This 282-minute version of Das Boot is the full-length TV series, originally shown in six parts but here edited into a seamless whole. Director Wolfgang Petersen has since graduated to mega-budget Hollywood productions (2004's Troy for example), but has never managed even to come close to this, his German-language masterpiece. Petersen and his sterling cast (including Jürgen Prochnow in his best role as the U-boat captain) went to great lengths to ensure that this claustrophobic depiction of life aboard the German sub U-97 while attacking British convoys in the Atlantic is thoroughly authentic and totally convincing. Even the set itself, which is a replica of a U-boat interior, had no false walls, so all camera angles are necessarily from within its horribly narrow, overcrowded and sweaty confines. The result is certainly the finest submarine drama ever made, and one of the most compelling depictions of the physical, psychological and emotional effects of warfare.
This mini-series is rather longer than the movie version, which is also available on DVD in a Director's Cut version. The differences are not in matters of plot, but in the pacing: everything here takes longer to happen, while the crew must sit around, bicker, swear and sweat it out--the agonising searching for action, the tension of the attack, the terrible stress of hiding from enemy destroyers. Everything unfolds as if in real time, which is the great advantage a TV production has over a movie (contrast, for example, Band of Brothers with Saving Private Ryan). This, therefore, is the definitive presentation of a World War II classic.
On the DVD: Das Boot is presented on two discs, with no breaks where the original TV episodes started and finished. The default language option is German with optional English subtitles. For those constitutionally allergic to subtitles there is also an alternative English-language dub, voiced by many of the original cast (including Prochnow). Sound is adequate stereo or Dolby 5.1, and the anamorphic widescreen is good for the murky green underwater shots. Unlike the theatrical version, though, there is no commentary.