An Industry Public Relations Effort passed off as "History"
Jason Grant Mckahan | 07/11/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is very informative as it pertains to the development of the big oil corporations, Standard, Gulf and Texaco in the U.S. It is rather odd that it passes through the 1930s with no mention of Middle East fields, that is until the 1970s (!) with the "oil weapon" of OPEC (which actually formed in the early 1960s) and gas embargo. One will find no mention of the role that oil corporations played in transforming merchant and Navy ships to oil during WWI, hence acquiring a "key" to the U.S. Treasury through "national security" rhetoric. One will find no mention of how the U.S. corporations muscled out British imperial influence in Saudi Arabia before WWII. Nor how western oil corporations both finagled in the sovereignty of foreign nations through supporting autocratic regimes and military coups using cynical anti-communist (and later human rights and "terrorist") justifications (Iran, Iraq, Latin America, Indonesia, Sudan, etc.). Nor is there any mention of the importance of controlling Middle East oil to rebuild Europe and Japan after WWII (nor the important, perhaps even central, role of oil in igniting that war!). Finally, not a peep about the escalation of petrochemical production and its environmental effect, not to mention emissions and global warming. This documentary is vastly compromised by the industry perspective, yet informative, if supplemented by other readings and documentaries (such as The Corporation, or Hidden Wars of Desert Storm)."
Bad Black Gold
Robin KNC | 10/08/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Having read Daniel Yergin's epic on the oil industry (The Prize) I was expecting much much more from this DVD. I must say after viewing its less than 1 hour effort I am utterly disappointed. To begin with, Amazon.com should make it mandatory for each DVD on sale to state the length of the production. This is basic product information and I wonder why we need to get this information from customer reviews when available. After a 5 hour "The Story of India" and a 4-disc "The Universe" my expectations were for a 2 hour presentation at the least.
This DVD has not enough coverage and depth for its price. It focused mainly on the origins of oil in the USA and thereafter demands for it, firstly for kerosene lighting and thereafter during the automobile craze in the USA. It largely ignored the development of the oil industry in Persian Gulf countries, Mexico, South Amercia and parts of Asia and the politics surrounding oil during World War II."
Black Gold Barely Glitters
Bryan Carey | Houston, TX | 06/20/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Black Gold: The Story of Oil is a simple educational documentary about the growth of the oil industry in the United States and how oil has shaped both our economy and our perceptions of big business. This documentary aims to educate the viewer about the rise of oil and its significance to business and commerce in the United States from the middle 1800's to the present.
The subject of oil is certainly one that most anyone can relate, for it ranks among a handful of products that most every person in the United States purchases on a regular basis and its price can wreck havoc on the U.S. economy- both on a personal and business level. This History Channel documentary traces the beginnings of the modern oil age from the development of kerosene to the advent of the automobile and its reliance on gasoline. This documentary includes historical anecdotes along with commentary from University Professors such as Dr. Tony Spiva, Dr. John Grabowski, Dr. JoAnn Stiles, and others who work in the petroleum industry. These individuals help to explain the historical significance of oil and how it has changed the way we live. They offer commentary on John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil behemoth, along with some educational insights on men like Henry Flagler, Atillo Higgins, and Abraham Gesner who were very important to the rise of big oil. This documentary does a good job acquanting the viewer with these important men of oil and how they influenced the direction of the industry.
The History Channel's documentaries are usually good for educational purposes but they are not always consistent and this documentary is certainly one of History Channel's less memorable documentaries. The main problem I have with this documentary is that it tries to cram too much information into too short of a presentation. This documentary is only fifty minutes in length and when you think about the significance of oil and the many colorful personalities and world events that have shaped and been shaped by petroleum, it should be obvious that fifty minutes isn't enough time to cover what needs to be covered. This fact is especially true near the end of the documentary when the scenes and commentary rush quickly from the overdependence on petroleum, to the Arab oil embargo in 1973, to the 1990 Gulf War. In a matter of minutes, we go from happy days, to overconsumption, to shortage, to war. Then, the documentary suddenly ends, leaving the viewer with a feeling of uncertainty about the future.
The way the History Channel made Black Gold, it seems most suitable for a high school history class or possibly a high school business class. It is short enough to fit within the time slot of most classes and it could be followed with a few brief questions to test the knowledge that the students gained. But it is really too brief to make it a worthwhile documentaty about the oil industry and its storied past. A subject like the oil industry needs to be examined with a series of documentaries. Fifty minutes isn't even long enough to adequately cover a single aspect of the industry, much less a span of time that covers 150 years.
Black Gold offers some good commentary contributed by the professors and oil industry experts, but it is too short to include the necessary material that one would expect in a great documentary, making it worthy of only a middle rating. It isn't bad, but I expected something much greater.
Story of Oil
Pierre L. Gauthier | Montreal,Canada | 03/08/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Good historical review of the importance of oil in our society. Somewhat simplified with little insight of political and industrial importance."