Ben Franklin (History Channel)
Sound: B- Extras: B Main Program: B
How bold is it for The History Channel to release a DVD
called Ben Franklin? Very, since
so many endless things have been written about him and plenty of DVD and video
programming has been issued involving him.
Leave it to them to come up with a great DVD just the same, proving
their boldness by backing it up with some fine programming of their own.
The main program is a sort of biography (running about 100
minutes), but one that focuses on his adult years and how he was a great
inventor of everything from technology (he did discover electricity, of course)
to ideology (free libraries, democracy) to the United States itself. The network pulls out its usual strong
number of experts, but for an iconic figure who has been reduced to recognition
on money, businesses and history books.
It turns out he invented the Glass Armonica, which Beethoven and Mozart
used to compose music with. He even
came up with an early Odometer for his horse and buggy!
Most important, though, is that he forged the United
States as much as anyone in his time and reminds us the great intents this
country was really about at a time of great abuse of power, mass media,
manipulation and other craziness that simply will not fit here. Franklin, a founding father, would be
considered a subversive by political extremists, which is another reason we do
not hear the truth about him enough.
His exercise of free-thinking was a threat then and is a threat
now. That is why this is a particularly
great time to check this documentary DVD out.
This Ben Franklin delivers, as the man himself always did.
The full frame 1.33 X 1 image on all three programs are
shot on professional NTSC video and look good and clean considering the limit
of the format. A few film clips are
also in the mix. The Dolby Digital 2.0
Stereo sound surprisingly has Pro Logic type surrounds on all three programs. That makes the playback more involving,
though the content is really good.
Extras include text on Franklin split into four categories (Timeline,
Anecdotes, Quotes, Innovations & Inventions) and two featurettes, with The
Many Faces Of Ben Franklin being a condensed preview somewhat of the main
program. Save Our History: The
Declaration Of Independence is a fine related featurette (44 minutes) about
the famous document and how it was the result of the efforts of Franklin and
other famous people to make the United States possible. All in all, that makes this single DVD a great,
fun piece of documentary history. The
History Channel lives up to its name again.
- Nicholas Sheffo