Pathfinder Home Entertainment
Cast: Olympic Team, Adolf Hitler
Extras: Short Film, Text Biography, Text Essay, Newsreel.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest sports documentaries ever made, Leni Riefenstahl's, "Olympia" is a film divided into two parts which covers the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Festival of the Nations – This piece opens with a montage of ancient Greece architecture, culminating in the lighting of the Torch. I felt this opening was too drawn out lasting almost 15 minutes without any dialogue. Many shots celebrate the human body through use of slow motion techniques while some of the athletes are in action.
Note: The back of the DVD case states Adolf Hitler looks on in stunned amazement while Jesse Owens, an American black runner who defeated Hitler's so called "supermen" and won four Gold Medals! However, there is none of Hitler's reaction to be seen. Only the moments when Hitler is happy that Germans have won medals are seen here. I recall seeing the clip years ago, which contained Hitler's reaction shot to Owens – and it simply is not here on a DVD set that purports to be the uncut version of Olympia.
Filmed in full frame, the transfer is acceptable considering this was filmed in 1936 and is a black and white documentary. Though there is minor dirt and debris as well as splice lines popping up throughout, it doesn't take away from viewing the material. Audio comes way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 track in English and German. The sound was acceptable considering the age and source material.
Festival of Beauty – This documentary captures the grace of the athletes during their various sporting events. Highlights are the Pentathlon and Decathlon, both of which were won by Glenn Morris, an American. The opening montage is very strange and the homo-erotic overtones cannot be ignored. We get shots of nude men jumping into a river, then heading into the steambaths and rubbing each down – all while naked as the camera lingers on the water and sweat dripping off their faces as they smile at each other. Very bizarre. Also shot in full frame, the transfer and audio are the same as disc one.
This disc also contains the special features. First is a text biography of Leni Riefenstahl which made for some interesting reading. There is one deleted scene (Olympic Oath) and 6 alternate scenes of sailing, women's gymnastics, fencing, wrestling, boxing and Scoreboards. There isn't anything special about these scenes, other than they were edited out of the film at one time for supposed propaganda content. I didn't see anything in these scenes to be construed in that manner. Each scene runs about 2 minutes in length. There is also a text essay in which we are told this version of Olympia is the uncut version. But that statement cannot be true as the text goes on to state this is the version that contains Hitler with a halo around his head, and awarding two Gold medals to winners. These scenes are simply not here, as well as the scene I stated earlier which I recalled seeing Hitler's disappointed reaction shot when Jesse Owens won his medals – and which the back of the DVD cover says is included.
Also on this disc is a 22-minute film entitled "Youth of the World." It wasn't filmed by Leni, and is poorly edited as well as pretty boring. We get shots of cross country skiing, bobsledding, figure skating, downhill skiing, as well as ski jumping – all set to annoying music and no dialogue. The transfer is pretty beat up as well. Many images are overblooming and blurry. It can be watched, but is nowhere near as clean a presentation as "Olympia." Finishing up this disc is a 12-minute German newsreel short entitled, "The Camera Comes Along." It's just that, old newsreel footage following some athletes. Nothing of historical interest to be found here.
In conclusion, knowing there is material not present in this set, despite what the DVD back cover as well as the text essay says – I cannot recommend "Olympia."