Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Sam Waterston, John Carson, Christopher Muncke, Jana Shelden, Edward Hardwicke
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 09/23/2008 Run time: 120 minutes Rating: Nr
Possibly the finest mini-series ever broadcast on PBS
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 06/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The recent release of the 1976 Adams Chronicles on DVD left only the release of Oppenheimer to complete the bifecta of the two finest dramatic miniseries ever broadcast on PBS. This seven part series was originally filmed in 1980 as a joint BBC and WGBH (Boston) production and was shown over seven consecutive weeks beginning May 11, 1982 as part of the PBS program American Playhouse. It depicts 15 years in the turbulent life of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who died in 1967, at the age of 62, but whose life and career remain controversial to this day. The story begins in 1938, when Dr. Oppenheimer was already recognized as a brilliant theorist in both particle physics and astrophysics (he was co-author of a prescient paper, along with graduate student Hartland S. Snyder, developing equations based on Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, demonstrating the possibility of a star collapsing in upon itself and forming a black hole). Together with Dr. Ernest Lawrence, Oppenheimer had turned the University of California at Berkeley into a renowned center for teaching physics. Sharply played by a distracted, self-absorbed and often edgy Sam Waterston, Dr. Oppenheimer is portrayed as a somewhat vain and preening professor, surrounding himself with an adoring clique of occasionally shallow yet brilliant students. He almost unconciously flits through 1930's left-wing circles, never seeming to land anywhere. Fascism is on the rise in Europe and Japan, and the Communist Party is in the vanguard of what the script labels - somewhat ironically given Stalin's immanent pact with Hitler - as 'uncompromising opposition'.
This period will prove to be the source of his later difficulties, especially his troubled affair with the Communist Party member Jean Tatlock, as well as the left-wing affiliation of his brother and sister-in-law. Oppenheimer always refused to join the party, expressing doubts about life in the Soviet Union. Oppenheimer eventually heads the Manhattan Project, the crash program to develop an atomic bomb, which was successfully exploded in the New Mexico desert in July 1945. After the war, Oppenheimer was a chief advisor to the newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission, using the position to lobby for international control of atomic energy and to avert a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. He angered many politicians with his outspoken political opinions during the McCarthy era. Eventually, he had his security clearance revoked in a much-publicized and heavily politicized hearing in 1954. In that hearing, the lukewarm endorsement of Dr. Edward Teller, developer of the Hydrogen bomb, proved especially damaging to Oppenheimer. Teller's relationship with many colleagues was damaged, as well.
Waterston's performance as Oppenheimer is stunning: revealing subtle aspects of the physicist's personality that only a wonderfully realized performance can provide. His large supporting cast, playing the famous scientists surrounding Oppenheimer, is equally superb. Especially noteworthy is David Suchet (Poirot) as the complex, enigmatic Edward Teller, carefully avoiding portraying the 'heavy' or malign presence he might easily have become. Edward Hardwicke is Enrico Fermi, playing his brilliance with a touch of humor. Kate Harper is a poignant Jean Tatlock. Manning Redwood is Gen. Leslie Groves, the military leader of the project, in charge of a group of unruly scientists he regards as flakes, prima donnas and security risks. The entire ensemble cast is magnificent.
This seven hour series is one of the finest ever shown on American television. Our world was created out of these events, they are impossible to overdramatize. From science to world affairs, this series has it all. The events depicted here are enthralling. Most strongly recommended.
This series *must* be released on DVD
Hugh Haskell | Cary, NC | 06/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I copied all seven episodes off-air when it first aired in 1982. I have watched the entire series so many times that the tapes are wearing out. The program absolutely makes Oppenheimer come alive. Casting in general is excellent, with almost every actor looking and behaving just like the person they are playing. The actor playing Edward Teller looks more like Teller than Teller himself. Sam Waterston, one of the finest character actors in America, captures Oppenheimer as well as anyone I could imagine. Of all the actors who have played General Groves (including Paul Newman) this is the only one who doesn't treat the role like a caricature. I teach a course on the history of the atomic bomb every year, and every year I show all seven episodes to my students. They are inevitably riveted by the experience. I have been looking for a commercially available version for at least 10 years. Please reissue the series on DVD before my VHS tapes completely disintigrate."
A Twenty Year Search
Cyril E. Vetter | 07/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been looking for a home video release of this excellent mini-series for over 20 years. I had a similar obsession for Alec Guiness' "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and it was finally released on DVD. I believe the producers could release "Oppenheimer" starring Sam Waterston in the home video market and sell it for a premium. Put me down for the first copy..."
T. A. Straayer | USA | 07/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, yes, this was an engrossing seven-part series, originally appearing on the BBC in 1981 and imported to the U.S. in 1982 as a PBS "American Playhouse" presentation. I saw it again a few years later on the A&E channel, I believe (where it was not a little diminished by frequent commercial interruptions and time compression techniques), and I have kicked myself many times since for not having caught it on videotape during its initial broadcast. I'd love to be able to purchase it on DVD now.It was directed by Barry Davis, produced by Peter Goodchild, and written by Peter Prince. Sam Waterston gave one of the great performances of his career (so far) as the brilliant, driven, politically savvy, and ultimately tragic J. Robert Oppenheimer. The cast also included David Suchet as Edward Teller, Kate Harper as Jean Tatlock, Garrick Hagon as Oppie's brother Frank, Jana Sheldon as Kitty Harrison, Edward Hardwicke as Enrico Fermi, Matthew Guinness as Hans Bethe, Colin Bennett as Seth Neddermeyer, Barry Dennen as Isidor Rabi, Bob Sherman as Ernest Lawrence, and, memorably, Manning Redwood as General Leslie Groves.The production has been rightly criticized for taking liberties with the historical record, for caricaturing many of the principals - dumbing down Groves, for instance, and villifying the architects of Oppenheimer's postwar fall from power - and for manufacturing dramatic material to fill gaps in what is known to have happened. But that's what you're going to get with a docudrama: it's not supposed to be viewed as archival footage. Oppenheimer's career was a critical part of the twentieth century, and the miniseries format only gives you time to write a short story, not a biography. This miniseries succeeded to the extent that it captivated me while I watched it and it induced me to pursue the biography afterward."