Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 28th, 2011
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
It’s the oath that every president has taken since George Washington. In that time 42 men have taken the oath. (Cleveland has been counted twice because his two terms were not consecutive). Each of them have their defenders, and each of them have their detractors. Few have stirred as much emotion on both sides of the political aisle as Ronald Reagan.
Reagan took an unusual pathway to politics. He started as a sports announcer and eventually became an actor. At the time he was actually considered quite a liberal Democrat and was active within that party for years. Ironically, he would become the model of conservatism for the Republican party to this day. This documentary looks at the life of one of the most fascinating personalities to take that oath.
Reagan was the first president to beat the 0-year curse. Every president before him who was elected on that 0 year died in office. But he didn’t break the curse unscathed. Just 9 months into his presidency, he was shot along with a policeman and his press secretary after delivering a speech. He was shoved into his car after shots rang out. He didn’t even know he had been shot until the caravan neared the White House and immediately diverted to George Washington Hospital. The killer was John Hinckley who was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster. The event would even cause the popular television series Greatest American Hero to change the name of the title character from Ralph Hinckley to merely, Mr. H and eventually Henley. This documentary uses this event as the focal point of their story. They go back and forth from that incident to the background events that led Reagan to the highest office in the land.
It’s a respectful and balanced program that focuses on his achievements and doesn’t overplay the low points. The material is provided by historians, former aides and journalists who covered Reagan during his presidency. There’s plenty of background information and vintage footage. Overall it’s an above average documentary on the 40th president.
There really isn’t one way to describe the quality of these presentations. Obviously the very old footage is in pretty rough shape. Most of it is in full-frame format, but there are newer clips and pieces in widescreen. You can expect the condition to improve with the more recent items, and that’s pretty much what you get. None of it is excellent, but you can’t expect it to be. Just enjoy history unfolding right before your eyes and make allowances for the condition of the print.
Again the audio depends on what you are watching and how old it is. The contemporary aspects are better. This is all dialog, and you can hear it in as good a condition as some of it is likely to ever be.
Whatever your politics or what you might think of Reagan, the documentary is informative and leaves the propaganda behind. You can’t deny that he was a charismatic character who believed in the things he did. The film does a good job of bringing out the unique qualities that were Ronald Reagan. A man with an almost certain “rendezvous with destiny”.