"THE MURDER OF JFK: A REVISIONIST HISTORY"
Running Time: 2 Hours, 20 Minutes
Video: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
DVD Release Date: February 28, 2006 (MPI Home Video)
DVD Back Cover
"THE MURDER OF JFK: A REVISIONIST HISTORY" makes a very nice addition to any collection of John F. Kennedy-related materials (regardless of whether you're "pro-conspiracy", "anti-conspiracy", or somewhere in-between with respect to your particular beliefs regarding President Kennedy's assassination).
Although a definite thread of conspiratorial belief most certainly is woven into this documentary, it's not shamefully brazen or overly ridiculous-sounding in terms of conspiracy, which is unlike many of the other outlandish JFK theories and plots that have been postulated in the various books, films, and documentaries over the years.
What this program fails to do, though, is to delve in any depth whatsoever into the life (and more importantly, the mind) of Lee Harvey Oswald, a man who I believe killed President Kennedy all by himself in 1963.
Oswald's role in the assassination is pretty much glossed over here; and, strangely, Jack Ruby (the man who killed Oswald) is barely even mentioned in this documentary.
There's a short clip of Ruby murdering Oswald in the police basement, but after that snippet the subject of Ruby comes up (as I recall) only one other time, during a rather strange film clip showing a group of protestors demanding the immediate release of Dallas prisoner "John Ruby". (Oddly, these protestors didn't even seem to know the true name of the man they were fighting so hard to have released from jail. Ruby's real name, before he changed it to Jack Ruby, was Jacob Rubenstein.)
"A Revisionist History" is a lengthy program, with a running time of 140 minutes (not the 180 minutes that is advertised on the DVD). It was made in 1999 and won an award for "best use of news footage in a documentary". And I can see why.
This DVD is loaded with rare news snippets associated with JFK's terrible murder, which occurred in Dallas, Texas, on November 22nd, 1963. There are many news clips presented here that I had never seen before, including quite a bit of footage taken during the years leading up to Kennedy's death.
"Revisionist" hints at a possible "Cuban connection" with respect to JFK's ultimate demise, and thusly this documentary features several video and film clips taken in Havana around the time that Fidel Castro gained control of Cuba.
One such interesting clip was culled from "The Ed Sullivan Show" of January 5, 1960, where Sullivan puts on his interviewer's hat and asks Castro some hard-hitting questions. Fidel, in a classic bit of irony, informs Mr. Sullivan (and, hence, America) -- "You can be sure that Batista will be the last dictator of Cuba."
Some of the video footage seen in this program can also be found in another excellent, must-see documentary film on the Kennedy assassination, that being 1964's "Four Days In November" (narrated by actor Richard Basehart).
"Four Days" in many ways serves as a good companion program to "A Revisionist History", insofar as presenting a large dose of vintage filmed materials relating to the JFK case.
In my own opinion, "Four Days In November" (which consists of almost nothing but vintage, archival news footage, circa 1963) is superior to all other Kennedy films and documentaries, with a musical score by Elmer Bernstein that is also second to none.
But this "Revisionist History" program has its own set of high points in the "vintage footage" department as well, making it a pretty good bookend piece to "Four Days".
Some of the highlights worth noting from "A Revisionist History" include:
- A good-sized portion of a June 22, 1964, interview with Texas Governor John Connally (via KRLD-TV in Dallas). Mr. Connally, after having recounted the entire assassination sequence which had occurred exactly seven months earlier, becomes quite emotional at the end of this footage. This black-and-white clip (which appears to be on videotape and not film) exhibits super-sharp video and audio quality.
- Footage showing John Connally introducing Lyndon Johnson as a candidate for the Presidency at the Democratic National Convention on July 10, 1960.
- Two brief rarely-seen film clips (in color) showing Lee Harvey Oswald during his altercation with police on the streets of New Orleans in the summer of 1963.
- The November 29, 1963, telephone call between new President Lyndon Johnson and Senator Richard Russell, discussing the creation of LBJ's Warren Commission, of which Senator Russell was strongly opposed to being a member (as can be heard in this phone call). Excellent audio quality attached to this clip, too. [Listen to the entire 11/29/63 phone call HERE.]
- Very rare film clip (I'd never seen it before) showing Warren Commission members standing outside the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas in July 1964. This black-and-white film footage is accompanied by audio as well, with the microphones picking up some comments made by Allen Dulles and David Belin. This unique footage also shows Dulles and Belin looking out at Elm Street (where JFK was assassinated) from behind the picket fence atop the now-famous Grassy Knoll in Dealey Plaza.*
* = I thought that that particular "Behind The Picket Fence" portion of this 1964 footage was rather interesting, in that it certainly indicated that the Warren Commission members were, in a sense, not totally ignoring the idea that one or more shots on 11/22/63 could have conceivably come from behind that fence -- otherwise, why would the Commission and its staff have even bothered to have a look for themselves at the view that a potential assassin would have had from that Knoll vantage point? Conspiracists will no doubt argue that the Commission members were merely "going through the motions" for the press, which was following the Warren Commission's every move in Dealey Plaza that day, as can be observed in these film clips.
- Portions of a BBC-TV special entitled "The Death Of Kennedy", in which the Single-Bullet Theory is discussed (and even reconstructed on camera using mock-ups of victims Kennedy and Connally). This BBC clip, which is in B&W, also includes comments made by Warren Commission counsel member Arlen Specter, as Mr. Specter defends his position aggressively with these words: "You call it the theory; I call it the conclusion; it was a theory until we found the facts; that's why I refer to it as the Single-Bullet Conclusion."**
** = Note: The DVD claims this BBC program aired on January 27, 1964; but that's an obvious error/typo. The Single-Bullet Theory had not even been postulated by Specter and the Warren Commission as of that January '64 date. The Commission, in fact, as of that date in early 1964, had barely even begun their work. That BBC broadcast was actually aired on January 29, 1967.
- Rare color footage of a portion of the May 24, 1964, FBI/Warren Commission re-enactment of the assassination, filmed from the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository (as seen through the scope mounted on Lee Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle). I didn't know that color footage of the FBI re-creations even existed until viewing this DVD. This snippet is very short, but it's quite interesting seeing it in fairly vivid color.
- A September 27, 1964, news clip from a CBS-TV special ("November 22nd And The Warren Report"), with Walter Cronkite giving a general overview of the just-released Warren Report. Cronkite speaks forcefully about the facts and evidence of Oswald's guilt during this black-and-white news clip. I especially enjoyed Cronkite's first blunt and to-the-point observation: "Oswald was a liar." Darn right he was, Walter. Lee Harvey Oswald never stopped lying from the minute he was arrested in the Texas Theater. And it's great hearing a newsman reporting it like it is. [CLICK HERE to see the entire two-hour CBS program, "November 22nd And The Warren Report".]
- A portion of Walter Cronkite's September 1969 CBS-TV interview with former President Lyndon Johnson, during which JFK's assassination is openly and candidly discussed. (Note: Oddly, this particular color news clip with Johnson and Cronkite is shown in a 1.66:1 Widescreen format on the DVD. A few other clips on the DVD are also shown in Widescreen for some reason.)
- March 1975 footage of the late-night talk show "Good Night America" with Geraldo Rivera -- The Zapruder Film (showing JFK's murder) is broadcast for the first time on national television. This color clip includes Robert Groden's blatant exaggeration of the number of witnesses that he claims heard shots from the Grassy Knoll on 11/22/63 ("80 percent"). Groden deliberately overstated the number of Knoll earwitnesses in order to further his own notions of a JFK conspiracy. In reality, well more than 50% of all earwitnesses in Dealey Plaza said they heard shots from BEHIND the President's car, and not from in front of it. This same "Good Night America" footage (in expanded form) can also be found on another MPI Home Video release from 1998 -- "Image Of An Assassination: A New Look At The Zapruder Film" (which is another very worthwhile collectible DVD product pertaining to the Kennedy murder case).
- Color film clip of Congressman Christopher Dodd interrogating former CIA Director Richard Helms on September 22, 1978, during the House Select Committee's inquiry into JFK's death. Stinging remarks by Mr. Helms can be heard in this clip, which is footage that's not in very good shape, picture-quality-wise. In the years following JFK's murder, Richard Helms, obviously sick of having his agency raked over the coals and suspected of having a hand in Kennedy's death, always exhibited a harsh and brusk tone in every comment I ever heard him make publicly in wake of President Kennedy's assassination. Helms' comments, however, come off as rather foolish-sounding in this specific clip regarding "AM/LASH".
- Video clip of an irate Wesley Liebeler (Assistant Counsel member of the Warren Commission) in the early 1990s, wherein Mr. Liebeler publicly denounces the Oliver Stone film "JFK". Liebeler: "Your movie is a vast tissue of falsehood, deception, and distortion. .... Your movie cannot be defended on a factual basis."
- The "Castro Playing Ping Pong For Three Hours" video clip. (Consult the DVD for more details on this humorous footage.)
"A Revisionist History" is presented on a single-sided DVD and offers up a clear-sounding Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack (although some of the vintage '60s-era audio clips do show their age, with understandable limited fidelity and waning crispness).
The video on the DVD, with the exception of a few Widescreen clips, is Full-Frame (1.33:1). English subtitles are included. A Scene Selection sub-menu provides access to the program's 17 individual chapters. There aren't any special features to supplement the main program. The Keep Case packaging includes a 16-page DVD Catalog List for other titles released by MPI Home Video.
DVD Chapter List:
1. Opening Credits
2. Battlefield Cuba
3. Fidel Castro
4. Bay Of Pigs
5. Operation Mongoose
6. Peaceful Resolution
7. Test Ban Treaty
9. Oswald Killed
10. LBJ And The Aftermath
11. J. Edgar Hoover
12. Warren Commission
13. Conspiracy Theories
14. Assassination Committee
15. Seven Days In May
17. End Credits
IN-A-NUTSHELL BREAKDOWN OF THIS PROGRAM:
- Many rare and hard-to-find-anyplace-else news clips.
- Good video (DVD) quality.
- Peter Dean's solid narration. (Peter also, btw, served as narrator for MPI's "Image Of An Assassination" documentary.)
- Could probably have been edited down to a shorter length.
- The music score (which isn't very impressive, IMO).
- Not enough background information on Lee Harvey Oswald.
I think that conspiracy theorists and lone-assassin believers alike will be able to appreciate many things within this MPI program, with the wealth of seldom-seen film footage that is presented here, all by itself, being worth the cost of this disc for ardent collectors of JFK-related material.
David Von Pein