Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Political > Economy > Commanding Heights - The Battle For The World Economy

Commanding Heights – The Battle For The World Economy


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B



Globalization.  Some people like it, others risk their lives to protest it, but it is essentially what has happened now that planned, centralized, communist governmental economic models imploded all over the world in the 1990s.  The Right mislabeled it as “freedom busting out all over” as capitalism and a supposedly freer economy would lead to Civil Rights and individual freedoms.  Besides China being the ultimate current example of why that is wrong, those on the Right along with all those who have supported the Reagan/Neo-Conservative model of economics which rolls back Civil Rights and much worse do not believe in true “magic hand of the market” free enterprise.


That is the big flaw ignored in the otherwise very informative and well-done WGBH/PBS documentary mini-series Commanding Heights – The Battle For The World Economy (2003) starts with the title and how it was inspired by Marxist thinking and how that thinking seemed to be the model most of the world would follow.  After WWII came The Cold War and the U.S. Capitalist model did seem to work better, though many countries could not figure out how to make it work.  By the 1970s, John Maynard Keynes economic model was collapsing, which included that wars made money.  Vietnam, OPEC embargos, Watergate, stagflation and people in power not interested in making anything work like nothing since The Great Depression made things a mess and it made communism look more desirable to those who did not know better.  Instead of helping President Jimmy Carter fix the country, extreme conservative sources (in a story still surfacing) spend tons of money on think tanks and decided to do some maneuvering we are still paying the price for today.


In a crazy move to destroy any and all progress of The Civil Rights movement and revise the truth about the past, came up with a crazy revision of the free market ideas of Frederick Von Hayek (the first of many writers they would prop up as telling the “truth” about who the world is and works, but one of the better men by default) when they really wanted to gut out the economy, turn the country form the world’s greatest creditor nation to the still-great debtor nation, grossly over-deregulate the economy so wealth could be concentrated among fewer (preferably conservative) persons (most unfortunately those who would never have made any money if they actually had to compete for anything) they could “trust” and squeeze out as many old mom-and-pop businesses as possible. 


That is the glaring omission from this otherwise fine program, which shows how getting rid of planned economies did help the world, but the wrong people in The West were in power at the time resulting in far more troubles than would have had if leaders who were not trying to erase the past, equate Civil Rights and workers rights with Marxism 100% of the time (attacking unions beginning with air traffic controllers & coal miners) and totally ignore the have-nots.  As I watched, I saw the greatest opportunities of the 20th Century die in the early 1980s as the wrong choices constantly compounded with policies and persons made the wrong decisions over and over, leading to the international mess the world is in today.  That is not hindsight by a longshot, but obvious mistakes or decisions made to benefit a very narrow constituency.


Sure, the communist centralized governments in the mid-20th Century built up some industries, but could not sustain them with everything from no incentive to work to brutal slave labor (still going on in countries today, but also skipped by this special) causing them in implode.  There is also the skipping of President Clinton militarizing the border when mistakenly supporting NAFTA, which was not implemented with the caution even he discussed at the time.  He rolled it back a bit, but it was a little too little, a little too late.


This is split up into three sections.  The Battle Of Ideas is about the better known communist vs. capitalist split into the late Cold War, including the watered down 1980s Neo-Conservative section.  The Agony Of Reform is about the countries in the 1990s that had to switch to capitalism before hard-line communists could reclaim the various countries and set them backwards again.  The New Rules Of The Game is a rough reference to the Jean Renoir film Rules Of The Game (1939) by showing how the world is now in a global economy, though the producers probably did not consider the ethical and moral bankruptcy aspects of the film and how that so fits some of what is going on now.  Even with its flaws, Commanding Heights is a must-see mini-series and this is one of WGBH Boston Video’s best DVD sets to date.


The letterboxed 1.78 X 1 image should have been anamorphically enhanced, because this looks good for a documentary series, but could have looked better.  Much of footage is new and the older footage is not bad, though the muddy color NTSC footage of Margaret Thatcher visiting Poland in the 1980s is not great.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has no major surrounds, but is well edited and recorded.  Extras include reference lists of all who are interviewed in each installment and what they are best known for, as well as text biographies for those who made these programs, excerpts from the book by Daniel Yergin & Joseph Stanislaw this series is based on, text Q&As, weblinks and bonus articles appear on each DVD.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com