JFK remembered: 50th anniversary of assassination brings many new releases
By Peter Covino
There are only a handful of dates that we remember exactly what we were doing on that day.
If you are old enough, November 22, 1963 is certainly one of those days.
The nation remembers the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in about a week, and this being a milestone year (it will be 50 years, Friday) there are many DVDs and reissues newly available commemorating his life and times and his death.
This is a long list of worthy films and features, that includes not only stories about Kennedy the man, but also feature films based on stories and ideas that never would have happened without JFK.
For the basics, start with The JFK Collection (A&E Networks/Lionsgate).
This is an extensive look at Kennedy’s life (running time 10 hours, 30 minutes) as presented on the History Channel — 8 films on three DVDs.
From the novice to the Kennedy expert, this is an all-inclusive look at Kennedy, including a lot of material not available elsewhere.
Discs include JFK: A Personal Story, Part 1 and Part 2; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; John F. Kennedy, Jr.: The Death of an American Prince; Joseph Kennedy, Sr.: Father of an American Dynasty; Robert F. Kennedy: His Many Sides; Ted Kennedy: Tragedy, Scandal and Redemption.
Disc 3 is devoted entirely to the assassination, JFK: Three Shots that Changed America.
The format for the first two disc is widescreen while disc three is a full screen presentation.
It’s available in retail outlets as well as online at the History Channel store and Amazon.
This is a feature film look at the assassination day in Dallas, Parkland (Millenium Entertainment) and it is both engrossing and intelligent.
With an all-star cast that includes Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Ron Livingston and Paul Giamatti, it’s the true story of intersecting lives mostly at the hospital where JFK spend the final moments of his life following the shooting.
Many of the principle players are here: from the doctors and nurses at the hospital, to Abraham Zapruder, who with his newly-purchased camera, some of the most amazing minutes ever, on film.
The film also includes a look at the FBI agents, who had talked to Lee Harvey Oswald several days before the assassination, JFK’s security team and Oswald’s brother.
Special features on the DVD include a director’s commentary as well as deleted scenes.
Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald
For a different look at Oswald, try out Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald, a penetrating look at Oswald’s young bride and widow (played convincingly by Helena Bonham Carter.
Originally airing as a TV movie on NBC in November of 1993, this is compelling not only for Carter’s performance, but if shows a side of Marina Oswald, rarely captured in a dramatic film.
Marina was just 22 at the time of the assassination and a mother of two. And this is her story, from courtship, to her husband’s secret life to the assassination and the aftermath.
The DVD is available only from the Warner Archive Collection, online at warnerarchive.com.
The Right Stuff
This supurb film about the beginnings of America’s manned space program, has little to do with JFK directly, but Kennedy was the man who vowed to put a man on the moon.
Available for the first time on Blu-ray, this is the 30th anniversary edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment).
Ranking right up there with my favorite films of all-time and based on Tom Wolfe’s best-selling book of the same name, this 1983 film was nominated for Best Picture and won four Academy Awards.
There is so much to like in this story, not only of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, but the very first test pilots (Chuck Yeager) and their wives who struggled knowing their men left for “the office” each day with a pretty good chance of not coming home.
The great cast includes Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward and Jeff Goldblum.
The Blu-ray, which includes a 40-page book of photos, production notes and more, also includes three hours of bonus features:
*The Journey and the Mission
*John Glenn American Hero (1998 PBS documentary)
*Realizing the Right Stuff
*T-20 Years and Counting
*The Real Men with The Right Stuff.
This is one not to miss, for anyone who likes time period films and the American space program.
Note: While this film is rated PG, the film powers that be wanted to give it an R because of a few instances of language. There was no PG-13 at the time of its release. The producers won out on appeal.
WW II 3-Film
Again, this History Channel collection, isn’t really about Kennedy, but this is his era. The war would have happened with or without him, but the back pain he endured all of his life were from the injuries he sustained as a PT boat captain. The Pulitzer Prize winning author also penned Why England Slept (originally his Harvard thesis), a book that examines the failures of Great Britain to avoid war with Nazi Germany.
The World War II collection (10 hours, 31 minutes) in color, is a dazzler, with breaking down the war into three perspectives of the deadliest conflict in human history:
Discs 1-3 World War II in HD
Disc 4 World War II in HD: The Air War
Disc 5 World War II from Space
Not only in color, the discs offer enhanced high definition in some extraordinary archival film.
The final disc features a CGI view offering a “satellite” view of historic fights, re-created.
Untold History of the United States
This acclaimed Showtime series, from Academy Award director Oliver Stone is told in 12 chapters and features a different “untold” perspective on recent American history, dating back to World War II.
The series is on four discs and includes more than 3 hours of unaired material, including two new chapters.
There is so much of an interest here and a lot to be debated and argued about, not unusual for the controversial Oliver Stone.
Chapter 7 (on disc 2) is devoted to JFK, and titled JFK: To The Brink.
For Kennedy, Stone looks back and what would have and not have happened if JFK had not been shot in 1963. Stone is convinced U.S. forces would have been pulled out of Vietnam and he would have negotiated an end to the cold war.
Other chapters are devoted to Roosevelt, Truman & Wallace (another interesting chapter. If Wallace had been vice president in 1944, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have happened); The Bomb; The Cold War; The ‘50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb & The Third World; Johnson, Nixon & Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune; Reagan, Gorbachev & The Third World — Rise of the Right; George H.W. Bush & Clinton: Squandered Peace — New World Order; George W. Bush & Obama: Age of Terror.
Disc 4 includes two new chapters Prologue: Chapter A World War I, The Russian Revolution, & Woodrow Wilson: Roots of Empire
Prologue — Chapter B: 1920-1940: Roosevelt, Hitler and Stalin: The Battle of Ideas.
There also is a bonus documentary with Stone and author/political philosopher Tariq Ali on a wide arrange of topics, accompanied by archival footage not found in the series.
The Blu-ray DVD set (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) is a very good series and does just what is intended: stimulates debate and intelligent conversation.
Finally, you can’t talk Kennedy without the all the controversy around the assassination and MVD Visual has three new releases that will get the debate started all over again.
Confessions from the Grassy Knoll The Shocking Truth is a fascinating look at a man (who makes a very convincing story) that he was on the grassy knoll and he was the one that fired the fatal shot from the Grassy Knoll and was part of a conspiracy and cover up.
James Files presents evidence and stories and the DVD features testimony from many witnesses and includes the assistance of several retired FBI agents.
Spooks, Hoods & JFK The Shocking Truth is an encompassing look at all of the figures surrounding the assassination including underworld figure Chauncey Marvin Holt who chronicles his participation in top secret operations, including his account, made just before his death, about the government’s preparations for a coup and how he and a team of CIA operatives were there on Dealey Plaza.
And I Shot JFK The Shocking Truth, more from James Files, talking about his role in the assassination.
If you already have doubts on whether Oswald acted alone, these three DVDs will cast even more doubt on what history has told us. If you think Oswald definitely alone, you might want to think some more on the subject.