Oswald’s Ghost
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rob Fields (20th January 2008).
The Film

What is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries that is still out there today? You could say the disappearance of Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa. Perhaps you may be right, but it's only ONE of many. But let's follow the Hoffa link. It's true that Hoffa was connected with the Kennedys. Now we pick up with them and move on to Jonathan Fitzgerald Kennedy, the President of the United States at the time. The mystery was born on November 22nd, 1963. Shortly after President Kennedy was shot, it was revealed that the assassin was Lee Harvey Oswald. The history books will show to this very day that he was the man who pulled it off. You even see some footage in the title in review where it is claimed that "we have the right man." But people who like to think are not so sure. All people can do is theorize about what COULD have happened. I've even heard theories that there was more than one assassin. I've even heard people say that Oswald was simply a patsy. This unknown shroud of mystery has certainly left the door wide open for lots of stories, including a fourth season episode of "The X-Files" (1993-2002). The episode is called "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" in case you're wondering . . .
"Oswald's Ghost" shows lots of vintage footage from 1963 to 1967. Also, when Lee Harvey Oswald was asked if he shot Kennedy, he neither confirmed nor denied it. Of course, there is talk about Oswald also being shot by Jack Ruby (original footage also shown). The thing is that after all these years people believe that the Kennedy Assassination was the result of a conspiracy. Was Oswald on the payroll of Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator? Was he a part of a rogue element for the CIA? Was he approached by the Russian government or a faction of the KGB? Was he a lone wolf? Acclaimed director Robert Stone offers an unprecedented deconstruction of the assassination of President Kennedy, uncovering how this single event forever changed the face of American culture and why it continues to plague the nation's psyche. This film from American Experience features interviews with authors Norman Mailer and Edward J. Epstein, politician Gary Hart, former CBS News anchorman Dan Rather, activist Tom Hayden, attorney Mark Lane, and many others. Using a wealth of archival material, much of it never before publicly seen or heard, Stone chronicles America's forty-year obsession with the pivotal event of a generation.
I liked that there was actual footage that showed you what may or may not have happened back in 1963. I also liked that there are many thinkers who provide their opinions. Most people who know of this incident probably have heard these questions before, but at least they are posed. The people that are interviewed here are not afraid to speak their minds. In my opinion, no one should be afraid to do so. I also liked finding that this DVD release coincides with the broadcast premier (premiered on PBS on January 14th), with this DVD released on the following day. The only thing I don't really like is that even though this most recent and up-to-date documentary is presented here, there are still no real answers as to what really happened on that day. There are still just theories and speculation. In this, the Kennedy Assassination continues to be one of the greatest unsolved mysteries today.

Video

The film and the featurettes are presented in Animorphic Widescreen format (1.85:1 ratio). In the main feature, there are pieces of original black-and-white and color footage from November of 1963 to 1967, some complete with the original grain and some with less than VHS quality. The original footage doesn't look as though it's been remastered to match the present day footage. You can definitely tell the difference in the quality between the black-and-white stock and the color footage. As for the present day footage, the picture looks excellent and appears to be free from defects. For a documentary, this presentation is really good. This is worthy of being a PBS DVD. There are chapter selections available for the feature presentation.

Audio

The film features two English audio tracks. The first is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack. The second is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. There is an option to switch this audio track on or off. But you don't see that there is a 2.0 stereo track on any of the DVD menus, nor on the back of the cover art. I actually got the information from the literature provided. I've had to flip back and forth between the two audio tracks just to make sure I wasn't hearing double. What I mean by this is that even though the receiver shows the arrangement of speakers for each audio track selected, they basically sound identical. Whether listening with only the front two speakers or five speakers and a subwoofer, I noticed no difference in the quality of the audio. For what it's worth, both tracks sound great. There are no selectable subtitles available. However, during the bits of dialogue that are hard to understand, English subtitles are provided (not removable).

Extras

Paramount has included three featurettes and some info on the PBS website. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

"A Visit to Dealey Plaza" is a 9-minute 34-second featurette to where two different men, B.A. Russell, Sr. and Robert Groden (a leading JFK assassin researcher), give two different theories and some logic that supports them. Russell gives his theory for Oswald being President Kennedy's assassin. Then Groden presents his for why Oswald couldn't have possibly been the lone wolf. Either way, they should prove interesting.

"The Zapruder Film and Beyond" is a 22-minute 12-minute featurette that talks about how Abraham Zapruder had shot a few moments of 8mm film of Kennedy getting assassinated (THE Kennedy Assassination film) and what he did after. You see interview footage from some of the featured interviewees from the main documentary itself, as well as footage from the actual Zapruder Film. Kennedy enthusiasts and theorists will definitely want to see this.

"Interview with Robert Stone" is a 15-minute 47-second featurette in which you get to see writer/producer/director Stone talking about his experiences with making "Oswald's Ghost". He talks about the Zapruder Film and its importance to the documentary. The setup is that a female interviewer (not seen) asks Stone questions. Stone seems to enjoy answering them. His answers are very precise and very clear.

The PBS.ORG option on the Main Menu takes you to a still which gives you a web address for PBS.

There is also an Easter egg to be found on the Main Menu. Simply move down to PBS.ORG and press down to highlight the 'American Experience' logo below. Select it to see a still which gives you a link in case you want to visit 'American Experience' on the web.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A- Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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