Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Fabulous 50's The Fun and the Feel of America's Dream Decade|
Genres: Television, Documentary
The 1950s brought comedy, politics, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and rock n? roll right into our living rooms through the new medium of television. We saw Lucille Ball develop into a comedy legend; "Ike" become... more »
Flawed but engrossing collection of clips from the 1950s
NoirDame, Vintage film/TV/radio wri | Houston, TX, USA | 12/11/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This interesting Readers' Digest produced DVD is certainly a novelty. It's not clear who the target audience is - high school history teachers hoping to play this for the kiddies and thus tie up Western Civilization class in a hurry? Probably baby boomers who were children or teenagers during that decade are meant to watch, as some clips and subtitles are so vague as to only be understood by those who actually lived through the decade. The DVD is a pastiche of clips from television, news reels and movies of the 1950s, with a cute menu function dressed up to look like a television set with flipping channels. The "channels" are set up like a TV guide listing, allowing you to jump ahead in the clip selection. These clips begin with the wonder of television and progress into one another, vaguely tied together by year (1951 into 1952, etc) and events. The narrator appears too infrequently to tie the material together and ends up as an annoying intrusion. The producers would have been better off simply leaving the informational subtitles noting the year and major events ("1951 - Americans flock to the suburbs in the first "Do it for the kids" decade"). (Funny that, didn't parents make sacrifices for their children in prior decades?) The sole special features here are very weak, simply being a few additional short films on sports and news figures that apparently didn't fit anywhere else. But both the clips on the Harlem Globetrotters and the hijinks of undergraduates are fun to watch. There is some extremely funny material here - Mike Wallace's interview show is not only sent up by Sid Caesar, hilariously, but Wallace introduces his show by saying, "My name is Mike Wallace - the cigarette is Phillip Morris." (Those less hip to recent lawsuits should really rent "The Insider" with Russell Crowe to see why this is so very ironic and funny.)A lot of fifties culture was overlooked (unless I flipped a channel and missed it by mistake): drive-in movie theaters, Dragnet, Howdy Doody, 1950s fashion, the end of both radio and movies' Golden Age (as television bulldozed them both), great game shows like "What's My Line" which were *huge* back then and the ensuing quiz show scandal with Charles Van Doren, and a few pivotal motion pictures like "From Here to Eternity", "Rear Window", "On the Waterfront". McCarthy is mentioned but the continued HUAC hearing and blacklisting in Hollywood are not shown, although there is a hysterically funny anticommunist film where a middle-aged woman in a very bourgeois little hat stamps her feet and rails against imaginary "imperalists". Moreover, by including so much about JFK and the Kennedy clan, as well as some pivotal scenes with Richard Nixon (the "Checkers" speech is still a classic, so maybe he wasn't so bad on TV after all), then-Senator Lyndon B Johnson, and hinting at the later war in Vietnam... it only proves that the "1950s" as a time of change really lasted into 1962, up until Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and America's metaphorical loss of innocence. Of course, I wasn't there for all of this, so I must admit I find the talking heads on VH1's "I Love the '70s" and "I Love the '80s Strikes Back" a little easier to navigate, primarily because there's an actual human being stopping the clips periodically to comment on it, with such pithy gems as "I love this Glow-worm, it saw me through MANY a night." Even if that kind of ascerbic tone would be inappropriate, this journey into the past is fun but has little depth. At the very end there's a brief commentary stating that the 1950s set up the 1960s and so on, showing eventual clips of the Apollo landing, MLK, etc., etc... Still, this collection doesn't really capture the soul of the age, in a way that later generations can immediately tap into. On the other hand, "Dominoes," a documentary/music video made about the 1960s, uses popular music and footage of the time to do this beautifully - whenever I hear "Gimme Shelter," I immediately think of Southern California. Using that song, the editors mixed up footage of the early 1960s surf scene with the "youth culture" in LA, culminating in the 1966 protest at the Sunset Strip (which itself inspired the Buffalo Springfield song "For What it's Worth"). The directors of "Dominoes" also use Santana's "Incident at Neshubar" to accompany footage of B-52s dropping napalm, and figuratively/literally spreading the war all over Vietnam, which is both lyrical and totally creepy. I found "Dominoes" much more compelling, although I wasn't alive to see those events either. If you were born between 1925 and 1952, you'd probably remember some or all of this material very fondly, enough to make the DVD a worthwhile purchase. If you're younger, it's fun to rent but you'll be more touched by VH1's rerun discussion of Rubiks' cubes, Chia Pets and Boy George's dreads."