Hitler’s Bodyguard  DVD Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 7.5
Video 7.0
Audio 6.0
Special Features N/A
Total 7.0
Distributor: Roadshow
Classification: E
Minutes: 606 minutes
Reviewer: Simon Black


Hitler’s Bodyguard

There were over 40 serious attempts on the life of the Führer in the decade leading up to his suicide at the end of World War II.  That he managed to evade death on so many occasions, in several instances by what appeared to be nothing more than mere chance, instilled in Hitler the unshakable belief that he was an agent of fate.  ‘What will be will be’ he said on more than one occasion, and as the numerous efforts of would-be assassins failed time and again, the German people likewise began to believe in the infallibility of their leader. 

Not that everything, of course, was left entirely to chance.  The SS, Hitler’s personal bodyguard, was drawn from the ranks of the SA, the Nazi Stormtroopers then under the command of Ernst Röhm.  In contrast to Winston Churchill’s almost non-existent security forces the SS would eventually number in the hundreds of thousands, though of course only a fraction of that number were assigned to Hitler’s personal protection corps.  Swearing fealty to Hitler above all else, SS men chosen for their physical and racial characteristics pledged to protect the maniacal dictator, and unfortunately for the 50-70 million people who died during World War II they did, for the most part, a decidedly decent job. 

Courtesy of the production team responsible for the documentaries World War II at a Glance and Churchill’s Bodyguard, this comprehensive study leaves no stone unturned in its exploration of Hitler’s personal security forces.  The excellent archive footage is effectively employed, the narrative proves dramatic and engrossing from the start and the bitter infighting and jealous rivalries of the Nazi high command are all put neatly into context.  

That being said, the series is not without its flaws.  Though each episode stands alone brilliantly the ten-hour, sixteen-part series does run out of steam towards the middle, saved only by some excellent later episodes regarding the Berghof assassination attempt  and Hitler’s ultimate demise in his dank Berlin bunker.  The fact that much of the footage is recycled and the way themes constantly encircle one another also discourages the watching of several episodes at once.  There is no scene selection menu, and the lack of an episode list on the box cover or discs themselves means you don’t know what is on each of the four discs until you insert it. 

The episode list is, incidentally, as follows: 

The Inner Circle
In the 1920s, Hitler recruited street-fighting bullies to guard party meetings. They would soon become known as the SA.  As Hitler's career evolved, the SA grew and their rival SS was created, with the two factions endlessly competing for the prestigious position of guarding Hitler. 

Assassination Attempts
The rivalry between the SA and the SS heats up as Hitler's power grows.  Hermann Goering and Ernst Röhm square off in their attempts to get closer to their rising leader.  Hitler's near-fatal revolt of 1923 and his subsequent arrest serve to promote his ambition. 

Kill the New Chancellor
When Hitler becomes Chancellor in 1933, immediate threats on his life are made and quickly thwarted.  These threats escalate into serious attempts when Hitler seizes absolute power after the burning of the Reichstag. 

Operation Hummingbird
A storm brews as the SA grows into a force of more than 4 million.  Röhm's ambition is to make the SA the main power in the Nazi state.  The SA has become most serious threat to Hitler's survival, and is rumoured to be plotting his overthrow.  

Enemies of the Führer
Within a few months of Hitler becoming dictator of Germany, his enemies increase substantially.  The persecution of the Jews leads to several attempts to kill him, whilst students, organizations and the Soviet Union all contemplate or attempt killing the beleaguered Hitler. 

Before the War
In 1938, Hitler makes his aggressive intentions clear.  Occupations of Austria and Czechoslovakia enormously increase his personal enemies.  German officers plot to overthrow and kill Hitler, but their plans diminish with the invasion of Poland. 

Elser's Bomb
As Hitler begins his aggressive expansion, the German army sets up a special unit of trained soldiers to guard his military headquarters and escort him on visits to the front.   A Communist sympathiser named Georg Elser is arrested after Hitler comes close to being killed by the bomb Elser planted in a beer hall where Hitler was engaged to speak. 

The Paris Attempt
Hitler was a car fanatic, however his love of travelling through massive crowds in open-topped Mercedes presented his guards with particular problems.  While following his armies during the Blitzkriegs in Poland and France, Hitler recklessly puts himself in danger. 

Hitler's Flights
Hitler appreciated the power of aircraft, not only as a military weapon, but as a political tool.  During the early 1930s, he hired aircraft for election campaigning, often facing weather and mechanical problems, as well as specific assassination attempts. 

Hitler's Train
As Hitler's empire expanded, the need for a secure, mobile military headquarters led him to use a specially reinforced train, the Führer-Sonderzug.  Code named 'Amerika', this became an armoured monster with anti-aircraft armaments and state-of-the-art communications. 

The Wolf's Lair
Hitler's most famous headquarters, the Wolfschanze or 'Wolf's Lair', was near Rastenburg deep in the forests of East Prussia.  From here Hitler directed the titanic campaign against the Soviet Union. 

The Berghof
The Berghof, near Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Obersalzberg, was the nearest Hitler had to a home.  Here he was surrounded by close colleagues and their families, and relax amid the mountain scenery. 

The Bunker Plot
By early 1945, Hitler was held up in his bunker deep beneath the Reichschancellery as the Red Army surrounded Berlin.  His colleagues and officers plot to either kill Hitler or escape the bunker and negotiate with the Allies. 

Despite the detail and the near flawless presentation of Hitler’s Bodyguard, my main problem with the series (other than the duplication of footage) is the fact that peerless narrator Robert Powell feels it incumbent upon himself to impersonate Hitler and other prominent National Socialists like Röhm and Goering.  His dodgy German accent and silly voices completely rob the Nazis’ words of any power, and appear comical and grating in a series that is otherwise as polished and professional as any ever released on the subject.

Regardless of its flaws Hitler’s Bodyguard still stands as an exhaustive and enlightening glimpse into the daily life of the Führer, the extraordinary efforts taken to protect him, and the demise of the fascinating personality that brought Europe and much of the rest of the world to the brink of total chaos.


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