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Vietnam - A Television History
Vietnam - A Television History
Actor: Everett Alvarez; Herbert Bluechel; George Ball (II); J. Lawton Collins; William Colby (II); Ted Danielsen; Bill Erhart; Vernon Gillespie; Leslie Gelb; John Keegan (II); Henry Kissinger; Abbot Low Moffat; Frederick Nolting; Archimedes Patti; Robinson Risne
Director: -
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary
NR     2004     11hr 0min

NOTE: The American Experience producers responsible for the Vietnam series recently re-edited the original 13-part Vietnam series. The editing was undertaken to remove outdated information and to create a more cohesive sto...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Everett Alvarez; Herbert Bluechel; George Ball (II); J. Lawton Collins; William Colby (II); Ted Danielsen; Bill Erhart; Vernon Gillespie; Leslie Gelb; John Keegan (II); Henry Kissinger; Abbot Low Moffat; Frederick Nolting; Archimedes Patti; Robinson Risne
Director: -
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Educational, History, Vietnam War, Science & Technology
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 07/27/2004
Original Release Date: 10/04/1983
Theatrical Release Date: 10/04/1983
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 11hr 0min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Big Disappointment
D. A. Frost | San Francisco, CA United States | 07/30/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)

"I was a huge fan of this series when it first aired on PBS in 1983 and I taped the whole thing. So when it came out on DVD I thought I'd invest in the new format, seeing as my tapes were now 20 years old and I wanted to be able to watch it again and share it with others without fear of it disintegrating.

Boy, was I in for a letdown. First of all, this edition is loaded with commercials. That's right, commercials. That was the last thing I expected to see on an expensive DVD set. But no, every episode is prefaced with no less than 2 commercials: one for Liberty Mutual and one for the Scott lawn care company. I could have lived with a brief mention of the companies that funded the series, but not only are these full-blown commercials, they aren't even the companies that funded the making of the series! WGBH has sold commercial time to companies who had nothing to do with the making of this docmentary. If that weren't enough, we get to see the same commercials at the end of every episode, followed by a plug for PBS. I paid $60 for this???

But the most shocking thing about this set is that it's been edited down from the original series. I couldn't believe it. I haven't had a chance to compare every episode on the DVD set with my old tapes, but there is a segment near the end of episode 1 that has been deleted. In the original episode 1, a French colonel being interviewed about Dien Bien Phu talks about the end of the infamous seige and refers to the Viet Minh as "Red Termites". This has been lopped off the DVD version. I can only dismay at the thought of other expurgations. Was it purged for political correctness or to make room for the commercials? I can't say. I don't yet know if the other episodes are similarly truncated, but in my opinion none of them should have been. This series is too important to let commercial expediency diminish its journalistic integrity.

Thank goodness I still have my old tapes. Now I think I will digitize them onto DVD so I can preserve the work in the form the film maker intended."
Shameful and Egregious Censorship
E. Gordon | 11/07/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Typically, DVDs offer added features that are not found on a film's/program's earlier VHS version. At the very least, one expects a DVD to offer the same content as the video. The producers of this DVD set, however, evidently decided to buck that trend. If you are looking for the same content that the original historical and influential video series contains, DO NOT buy this item.

The first episode alone reveals several omissions, such as the "red termite" remark mentioned by another reviewer. (The remark, a memorably racist statement by a French official, clearly depicted the attitude of at least some of the French leadership at the time, who saw the Vietnamese rebels as "termites" --vermin to be exterminated. Not an unusual mind-set in colonizer/colonized relations.)

Another blatant omission concerns the French exploitation of Vietnamese rubber plantation workers. Here, the DVD not only edits out footage of workers in a plantation (with extremely vivid images of the slicing of tree bark to extract the rubber), but it omits an entire interview with a Vietnamese national who describes the brutal treatment suffered by rubber workers. This man recalled a popular expression of the time in which the plantation workers were known as "fertilizer," because so many of those who died were buried beneath the trees among which they toiled. Unless you see the video, though, you'll never know this--because the DVD cuts all of it out.

The edits I have seen so far (episode one) clearly seek to minimize Vietnamese suffering under the French colonial system. I can only imagine what the later episodes omit. The producers seem to want to put a fresh "spin" on their documentary-watering down harsh imagery and language, and thus sanitizing the war. This is a shameful achievement, and one that I find hard to believe PBS condones. It is all the more appalling given the stature of the original program.

If you want the real thing, then get the VHS. And put pressure on PBS to release the series on DVD in its true, original form. It's worth noting that, on the PBS website for the documentary, even the official program transcript has been altered to reflect the "new and improved" version. Why would this highly touted documentary seek to rewrite its own lauded history? Are there political pressures at work? Who knows-maybe these questions will lead to the creation of a new documentary. One that answers the question: Why did American Experience and PBS gut their own masterpiece?"
Beware! 2 out of 13 episodes have been taken out!
T. Duy | 08/11/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)

"I am a fan of this series and when I found out that the DVD was out I immediately purchased it. Unfortunately, I was completely let down. There were way too many commercials and the 4 dvds only comprise of 11 hours as oppose to the 13 hours of the original series. The original series had 13 episode but the dvd version only has 11 episodes. They are missing episode 13 which is suppose to be titled "Legacies". This was an extremely important episode that should not have been taken out because it was the final conclusion. It's like watching a movie and missing the last showdown. There is also another episode that was taken out but I don't remember which one."
I was going to buy, but I won't now.
M. Clair | 05/01/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

""Vietnam - A Television History" is more than a source of information about the Vietnam War, it is a fine example of early 1980s television documentary and provides insight to the thoughts of a nation when the documentary was released. Unfortunately, you lose that insight to early 1980s America by releasing an altered version. No material is "outdated" from a historian's prospective and it is a shame that the producers of "The American Experience" did not realize that before releasing this "revised" edition."