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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > TV > Life In The Thirties (TV)

Life In The Thirties (Project Twenty)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: D     Program: B-



Early TV documentary programs were often much like the theatrical newsreels their medium would kill off by the 1960s.  One of NBC-TV’s earliest attempts to do so was the Project Twenty series, and Life In The Thirties (1959) is a great example of one of those shows.  Alexander Scourby narrates this sometimes cheeky overview of the 1930s as decade of news.  To fit an hour-long time slot, this had to be tight, but because this was something new to TV, it is also very general.


With the internet and entire networks devoted to history and past events, this can pale, but must have been impressive enough for its time.  However, the back of the DVD box offers more content than the program delivers.  Too bad Shanachie and Koch did not take advantage of the DVD format to add like episodes in the series or other enhancing supplements.  For what is here, it is entertaining to watch, if oversimplified.


The full frame image, all in black and white, is on the clean if not clear side.  There are specks of dust and some print damage, but this has survived surprisingly well for its age.  The audio is not as lucky, sounding small, even for Dolby Digital 2.0 and some kind of boosting should have been applied.  Too bad, but be careful when you turn up your volume higher than usual.  There are no extras.


Highlights include The Hindenburg explosion footage, the New Deal, Swing, the Golden Age of Radio and Swing music.  I am most disappointed with the lame wrap-up on the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  Even for its time, this was bad.  The program is fun and is worth a look-through.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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