. It is definitely very far from first-generation video, and as a result it’s grainy. But it is generally well shot and well focused, and that’s something.
The DVD mastering on our sample was good (not always our experience with IHF) and the menus worked.
Accuracy and Weapons
Naturally, this real-world documentary video shows real-world weapons firing live ammunition. Some of these are really worthwhile. For example, you get a good look at German engineers dealing with ice around bridges and railway trestles. They blow it in place to prevent damage to the bridge.
Every imaginable kind of Wehrmacht weapon and vehicle seems to have a cameo in the field, like this platoon leader with an MP.40:
But this company commander is using a captured Tokarev SVT 1940 rifle:
The Soviets are well represented, with rifles….
… and Soviet light tanks.
And then there are some images that just surprise you, like the scenes of Germans sailing ice boats on frozen lakes and rivers, and using reindeer as pack animals.
We found the engineering aspects most interesting, as the Germans and Russians built, assaulted and defended positions very differently.
The difficulties of operating in the great expanses of Russia are made very clear. You might not need to be insane to attack this place, but with Hitler and Napoleon, Western Europe is 0 for 2.
The bottom line
This is a time capsule of information meant for internal use by the then-victorious German Army in Russia. Anyone interested in how things were done on the Eastern Front in the early years, or looking for hints as to why this one got away from the Germans, would probably enjoy it.
For more information
These sites relate to this particular film.
- Amazon.com DVD page:
It’s actually a couple bucks less direct from IHF:
- IMDB page (they describe it erroneously as “propaganda newsreels”. It’s actually training films, and it’s pretty unstinting in its depiction of the difficulties awaiting Germans im Osten):
- IMFDB page (none):
- Rotten Tomatoes review page (none):
- Infogalactic page: (none)
- History vs. Hollywood Page. (n/a).