The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: PBS - 2011
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 330 minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English/Spanish SDH
Directed by: Ken Burns & Lynn Novick
Written by: Geoffrey C. Ward
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 4, 2011
"The Noble Experiment"
PROHIBITION, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, takes viewers beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, rum runners, flappers and speakeasies to experience the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
I am a fan of Ken Burns America Collection film series and consistently find his documentaries to be compelling, poignant and enlightening. Narrated by Peter Coyote and featuring voiceovers by Patricia Clarkson, Blythe Danner, Paul Giamatti, Tom Hanks, John Lithgow and Oliver Platt .PROHIBITION is a three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary film directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that presents a fascinating look at the rise and fall of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the entire era it encompassed. As told through interviews with historians, journalists, photos and vintage era footage this film delves deep into how a society founded on individual freedom became a nation of scofflaws and hypocrites. Here is an excellent overview taken from the PBS website:
The culmination of nearly a century of activism, Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality. Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, and most especially among young women, liquor consumption rocketed, propelling the rest of the culture with it: skirts shortened. Music heated up. America's Sweetheart morphed into The Vamp.
Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun, encouraged neighborhood gangs to become national crime syndicates, permitted government officials to bend and sometimes even break the law, and fostered cynicism and hypocrisy that corroded the social contract all across the country. With Prohibition in place, but ineffectively enforced, one observer noted, America had hardly freed itself from the scourge of alcohol abuse - instead, the "drys" had their law, while the "wets" had their liquor.
The story of Prohibition's rise and fall is a compelling saga that goes far beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, rum runners, flappers, and speakeasies, to reveal a complicated and divided nation in the throes of momentous transformation. The film raises vital questions that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago - about means and ends, individual rights and responsibilities, the proper role of government and finally, who is and who is not a real American.
The documentary's segments are spread out over three BD-25 Blu-ray Discs with the bonus features contained on Disc one. The three part series premieres on PBS on October 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Whether you catch it live or opt to pick up this set you are in for another wonderfully enlightening and engaging experience from acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns.
This film isn't rated but is suitable for general audiences.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Prohibition comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring 1080i AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 Mbps and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio that has a constant bitrate of 640 kbps.
This is a solid looking encode that has a grainy visual aesthetic and dialed down contrast that appears to hold true to the filmmaker's vision. This documentary style film is made up of large amounts of archival black and white footage, vintage photographs and filmed interviews. The interview segments don't offer any visual stimulation but appear natural enough. The full framed still photography looks terrific and is clearly the star of the show. White and black levels are consistent which lends balance to the variable nature of the presentation. This isn't the type of film that is going to shine in high definition but this appears to be a faithful rendering that capably represents the conglomeration of it elements and looks fine.
I was a little surprised that, unlike the other Ken Burns Documentaries I have reviewed on Blu-ray, this one doesn't contain a lossless soundtrack. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a decent job of rendering the audio in this dialogue driven documentary. Peter Coyote's narration and the vocal reproduction during the various interview segments/voiceovers are clear and definitively rendered. Other than the music score's lightly bled rear channel ambience the mix remains front oriented. Being a documentary film there is little call for an active surround mix and to that end I didn't find the presentation lacking in any way.
- 8 Bonus Scenes
- (HD) In the studio with Florentine Films - 7 minutes
- 14 interview outtakes
The story of Prohibition's rise and fall is a compelling saga that goes far beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, rum runners, flappers, and speakeasies, to reveal a complicated and divided nation in the throes of momentous transformation. The film raises vital questions that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago - about means and ends, individual rights and responsibilities, the proper role of government and finally, who is and who is not a real American. As with other works by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns I found myself completely immersed in the subject and drawn in by the compelling nature of its telling. Prohibition comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment in this three disc offering that features adequate high definition video quality and over 90 minutes of additional footage. The series debuts on PBS on October 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Whether you catch it live or opt to pick up this set (or both!) you are in for a wonderfully enlightening and engaging look at one of the most interesting and turbulent eras in our history.
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