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The Times of Harvey Milk [Blu-ray]

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A true twentieth-century trailblazer, Harvey Milk was an outspoken human rights activist and the first openly gay U.S. politician elected to public office; even after his assassination, in 1978, he continues to inspire disenfranchised people around the world. The Oscar-winning The Times of Harvey Milk, directed by ROBERT EPSTEIN (The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph 175) and produced by RICHARD SCHMIECHEN, was, like its subject, groundbreaking. One of the first feature documentaries to address gay life in America, it’s a work of advocacy itself, bringing Milk’s message of hope and equality to a wider audience. This exhilarating trove of archival footage and heartfelt interviews is as much a vivid portrait of a time and place (San Francisco’s historic Castro District in the seventies) as a testament to the legacy of a political visionary.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • Director-approved digital transfer, from the meticulous UCLA Film and Television Archive restoration, with DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition • Audio commentary featuring director Robert Epstein, coeditor Deborah Hoffmann, and photographer Daniel Nicoletta • New interview with documentary filmmaker and UC Berkeley professor Jon Else • New program about The Times of Harvey Milk and Gus Van Sant’s Milk, featuring Epstein, Van Sant, actor James Franco, and Milk friends Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, and Nicoletta • Postscript containing interview clips not used in the film • Rare collection of audio and video recordings of Harvey Milk • Interview excerpts from Epstein’s research tapes • Footage from the film’s Castro Theatre premiere and the 1984 Academy Awards ceremony • Panel discussion on Supervisor Dan White’s controversial trial • Excerpts from the twenty-fifth anniversary commemoration of Milk’s and Mayor George Moscone’s assassinations • Original theatrical trailer • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic B. Ruby Rich, a tribute by Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, and a piece on the film’s restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s Ross Lipman

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Blu-ray: A Classic documentary, a wonderful Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection! April 13 2011
By Dennis A. Amith - Published on
Before the Sean Penn biopic "Milk" based on the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office, there was Robert Epstein's "The Times of Harvey Milk". A documentary that showcases Harvey Milk as he would run for supervisor in San Francisco and became the voice for the gay community but also for minorities, a champion of gay and civil rights and would eventually showcase the day of his assassination and what transpired after his murder.

The documentary details the life of Harvey Milk focusing less on his personal life but more on his emerging rise as a politician but how he changed the lives of many people and through this film, interviewed are those who worked on his campaign, those who worked with him professionally, those who were driven by his work and his passion to help people, those who interviewed him and those who were straight but eventually realized how unique and important he was to the community.

"MILK" gives us a glimpse of the life Harvey Milk had and learning more about his challenges running for political office (unsuccessfully) three times, being on the opposing side of Dianne Feinstein at times and also fighting against proposition 6 (The Briggs Initiative) which was on the ballot on Nov. 1978 in which conservative state legislator John Briggs of Orange County wanted to ban gays and lesbians and anyone who supported gay rights from working in California's public schools.

The film would also show a juxtaposition of Supervisor Dan White, how he and Harvey Milk would work together but eventually, White would splinter off and end up resigning from his job to raise a family and then to quickly try to get it back months later, which would lead to him assassinating San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Showing us the amazing Candlelight Memorial featuring 45,000 people on the night of the deaths of both men and the riots that erupted when the verdict was read on Dan White's murder case.

"The Times of Harvey Milk" is an exhilarating documentary featuring archived footage showcasing Harvey Milk but also a portrait of how the city of San Francisco was at that time period.


"The Times of Harvey Milk" is presented in he aspect ratio of 1:33:1. Because the film was shot in 1984 and features plenty of archived footage from a variety of cameras and sources, as expected from a documentary, you're going to have quality that is a bit mixed. But for the most part, the picture quality is pretty good for this film and as one would expect an early '80s film to look quite aged, if anything, the fact that this film gives us a vivid portrait of Harvey Milk and the City of San Francisco in the '70s, I don't think anyone would complain. This documentary looks good considering its age and its source material.

"The Times of Harvey Milk" was supervised and approved by director Robert Epstein. According to the Criterion Collection, the new digital transfer was created on a 4K Spirit Datacine in 2K resolution from UCLA's restored 35 mm duplicate negative, which was created from the original 16 mm color negative B rolls, 16 mm reversal preproduction elements, and the original 1-inch production master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.


"The Times of Harvey Milk" is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround and dialogue is clear and understandable. Considering the various audio sources utilized in this film, audio is clear and I heard no major hissing or pops.

According to the Criterion Collection, the Dolby 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from UCLA's restored magnetic track, which was created fro the original 35 mm 6-track master sound mix and original PCM-F1 stereo music master by Mark Isham. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Sonic Solutions and Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Sonic Solutions and AudioCube's integrated audio workstation.


"The Times of Harvey Milk - The Criterion Collection #557' on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

* Audio commentary featuring director Robert Epstein, co-editor Deborah Hoffmann and photographer Daniel Nicoletta. A wonderful commentary as the trio discuss Harvey Milk and the various people who took part in the film, the footage shot in San Francisco and also the murder, the trial and more.
* Postscript - (2:42) Featuring footage that was supposed to be used as the original conclusion but wasn't used at all.
* Trailer - (3:16) The original theatrical trailer for "The Times of Harvey Milk"
* Jon Else - (19:48) Filmmaker of Jon Else talkes a look at the documentary and why "The Times of Harvey Milk" is significant.
* Two Films, One Legacy - (22:51) A featurette featuring comparisons between both "The Times of Harvey Milk" and Gus Van Sant's film "Milk" and how both focus on Harvey Milk's legacy. Featuring Rob Epstein, Van Sant, actor James Franco, and Milk friends Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg and more.
* Harvey Milk Recordings - Featuring video and audio recordings of Harvey Milk that shaped his political activism. The footage featured are: Out of the Bars and Into the Streets (13:51), Texas Gay Confernece Five (47:34), Harvey Milk Speaks Out (2:45), Anti-Proposition 6 Election Night Party (10:04), Harvey Milk's Political Will (13:18)
* Director's Research Tapes - (19:54) Draft interviews with various people in Harvey Milk's life including his boyfriend Scott Smith and Milk's colleagues which weren't used in the final cut of the film.
* From the Castro to the Oscars - Footage featuring the 1984 premiere at the Castro Theatre (7:36) presented by writer Vito Russo and a Night at the Oscars (3:06) in which the film won an Oscar.
* The Dan White Case - Featuring a newsclip (4:05) of Dan White quitting his job as a fireman to become part of the Board of Supervisors and panel discussion (29:29) at the University of San Francisco featuring those who were involved in Dan White's defense team and answering questions from the audience.
* Harry Britt, Milk's Successor - (9:48) A speech by Britt back in 2003 celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Milk's death and what Harvey Milk mean to him.
* Candlelight Memorial - (7:20) - On November 27th, 2003, on the 25th Anniversary of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone's death, SF Supervisor Tom Ammiano and the late mayor's daughter Rebecca take part in honoring the two men.


Included is a 32-page booklet featuring "Making History" by B. Ruby Rich, "Harvey's Enduring Legacy" by Stuart Milk and "Restoring the Times of Harvey Milk" by Ross Lipman.


The Criterion Collection is known for bringing out a series of important classic and contemporary films on Blu-ray and DVD.

"The Times of Harvey Milk" is one of those important documentaries of a man who fought for gay and civil rights in San Francisco but became an inspiration for many people all over the world.

Consider the time when Harvey Milk came to San Francisco, gay men were ridiculed, beaten and treated badly by the community, including the police who protected the city as many found homosexuality as a form of deviance and unacceptable behavior. But when a hippie who owned the Castro Camera Shop in the emerging gay Castro district became a political activist, this intelligent man knew that the barriers that existed towards homosexuality had to be broken.

While the film "Milk" would feature the personal and political life of Harvey Milk, "The Times of Harvey Milk" is a documentary that showcases the true Harvey Milk on camera. Featuring archived news footage to footage shot by filmmaker Rob Epstein.

From the teamsters who joined Milk to boycott Coors Beer in the Castro Area, to Milk beginning his political career in 1973 and losing each time for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the California State Assembly. But eventually his persistence and perseverance would win over the labor unions and now he not only became a champion for gay and civil rights, but he began winning the respect of many people in his area because he was a man of his word and eventually would lead to him being elected for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

But what made this documentary feel so real and captivating was its use of important footage of the times but also candid interviews (shot in the 1983) with people like Anne Kronenberg (an aid to Harvey Milk during his campaign), fellow San Francisco Board of Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver, Executive Director of the Chinese for Affirmative Action Henry Der, newscaster Jeannine Yeomans, public school teacher Tom Ammiano and several others.

There is no doubt that director Robert Epstein and producer Richard Schmiechen have created a special documentary but done quite tastefully in showcasing Harvey Milks accomplishments but also creating a historic film that shows viewers the emergence of the presence of the gay community in San Francisco.

Despite winning an Academy Award, "The Times of Harvey Milk" will have its fair of criticism because it is biased documentary as interviews focus on those who were closest to Harvey Milk and does not show interview those who were against Harvey Milk's politics.

Nor are their interviews with jurors who would talk about their reasoning for giving Dan White only eight years of prison time (he served only five years for manslaughter) which was an injustice as he killed two human beings, who happen to be the mayor of San Francisco and one of the most well-known Board of Supervisor and politicians in America but also an injustice that if the crime was created by a person of color or someone who was not a well-known conservative and also a Board of Supervisor, Dan White, they would probably be convicted and serve life in prison or electrocuted.

There is so many layers to this documentary that the time went rather quickly. I was amazed by the archived footage that was utilized for this documentary, how well it was cut but also, while showcasing Harvey Milk, how the film shows a juxtaposition of the man who murdered him and how thousands responded on the night of Milk and Mayor George Moscone's death but the violence that took place after the verdict was read.

And what makes this Criterion Collection release so impressive is that it doesn't stop there. They have included a wonderful amount of special features that compliment the film.

Not only do you get wonderful audio commentary, but you also get a good number of interviews, interviews, archived video and audio interviews, the recorded will by Harvey Milk, the screening of "The Times of Harvey Milk" at the Castro Theatre, video from the 25th Anniversary of Milk/Moscone's death but also tying the documentary to the recent Gus Van Sant film "Milk". But possibly the most significant feature that I felt was quite important to see was the panel discussion on Supervisor Dan White's trial and to hear form the defense lawyers who represented him on their strategy and their thoughts on Dan White at the time and the elimination of the California's "diminished capacity" law.

Already an impressive collection of special features and audio commentary, if there was one interview that I would have loved to see included in this Blu-ray release of "The Times of Harvey Milk" was an interview with homicide Frank Falzon who came out and said in 1998 that when he met Dan White in 1984, White confessed that it was premeditated murder and that White also wanted to kill Carol Ruth Silver and Willie Brown. Also, it would have been great to see a follow-up interview with those who were featured in the film. People such as Tom Ammiano who was the public school teacher and later became a Board of Supervisor and also elected as a California State Assemblyman, Henry Der and possibly a few others.

Granted, that's me being a little picky but with the special features that you get in this release alone, it is quite impressive and The Criterion Collection really went all out to make "The Times of Harvey Milk" on Blu-ray and DVD a fantastic release!

Overall, if you were inspired by Harvey Milk, curious about the politics of the time or even seeing how the fight for gay and civil rights evolved from what Harvey Milk accomplished in his political life, I definitely recommend "The Times of Harvey Milk"! A five-star release from the Criterion Collection and is highly recommended!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
My Formative Years at the Dawn of the Gay Liberation Movement March 20 2011
By L. Boki - Published on
Verified Purchase
Growing up in San Francisco in the 60s and 70s, the city was always an open door for many different types of personalities and causes. As I was graduating high school, it was a serendipitous time because the world seemed to validate who I was and what I stood for. My parents were early civil rights supporters so I was always politically aware. My first memory of an election was President Kennedy's election in 1960 being broadcast on network television. News was very clinical but focused.

Brewing underneath San Francisco's welcoming of the hippie era, the Haight-Ashbury would eventually suffer negative press because of the drug culture overwhelming the political aspects of the burgeoning liberal movement. I grew up in the Richmond District and had only faint knowledge of the Castro area. In 1970, it was still very much a working class catholic-immigrant neighborhood. By 1971-72, it would become the third area of the city that drew favor from the gay community. Polk St. would remain the draw for a lot of transients. Folsom St. would reflect the dark underside of the sexual revolution. Dark in the sense of catering to any and all sorts of fetishes. Castro St. would become representative of the modern day LGBT movement.
Gay men, forever plagued growing up as "sissies" and "effeminate men", the Castro would be the birthplace of the Castro clone, ultra masculine, overly butch but most decidedly gay.

There amongst the burgeoning LGBT scene, arose Harvey Milk. My friends and I were new to college and though we were politically-minded, we also went our college courses in the morning, worked in the afternoon, studied in the early evening and went clubbing until the wee hours of the next morn and then repeat the cycle again as a ritual that kept us fortified. We knew of Harvey Milk, supported his policies but also felt a bit removed from some of the politics.

This moving documentary is a trippy postcard back to that era. It all seemed so innocent then. Charles Pierce would play the Gold Coast, Busby's on Polk St. would be banging the new Diana Ross masterpiece, "Love Hangover" and San Francisco became the proud home of many ostracized gays and lesbians.

I still cry though I have seen this documentary numerous times. It is hard to believe that 40 years have now passed by. In homage to that period, the long out of print documentary is now back in Blu-Ray and given the Criterion Collection treatment. There is so much truth to the passage that "our freedoms are only a generation away from being taken from us".........the newly emboldened sleazy rethuglican party has now gone after all of the many freedoms we fought so dearly far from the civil rights battles of the 50s/60s and 70s, women's liberation of the 70s and LGBT movement of the 70s as well.

This is a must for anyone that has a remote interest in the dynamics of a great movement, almost accidentally headed by a man that partly through his politics and partly through his eventual assassination, would become its greatest symbol.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Epic Release from Criterion! July 21 2011
By Tyson - Published on
Verified Purchase
I had seen this wonderful documentary even before watching the brilliant movie Milk, but watching the Criterion release was a brand new experience. The picture quality is shockingly great considering that much of the footage comes from random sources, but the greatest prize is all the special features. Harvey Milk's story is exceedingly inspiring, and for anyone who is casually a fan of his life will no doubt want to devour every bonus available. Fortunately, Criterion delivered, as they always do, and provided us with hours of great stuff.

For those who have not seen this documentary, however, let the bonus content simmer for a while and dive right into the feature presentation. It is a content rich masterpiece that captures the efforts of one of the world's greatest gay civil rights activists. It was also made in an important time, when homophobia was especially epic due to the AIDS crisis and the fact that Milk murderer Dan White had been recently released from prison after only a short sentence. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if this touching documentary lead Mr. White to kill himself. Not that that was its intention. The film is very neutral and is by no means an object of propaganda. It simply celebrates the life of a brave man who fought hard, succeeded, and inspired millions around the world.

If you are gay, you MUST watch this. Not having an in-depth understanding of Harvey Milk's life would be like being black and never having heard of Martin Luther King Jr. He's that important. But straight people owe it to themselves to watch this film as well. Anybody can be inspired by brilliant people, and certainly you don't have to be gay to stand up for gay rights. Harvey Milk was a great man. I only wish more people knew about his life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I Loved Harvey Milk! June 13 2013
By Denise - Published on
Harvey Milk was a national treasure. I wish that he were here today.

I know that he would have been in the forefront of the AIDS crisis and the equality of marriage.

I am a straight woman, and I adored Harvey Milk! I loved him so much. He was full of love.

What a wonderful man. Again, I wish that he were here. I am so sad that he died so young.
Stunner of a Documentary... June 10 2014
By Pablo Sergio Rivera - Published on
Verified Purchase
This movie is such a fantastic piece of work. How they found all the footage they used and then had Criterion clean it up so seamlessly astounds me. AMAZING!

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