In his patented style (plenty of vintage stills and, in this case, vintage film footage combinedwith compelling narration and actors voicing the actual words of the subjects), documentaristKen Burns unveils the story of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion. Histriumph was intolerable for white society, and that included the American government. Narratedby Keith David, with Samuel L. Jackson providing the voice of Johnson, this is a powerful lookat the r…cial state of affairs in the US of the early 20th Century.
The case and the disc boast a 5.1 soundtrack. That may be so, but my player only detectedtwo 2.0 tracks. I’ll grant the benefit of the doubt, but the fact remains that 5.1 and 2.0 don’tsound a heck of a lot different when you’re dealing with a documentary. There are all kinds ofatmospheric surround effects, but they (thankfully) are very much in the background, andnever drown out the voice-overs, which are crisp and distortion-free.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very sharp, though this often means a veryclear reproduction of source material that is often very grainy — but what do you expect with oldnewsreel footage from the best part of a century ago? The new interviews with the likes of JamesEarl Jones are sharp and blessed with fine colours and contrasts.
The making-of featurette is barely over a quarter of an hour long, but succinctly looks at howthe documentary came together. There are also plenty of deleted scenes, and a music video(featuring Wynton Marsalis) which is presented in still form, like the documentary itself. Themenu is basic.
Burns’ style is so firmly entrenched now that it is ripe for parody. But that doesn’t make itany less effective. Fascinating stuff.
Special Features List
- Making-of Featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- Music Video