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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Science > Industry > Corporations > Energy > Trains > Worlds Fair > Westinghouse (2008/Inecom DVD)

Westinghouse (2008/Inecom DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Documentary: B+



You hear companies bragging about the latest great thing they have brought to the market, only to find out it is defective, dangerous or even killing people.  The public used to have near-zero tolerance of such things, especially when we had real leadership in government and in general that did not allow certain interests free reign to ruin and steal at will.  Needless to say, it was not always like the latter or The United States would have imploded long ago.  One of the biggest innovators of all was George Westinghouse, a one-time military man who built an empire that changed the world and whose advanced grasp of technology, science and innovation helped make the U.S. the successor to Great Britain as the world’s most powerful country.  Though the name is famous, like Walt Disney, more is known about the company and its product than the man who made it originally happen.


In Westinghouse’s case, he and what he did is less-known and Mark Bussler’s excellent new documentary, simply and boldly entitled Westinghouse (2008) is a combination of biography, character study and even a look at the rise of U.S. power worldwide.  Ironically, George Westinghouse was one of the few shining lights during the ugly period of The Great Depression, which it can be said was not an accidental period of economic collapse, but that’s another story.


As Bussler takes us on a deep, chronological journey on how this one man single-handedly built an empire including great interviews with Edward J. Reis (a scholar on the subject who ran the Westinghouse Museum for a decade,) Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr., PhD (author of the book George Westinghouse, Gentile Genius) and William H. Terbo (great-nephew of Nikola Tesla and Executive Secretary of the Tesla Memorial Society, Inc.) just keep adding and adding to the richness of the story told.


But there is more than a grand must-see history lesson here, but some interesting side-stories that are very compelling.  There is Westinghouse versus Thomas Edison, beyond the battle merely for whether DC or AC electric would be the power system of the future.  They even battled about the first light bulb designs and that too changed the course of history.  There is Westinghouse versus the robber barons, who were unhappy with how well he treated his employees while others were endangering there and even using Pinkerton agents and the government to beat them down.  Like Ford’s introduction of the minimum wage, Westinghouse broke even more ground by offering the safest workplaces, health care, benefits and housing well ahead of anyone else, the New Deal and the kind of support the best corporations offered before such things unraveled in the 1980s for reasons to detailed to go into here.


There is also the personal story of Westinghouse himself and how he was innovative for so much of his life that like Howard Hughes before his OCP (obsessive compulsive disorder) got the best of him, he contributed priceless ideas and innovations when many seemed to be either powerless or could have cared less about safety and quality.  The story about breaks for trains told here is especially striking.


Then there are the World’s Fair events the company was always a big force at, as much as Bell Telephone, General Electric (built from Edison’s company) and General Motors.  And that just scratches the surface of what you get here on this new DVD.


Though the company has broken off into units often not bearing the Westinghouse name and the logo is now owned by the Group W division now absorbed by CBS, you can ironically see the name on HDTVs and light bulbs.  Several electric companies spring from Westinghouse.  Therefore, the implications are clear.  The company’s influence, innovation and shaping of the world we live in is very clear.  Without George Westinghouse, our world would not be as good, safe or innovative as it is today and though he worked with talented innovators like Nikola Tesla, it is George Westinghouse himself who made it possible to research, discover, manufacture and implement these innovations and Bussler’s Westinghouse is an extravagant tribute to a truly great man whose time for rediscovery is long overdue.


Don’t miss it!



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 originates on digital High Definition video and remains some of the best use of HD anywhere for documentary work, but the additional stills, vaults film footage and general editing only create additional impact along with an engaging pace that will make you wonder why it took this long to tell the story.  Despite some minor issues with the narration (by Carol Lee Espy, here ironically for her work with KDKA, the groundbreaking station Westinghouse launched) in playback, it is still well-recorded, as are al the interviews and older audio has been as cleaned up as possible in the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.  I wondered if DTS would have helped Espy’s work, but the combination is some of the best for such programming, but typical of the high quality output form Bussler and Inecom.


Extras include Bussler & Reis on a feature-length audio commentary, film on the famous Westinghouse Time Capsule, excellent industrial film on the groundbreaking & innovative Type-V Disconnecting Switch that made AC power the world electric standard, Terbo discussing Tesla, outtakes, more interview footage and unused footage.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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