Time-Life editor Robert Drew offers a fresh and different approach to documentary film making, as you will see in his Kennedy Films Collection. Drew's "fly-on-the-wall" technique puts you right in the middle of the events being filmed as they unfold.
There is very little narration in his films; none is needed, thanks to Drew's brilliant direction and editing, and Richard Leacock's cutting-edge camera work. This two-disc set gives you an intimate and close-up look at Kennedy and other prominent figures who worked with and against him during this historical period.
Disc one follows Democratic Presidential hopefuls John Kennedy and Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey in the days leading up to the 1960 Wisconsin Primary. Robert Drew puts you up close and personal with the candidates as they travel from town to town across Wisconsin, shaking hands, mingling with voters and speaking at rallies. In the beginning, Senator Humphrey appears to be the clear-cut favorite, especially in the farming communities; he's the candidate from the neighboring state of Minnesota who has fought for the farmers in Washington. Kennedy, on the other hand, is seen by the agricultural community as a slick, big-city politician from the northeast who favors the wealthy. In the end,the big-city vote and the Kennedy charisma wins Wisconsin. The camera beautifully captures the adoration toward the Kennedys from the people of Wisconsin. The women are clearly charmed by the vigorous young candidate from Massachusetts; the men are enamored with his secret weapon, the lovely Jackie. The film concludes with a behind-the-scenes look at the Kennedy and Humphrey camps as they watch the returns trickle in. The camera effectively captures every nerve-wracking moment of that night.
Disc two of the set takes us back to June, 1963 for an in-depth look at one of Kennedy's greatest presidential victories.
CRISIS: BEHIND A PRESIDENTIAL COMMITMENT focuses on the stand-off between Alabama Governor George Wallace and the Justice Department. Wallace is determined to block the admittance of two black students to the University of Alabama; the Kennedy Administration prepares to go to any length to ensure that they safely enter the school. Robert Drew's crew is there to film every angle of this historic struggle. The opening segment puts the viewer inside the Governor's Mansion, where Wallace shares his views on integration while he busily prepares for his historic trip to the University. Through the camera, we are invited to sit in on an Oval Office strategy session with the President and his advisers. Next, the camera is on hand for a briefing with Vivian Malone and James Hood, the two students who hope to gain admission to the University. And finally, we see the historic showdown between Governor Wallace and Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach on the steps of the University, with simultaneous footage of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's reaction to the confrontation as it plays out. Thanks to "modern" technology, we are able to be in two places at once!
FACES OF NOVEMBER is the third installment of the set. It is a short film offered as a special feature on the second disc. This film has no narration whatsoever. It focuses solely on the multitude of grieving faces who lined the streets of Washington to pay their final respects to the President in November 1963. The pounding of drums and military band music make up the soundtrack for this feature.
There are other special features. (I LOVE LOTS OF SPECIAL FEATURES!) THE ORIGINATORS is a panel discussion with Robert Drew and his crew. Here, they answer questions from the audience and reminisce about the good old days.
30/15 takes us through Robert Drew's thirty-year career as a film maker.
Running commentary is also an option on the feature presentations.
This set might not be for everyone. It might be enjoyable for history buffs and folks who love politics. Film buffs might appreciate it for its breakthrough significance.(PRIMARY was filmed at the dawning of the sync sound mobile camera technology) I bought it because I'm fascinated with everything to do with history from the Kennedy era. 'Nuff sed...