by Marty Demarest
Band of Brothers is one of the greatest things ever made for television: a 10-episode miniseries chronicling Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. This elite rifle company landed in Normandy on D-Day, was surrounded by Axis forces in the Battle of the Bulge, and captured Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. Each of these accomplishments is breathtakingly presented. From the sight of hundreds of parachutes descending above a flashing, combat-filled landscape, to the interior views of a cathedral-turned-hospital, producers Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks spared no expense in realizing a view of combat in World War II that has never been dramatized before.
However, much of Band of Brothers' power comes from its emotional honesty. An entire episode told from the perspective of one of the medics captures the fear that a shortage of supplies created. The portrayal of the company's training in Georgia tunes us in to the bonds forged between the men that combat will be unable to undo.
While the series stands on its own as an extraordinary accomplishment, HBO's DVD release is something even greater. First among the set's merits is the interactive menus that accompany each episode. Every character is given a biography, which viewers can access episode-by-episode, or by searching a database of the entire Easy Company. There are also maps, a World War II timeline, a glossary of combat terms and a guide to military ranks.
Also included are several features that rise above the usual filling found on DVD releases. A half-hour making-of documentary is fascinating; but more interesting on this topic is actor Ron Livingston's Video Diaries of the filming of the miniseries. And a moving feature-length documentary, We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company, tells the story of the company in interviews with surviving members.
These additions make Band of Brothers one of the most astonishing DVD sets available. While the $120 price tag may seem steep, the quality present in what amounts to $12 each episode will quickly lay to rest any concerns buyers have. Anyone with a faint interest in WWII will be overwhelmed; every high school should own a copy; lovers of film will be amazed. There may be no tribute great enough for the soldiers of the Easy Company, but this collection is a start.